Does This Internet ‘Mirror’ Know Who You Are?

The National Media Museum’s online test uses your social networking and online preferences to establish what sort of person you are.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Bradford’s ‘internet mirror’ claims to know who you are. Up to a point” was written by Martin Wainwright, for guardian.co.uk on Wednesday 19th September 2012 17.14 UTC

Here’s a bit of online fun from the National Media Museum, although I’m not sure that – in spite of quite grandiose claims – it’s much more than that.

Bradford’s great attraction has got together with Cambridge University and the RKCR/Y&R creative agency to produce what it calls an Internet Mirror, which uses your social networking and online preferences to establish what sort of person you are.

I say ‘fun’ rather than anything more serious at this stage, because it got me down as probably a slightly disagreeable woman aged over 25 with an unusually extrovert personality. This came from a comparison with ‘more than 6.5 million previously gathered personality surveys’ according to the online test. Alarming thought.

Maybe I am essentially all those things. We men have our feminine side. But the mechanism seemed crude, albeit in a very honest way. The woman thing came because I listed Johnny Depp from a rather meagre range of celebrities I would follow on Twitter. The honest answer would have been ‘none’ but there isn’t a button for that.

Age depended on a similar question about music (I picked Johnny Cash from another disappointingly brief list) and extroversion from the fact that I use (courtesy of the Guardian) rather a lot of fancy IT equipment. The programme keeps you interested with random info such as the fact that readers of New Scientist are the most curious group when defined by non-book reading matter, or that users of MacBooks are specially outgoing.

Tom Woolley, curator of new media at the museum (which is absolutely excellent and well worth several visits to Bradford, a city with many other attractions too), says:

While it may be easy to establish that a person who likes to download lots of albums is a music fan, The Mirror takes into account the types of music a person enjoys to help determine if he or she is assertive, careful, independent, creative, etc – choosing personality traits from psychology’s ‘Big 5 Personality System’.

We wanted an extension of the Museum’s Life Online gallery to explore the links between internet activity and identity. It’s great to see what RKCR/Y&R have produced using research from Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre and I think it will be fascinating for people to discover more about their personality and online behaviour.

David Stillwell, a specialist in online psychometrics at Cambridge, says:

The site finds out a little bit about what people like, then uses this information to create a scientifically and academically rigorous breakdown of their personality. Essentially the message is ‘you are what you like’.

By uploading a simple pic of yourself, you can also get an animated version of how The Mirror sees you, but unfortunately I have so far been denied this treat through either incompetence or not having a simple enough picture. On the potentially more useful side, the programme has a section called ‘Your Place in the Web’ which can suggest things users would like; websites, content and even other people who have taken the test.

I think I had better stop there and give you the link so you can have a go. Here it is.

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