How Does the Internet See You? – Personas From MIT Media

Posted to Data Art  |  Nathan Yau

I Google myself every now and then. Everyone does. I don’t know why people act like it’s all weird to do it. We’re all interested in what’s out there on the Internet about us or someone with the same name as us. Some of it is right. A lot of it is wrong. Personas, from MIT’s Metropath(ologies) exhibit, scours the Web and attempts to characterize how the Internet sees you.

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.

The piece is about the incorrectness of your Internet profile just as much as what’s right.

As many have pointed out, the end result is kind of anti-climatic, but it’s fun to watch the process at work, which makes heavy use of natural language processing algorithm latent Dirichlet allocation [pdf] from Blei, et. al.

How does the Internet see you?

[via infosthetics | Thanks, Alexandria]


  • Patrick McCann August 26, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    A company called rapleaf,, will show you a lot of what you have revealed in your online internet presence. Their business is to crawl social networking websites and provide demographic matching and social graph services for companies (such as my employer), but they will show individuals the information they have on you for free.

  • I tired this twice in a row and got two different profiles. Wonder how the algorthm actually works?


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