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I found a fascinating link through Twitter today, posted by @MuseumMarketing (a.k.a. Jim Richardson).

Aaron Zinman et. al. at MIT Media Lab have created an application that allows you to see a visual representation of your name’s social media presence online. The application is called Personas and it was created as part of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit that was on display at MIT Museum.

When you go to Personas, you enter your name and it searches the internet for mentions of that name. While it is searching, you get to watch a large color bar labeled with various topics (sports, media, education, illegal, etc.) change at the top of the screen. Beneath the larger bar, smaller color bars appear and build up, changing colors as Personas searches specific terms. Below the smaller color bars, snippets of online text that contain your name appear. These shift periodically and you’ll get new snippets. Other than the pretty colors, the snippets are the most interesting part of the application because you should be able to recognize when a mention of your name actually refers to you, or if it refers to someone else with your name. When Personas is done with its search, you are presented with the large color bar with varying sizes of color blocks which seem to indicate how often your name appears under each topic. (Though this was created at MIT, it doesn’t seem to be an exact science. Maybe someone from MIT will correct me on this.)

Personas confirmed what I’ve noticed about my name from previous Google searches. Those who have the name Mary Warner tend to be involved with the same sorts of subjects I’m interested in, the arts, writing, tech, history. Even though there are lots of Mary Warners out there, at least two of the snippets were directly related to me.

While Personas asks you for your first and last name, you don’t have to limit yourself to that. I typed in the full name of my work place to see what would happen and Personas performed the search just fine.

For a full explanation of Personas, check this page.

If you give Personas a try, let me know what you discover.