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Things nerds can do during the Super Bowl

February 6, 2011

If you happened to catch CBS Sunday Morning today then you saw their pieces about Internet privacy and data mining. If you didn’t, let me break it down for you. They had a story on the concept of data mining–the idea that in the digital age there is so much information available about us as individuals that companies can connect the dots and pull out whatever specific information they want to about us. The only problem is, that info is not always correct because there could be someone with the same name or a similar name who is up to no good in your area. After seeing the piece I was reminded of a website my friend Honor showed me about a year ago. It is called the Personas project, and it was created by MIT to draw attention to data mining. It allows you to see the picture that is painted of you on the internet based solely on your name. You go to the site, type in your name, and then watch as the program pulls up every mention of your name on the Internet. It then leaves you with a graph showing the categories in which your name most often appears. Here’s mine:

I found that I got a more accurate representation of my internet self when I used my maiden name. The less people who share your name the more accurate the profile will be. However, if you have a very unique name, or if you have been very careful about your Internet privacy, you may not get a profile. When you look at my profile you can see the predominance of the sports bar, if you know me, you know they are talking about someone else. But kuddos to the other LMcP on her sport prowess.

On the topic of cool digital representations of Internet traffic, have you see We Fell Fine? No? Let me splane it to you. So there is this guy name Jonathan Harris (check out his TED talks), and he is both a computer scientist and story teller. He is trying to use narrative in a completely different way. With his We Fell Fine project he has figured out a way to sort status updates, blog entries, etc. based on time, location, gender, and weather conditions. You then have a choice about how to display the information. For example if you want to look at what females are saying about being hopeful when it is sunny on the third of March, you select those criteria and the women’s quotes are displayed in a sunny way. Or you can see graphs of how everyone is feeling at a particular time. Or you can see just a mob of flying feelings and click on them and read the quotes. Let me show you.

It’s really the kind of thing that makes more sense when you play with it than when I explain it. You should check it out. If you find if fascinating, then you should also check out Harris’s next project Whale Hunt. He has discovered a whole new type of storytelling.

So, if you find yourself with some free time today before the Superbowl, or in between the commercials, I encourage you to channel you inner nerd and check some of this stuff out.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Uncle Chris permalink
    February 6, 2011 11:03 AM

    Great Stuff as usual Lindsey

  2. Talia Howard permalink
    February 7, 2011 9:21 PM

    I feel so savvy and like such a product of the NetGen because I know about all three of those projects. I miss LMcP!

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