Tag Archives: footprint

Personas: vanity searches as unique digital artforms

Ever Google yourself?

C’mon, we’ve all done it a few times – just to see what’s out there that might be about us. Or what might be mistaken for being about us…

Well, a chap called Aaron Zinman at MIT’s Media Lab has made an installation called Personas which takes your name, does a vanity search on those terms, and then scans the resulting pages for keywords to make a visual representation of what the search results for your name are actually about. Here’s mine:

Persona results for Paul Graham Raven

Reminds me somewhat of chromatography experiments in chemistry class. The results aren’t incredibly accurate (I have no idea why the term ‘legal’ features so prominently in my results, for example), but what should be obvious immediately is that everyone’s chromatograph is going to look different (unless they have a particularly popular name; unlucky for the John Smiths of the world).

As pointed out by Jason Fitzpatrick of Lifehacker, Personas wouldn’t be of any use for producing a genuinely unique fingerprint per person for identity purposes. But as web technology advances (and if the Semantic Web ever coalesces out of the hot air of its strongest advocates), perhaps something like it would become a badge of honour or status.

Imagine some sort of QR barcode format for the results, jazzed up with colour and maybe some iridescent effects (because black and white is so stark, y’know?); when you met a new person, you could scan the barcode with your handheld and check it against a database that assessed its degree of uniqueness. Social standing as a function of internet footprint… the value of having a unique moniker would increase hugely, everyone dubbing themselves with a new identity as yet uncolonised by the average and uninteresting. And next would come (inevitably) the spammers, coat-tailing on the names of the rich, the successful, the famous and notorious…