Getting Immersed in Metadata
Until fairly recently metadata was a technological term simply used to describe other data. The information about a certain item’s content, such as the time and length of a phone call, but not the conversation itself. Or with email, the senders and recipients of a message, but not what the message says. Broadly defined, metadata is data about other data.
Web pages often include metadata in the form of metatags. Descriptions and keywords, metatags are commonly used to describe the Web page’s content. Most search engines use this data when adding pages to their search index.
In the wake of the recent NSA secret surveillance revelations, many Americans are wondering what data is out there about themselves. With almost two decades of web usage, the web is no longer just our present technology but it is also a record of our past. And there is no better tracking measure of our personal and professional history than email.
For students at MIT, metadata isn’t merely a technical issue, or a political one, but an emotional one – “a cloud of knowledge about your behavior that, once you confront it, can literally change your life.” In a MIT Media Lab project called Immersion, graduate students have launched a new online project to help people interactively visualize their own metadata by integrating with their personal Gmail. The program requests user’s Gmail address and password and then scans every email in their account and scrapes the metadata to create their personal network. For each individual contact, you can see the first email to them, the last email, how many have been sent and received, and which were marked as private. It can also make a list of other people this contact has introduced you to. Once you have securely entered your Gmail details and had a look at your contact map, Immersion gives you the option of deleting your information and logging out, or letting Immersion keep your compressed email metadata and user profile. If you choose to allow Immersion to keep your information it will not be shared with anyone outside the research group and will be deleted after 30-days. If you’d like to check out the “Immersion“ project, visit immersion.media.mit.edu. Tweet or Facebook us your thoughts.
- Almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) would prefer to work virtually rather than in an office. (Ricoh; 973-882-2023)
- Two-thirds of U.S. shoppers (67%) get ideas for their household shopping trips from circulars and flyers. (BrandSpark International; 647-727-4578)
- New research suggests that Facebook fatigue may be setting in with some users. Twenty-seven (27%) percent of Facebook users surveyed in the U.S. plan to spend less time on the site in 2013, compared with only 3% who plan to spend more time, according to a study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. (Pew Internet & American Life Project)
- Three-quarters of companies collect customers’ first (75%) and last (73%) names when asking for their email addresses, but only 30% personalize the opt-in emails they send. (experian.com)
- User reviews are a key influence on consumer electronic purchases. Six in 10 shoppers (60%) consult user reviews, and 52% consult professional reviews when shopping for consumer electronics, even though 88% say they are somewhat or very knowledgeable about these products. (Weber Shandwick)