Avatars, Algorithms and Attention Spans – Voyages Across the Internet

It's 7.30 am Friday morning.

In the office snatching moments between messages. A cup of Joe jumpstarts me. I decide to trip across the internet. I take my avatar with me. I hate to dress up and travel alone.

Yes, I have my own avatar, custom built on the Xbox website. It looks just like me, young, cool and impossibly handsome - no worry lines, thinning hair or bulging belly! In the virtual world, I can be the real me - a wizard among men.

Together we roam cyberspace skipping from site to site at warp speed like astronauts chasing galaxies. The new user interfaces are incredible. With each click, our spaceship travels faster.

Time travel is effortless - a civil war battlefield one second, a roman encampment the next.  Planning a vacation in Williamsburg?  We are in the hotel restaurant checking out the wine list. A message hovers in Outlook - a 'wife-gram' - her golf buddies for Sunday dinner - OMG!

From nowhere a golf ad appears. I glance at my avatar. Someone is following us; reading our emails; peering over our virtual shoulders. In the split second between 'yes dear' and checking out weekend breaks, a sneaky algorithm snaps up a marketing moment, like a high frequency trader trapping milliseconds between exchanges.

I zap to Zillow to check out my negative equity. A finance offer blots out my screen. The bank knows I'm broke! But it's still trying to help me.

My algorithm is a secret agent, a whistle blower, a public regulator, a private investigator - checking my emails, capturing my clicks, noting down my websites, gobbling up my digital breadcrumbs and storing data about me, getting smarter all the time.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

I'm on moan.com blogging the world. Hey, dude it's the end of privacy. Suddenly an alert for a conference in Vegas. I'll have to travel this weekend.

Perhaps my algorithm loves me after all.

I think I'll take my algorithm with me and leave my avatar behind.

Comments (2)
  1. Ben says:

    Good article.  I see advertisers focus their marketing efforts more and more on behavioral targeting versus demographic segmentation.  The personal information that’s targeted is changing too…..Financial Services Institutions can benefit more from somebody’s credit score than their salary these days.  The ultimate goal for any advertiser would be to understand the spending habits of their prospective and current clients.  There’s no better indication of predicating what a person may buy, than what they recently purchased or their purchase history.  Social networks play a key role here, see http://www.bundle.com

  2. Joseph says:

    It will be interesting to see how far banks get involved in social networking. It's a huge cultural change for them, and it will take some time for them to get over some of the data privacy issues and regulatory concerns.

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