Are You Content with Content Management? or Finding Your Data Doppelganger

Parts of Geoffrey Moore’s paper “A Sea Change in Enterprise IT” reminded me of Erik Qualman’s work in his book Socialnomics. Among many other ideas, Qualman’s book discusses how our internet searches, purchases, and use of social media can be traced, studied, used to predict behavior and react to trends, market to individuals, and increase profits among other things.

Moore writes, “In a world of digitally facilitated communication and collaboration, where almost all data, voice, and video are transmitted via the Internet, every interaction leaves a trace.” After mentioning the possible security and legal problems associated with mining and storing this data, he continues,

“At the same time, however, chief marketing officers are drooling at the opportunities embedded in these trace logs. Behavioral targeting is the new rage in digital advertising, anchored in the ability to infer a user’s preferences from their prior Web behavior, and to thereby present them with offers that are better tuned to their likes.”

I know this data mining is happening, and I know somebody out there has a whole lot more information about me than I care to imagine. What picture of me is shown by the digital traces I leave behind? What can a person tell about me by the pattern of gas pumps I visit and swipe with my credit card? What do all my computer keystrokes add up to? And really, how many people want to know?

EMC Corporation, one of the groups listed at the end of Moore’s paper as an AIIM Task Force member is interested in such information. They are sponsoring a project that is attempting to “humanize” all the collected data that we leave behind.

Rick Smolan is the creator of the project titled The Human Face of Big Data. According to their website, the project is “a globally crowdsourced media project focusing on humanity’s new ability to collect, analyze, triangulate and visualize vast amounts of data in real time. Briefly, here’s how it works. Download the app for Android or iOS. Spend about 10 minutes answering questions, and then give permission for the app to keep track of you, follow you with gps technology, and compare you–anonymously–to other participants. I don’t know exactly, since, as an introvert and lover of the movie Enemy of the State, I have an aversion to sharing too much information.

Besides the data collection part of the project, there’s a photo-journalism arm as well. Photographers have traveled the world to capture images of the human face of technology. Later, there will be a free iPad app to share all the information.

As an added incentive Smolan says users will be matched with their “data doppelganger.” Woohoo! Or is it more appropriate to shout “Yahoo!”?

Smolan claims that by collecting and sharing our data with the world, his project can illustrate “an extraordinary three-dimensional snapshot of humanity.”

Really? A snapshot of humans I could see, but a snapshot of humanity? Can data do that? I’d like to think there’s an element of humanity that can’t be measured and stored through an iPhone.

But I may have to try the app just to find out.

About Rob_Henseler

Rob has been teaching high school English and Language Arts for 20 years. When he's not at school, he enjoys making and listening to music, woodworking, canoeing, and hands-on traditional skills.

Posted on October 28, 2012, in Creative, Social Media, Society, Trust. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. As an introvert myself, it seems that it is becoming very difficult to live a relatively private life as a result of computer data mining and technology in general. Prior to this class, I hadn’t considered how much information is collected/recorded while one is browsing the internet and social media sties. It would be interesting to know how all the “little key strokes” depict the virtual me. Perhaps more interesting is how this data can be interpreted–and what it is interpreted for. I agree that data mining may provide a glimpse of human habit, but that it will fall short of portraying all that is humanity.

  2. That sounds cool! Did you download the app? I have a Windows phone, so I think I’m out of luck–my doppelganger will just be the other guy that has a Windows phone.

    I guess it should sound creepy, but for some reason it doesn’t. Three years ago, would I have been appalled by the idea?

    My brother has a navigation app on his iPhone called Waze that encourages people to share data about their drive. See a cop?–share it. The guy in front of you just got a flat?–share it. If you slow down on the freeway it dings and a popup asks you if you are stuck in traffic. You used to have to flash your lights to every car you passed and now you can flash every car all at once

    I’m still a little skeptical about social media as a replacement for deep communication, but there are a million possibilities for how it would enhance our lives with tiny communication.

  3. In the interest of pursuing a topic that I started, I did download the app, answered the questions, and found my data doppelganger. Disappointed. First of all, my data doppelganger is a 20-year-old who looks like he could easily make a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory as Sheldon’s somewhat paler young cousin. Secondly, how is it possible that a 20-year-old’s data is closer to mine than anyone else? Is this really a young person’s app and activity? Third, the questions asked don’t come anywhere near to figuring out who I really am. The questions don’t do much to replicate deep communication.

    On a brighter note, if the presidential election were determined only by people participating in this project, my candidate would win–77% to 23%.

  4. Such an interesting thread you started there. Being an introvert as well as being raised with a very strong repulsion regarding any behaviors George Orwell displays so greatly in his “1984”, these developments just (almost subconsciously) freak me out. I guess it’s the thought behind it that I don’t have any control over what they do with my data. Notice the ‘they’ … Do I need therapy?

  5. Super interesting! As is the Waze app Bob talks about. BUT I confess I am just as likely to download them at Britta is! That said I do really want to see how all this stuff works, without sharing my personal information.

    I agree with Bob that the possibilities seem endless for this mini-communications within social media and technology, but I don’t see the replacement for true communication. I certainly have deep conversations with the aid of technology, but the relationships themselves were fostered elsewhere. One does wonder though, in the new digital generations, will they feel this same boundary? If we think back to Turkle’s “Alone Together,” it seems the answer for them may likely be “no.”

  6. That app sounds way too intense for me. I prefer reading, not participating, in “Big Data” research. See this for an overview of Lev Manovich’s work.

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