The Connected Self

Research into the complexity of one’s online presence.

In June 2015 I achieved my Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design at the LUCA School of Arts, Brussels. I decided to study one more year and try to achieve my Master’s degree in Media and Information Design.

Context

With the birth of smartphones, we and our actions are traceable at any time. Together with the growing information-economy we become a product which is both bought and sold.

When you want to be completely invisible in the online world, you have no option but to turn off every smart device and cut loose from the Internet.

When you want to be untraceable but still want to use a smartphone for example, you simply can’t. Once you accepted the terms and conditions of the software running the device, you give permission to the company to use the data which you generated.

The Internet lacks a button to make people invisible.

In times of constant terrorist-threats this is a controversial statement to make, although it’s a necessary one to make in today’s society.

process

When researching this button to make yourself invisible, I realised how complex of a thing this is, this wouldn’t be a one man’s job.

Instead I focussed on the complexity of a person’s online presence and how I could make other people aware of this. To show this I used myself as an example and started gathering data.

The Connected Self - Snerk One

I looked at which services are linked to my email address and collected all this data in spreadsheets. After fooling around in programs as Adobe Illustrator, the dataset became to big to design it all manually, so I made the switch to code.

D3.js, a JavaScript library, was a very helpful tool in the whole process. I have to say that I didn’t knew a thing about JavaScript before starting, but did know a thing or two about HTML and CSS.

I learned how to write JSON files, which are essentially the data D3.js uses to make visualisations. Keep in mind that all this happened in a timespan of 10 months.

The end-result are three visualisations of my own personal online presence.

The Connected Self - Snerk One

The above visualisation shows an overview of all the data I collected, as well as the hierarchical relationships between different services.
It shows how some services are part of a larger company. This means that personal data collected in one service, could be shared with another service in the same company.

The snippet of the visualisation you see below, shows the complexity of my online presence. It focusses on the connections made between different services and has the sheer purpose of showing you how complex my (and possibly your) online behaviour could be.

The Connected Self - Snerk One

JURY

The jury, the time when you present your project to an external jury which then quotes it.

This year’s external jury consisted of Gert Van Echelpoel (design, fine art, information design – University Antwerp), Fenna Zamouri (design, information design) and Lotte Van den Audenaeren (design, fine art, architecture – University Leuven).

The photos below are taken after the jury. The large poster measures 3.5 by 1.1 meters, while the smaller one measures 1.1 by 1.1 meters. A one-pager, where people can interact with the three visualisations in real-time, is shown on an iMac.

The Connected Self - Snerk One
The Connected Self - Snerk One
The Connected Self - Snerk One
The Connected Self - Snerk One

You can view the visualisations as a whole here.
(Since I lack the knowledge, the visualisations aren’t responsive.)