Increasingly many people spend a significant amount of their life in cyberspace. We participate in professional and social activities through many disfferent mechanisms. We search for information, we buy things, we communicate, we socialize, we participate in entertainment, we now participate even in political activities. Of course many people particpate in activities in cyberspace that they normally would not like to talk. Cyber presence for many of us has become a significant part of our life. Wil mobile internet increasing its reach, many more will start spending more time in cyberspace.
It is well known that search engine companies have recruited lots of data mining related researchers and experts to help them in ‘profiling’ users so they can understand their visitors better and provide them better information — but more importantly more targeted advertisements. The goal of all research in data mining is to analyze what you do to understand you. In a true sense they are trying create a persona for you. On surface some people may react negatively to this and call it invasion of privacy, but for a moment, lets ignore the negative aspect of creating a persona in cyber space for a person in real space. So lets say for each John Doe (JD), we want to create a cyber persona for this John Doe (cJD).
What are the key aspects of JD that we should capture in cJD? I think there are four important dimensions that could represent a cyber persona:
General Info: Under this you could store all general things like name, current address, any ID numbers that are allowed, marital status, and so forth.
Personal Networks: This may include information about family members, personal friends, social friends, professional friends, and so on. This will include other humans that this person may be connected to in some way.
Preferences: What does this person like? And this should be stored in all apects ranging from music to clothes, food to electronics, books to people.
Important Events: Starting from birth to schooling to all other events that may be considered significant for the person.
These four facets represent a person — so a cyber persona should include these factors. Now suppose that if you have cJD at required level of details then you could really use it to help cJD in many different ways, starting from searching for information to shopping or to make new friends in cyber space. Effectively cJD can be used as a personal Butler (or say personal assistant) for JD in all his activities in cyber space.
Some activity has started in this direction. I feel that this could be very useful, but there are serious issues related to privacy also here. So to make this successful, one will have to develop methods that will help in creating cJD in a way that privacy issues are not violated.