Year: Spring 2018 (Thesis Project)
My role: Creator,
Unity Game Developer
Nouf.io is a 3D scanned digital avatar that is simulated from my scraped past online data points. She invites you to click on different objects within her virtual environment to learn more about the data she contains. Once clicked, Nouf.io discloses my private information depending on your identity and our level of online interaction.
How does it work?
Nouf.io lives within a virtual environment and goes about her day doing different things according to behaviours I personally do throughout my day. You might see her exercising, or looking at books, or calling someone on the phone etc. Her environment is built from data points collected about myself online. So for example, her posters are ads I have clicked, her books are the books I have purchased, her magazines are articles I have read or shared and so forth. With each piece of my data I collected, I slowly began forming a picture and constructing a room filled with objects that visualize my online behaviour.
You simply visit Nouf.io in your browser and enter your name. After declaring your identity, Nouf.io analyzes the online and digital interactions you have had with me (the real Nouf) and gives you a score. This score determines the level of access you have to my online data. The higher score you receive, the more intimate the information and vice versa. Your score is shown to you in the form of a timer. Someone with a low intimacy score has 3 minutes only in Nouf.io's world. Before this time runs out, you are allowed to explore and click on different objects in the room to learn more about me. Once time is up, Nouf.io asks you to leave.
What information is collected about me online? Can I recreate another version of myself based on who this data describes?
Nouf.io seeks to answer these two questions. I extract, scrape, and collect different archives of my digital information in order to understand who I am online. On a personal level, Nouf.io is a self-reflective character whose actions and behaviors visualize my digital persona.
On a broader level, she is a character representative of my data and its categorization and labeling of who I am. After looking through large amounts of my information, I noted many inaccuracies to how I was being portrayed such as “Nouf’s hobbies include acting and playing the harp”. Hence, I wanted to paint a picture to how algorithms categorize us based on interactions we have had online.
Serving as both a self-reflective piece and a commentary, I want users to interact with Nouf.io in order to push the boundaries of privacy and accessibility to my information. Depending on the identity of the user and the amount of interactions we have had via text and Facebook, Nouf.io discloses private information based on our level of digital intimacy. In the same manner that data is passed around online between Facebook and Google, what if I just handed it out and made it available to you? What does it feel like to get to know me if you have never met me? Does her honesty and raw information make you feel uncomfortable?
My Data & Nouf.io's Environment
To create Nouf.io, my first step of the process was collection. I extracted my archives from platforms I have used the most consistently in my life such as Facebook, iMessage, Whatsapp, and Google.
My second step was to parse, analyze and look for certain patterns in my data using natural language processing algorithms. I ran different scripts on my downloaded datasets and looked for sentiment analysis, topics I most frequently talked about, the length and time period of my messages with an individual, links I shared to different people in my life, places and people I often mentioned, questions I frequently asked, sites I mostly visited, and so forth.
I then heavily organized my original unordered files into files that contained a new structure, a structure based off of my analysis and gatherings.
Experiments with Data
With my newly structured data, I conducted a few experiments… the first was to run a machine learning script on my total message datasets and have nouf.io actually talk about to me like a chatbot.
My second experiment was running a script on my facebook data to see who I have the most digital intimacy with.. By that I mean, who have I interacted the most with on my most used social media platform. I created a website where I would input a friends name and get the amount of group chats we have together, the amount of messages we have sent each other alone, and the amount of likes they have done on my posts and pictures.
A few things I discovered about myself were…
My sentiment analysis script revealed to me that I use positive words in my messages and interactions with other people but more negative words when I am alone in my google searches.
With a very close friend of mine, I am in a 119 group chats with her but have only exchanged around 115 messages alone.. Which surprised me in terms of our friendship.
I have sent an article titled "How to Dress like Drake" to my friends 10 times.
Working in a literal sense with myself for months has been no doubt a strange experience. I have been studying and scrutinizing myself and the actions I have made online that meant so little but mattered so much in the overall picture. What I learned is, when we are online, we tend to behave a lot differently. I want to leave anyone who visits Nouf.io with a question: did they find out who I really am? Do they feel like they have a unique insight into my life from looking around and poking different objects in my virtual environment? or is this image an illusion?