Personas is a component of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit, recently on display at the MIT Museum by the Sociable Media Group from the MIT Media Lab (Please contact us if you want to show it next!). It uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one’s aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.
Enter your name, and Personas scours the web for information and attempts to characterize the person – to fit them to a predetermined set of categories that an algorithmic process created from a massive corpus of data. The computational process is visualized with each stage of the analysis, finally resulting in the presentation of a seemingly authoritative personal profile.
In a world where fortunes are sought through data-mining vast information repositories, the computer is our indispensable but far from infallible assistant. Personas demonstrates the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent errors, such as the mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name. It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world, where digital histories are as important if not more important than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are opaque and socially ignorant.
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