Monday 15 March 2010

Information content of personalisation

I've just upgraded to Firefox 3.6 and was given the option of choosing a 'persona'. This allows me to select images/colours to appear at the top and bottom of my screen. See

I was taken aback to find that there's currently more than 76,000 to choose from, with more being added all the time (anyone can create one and upload it).

In Theories of the Information Society Frank Webster suggests that the choices available today in 'personalisation' are one example of there being more information around today than in the past. Specifically, in the context of clothing, he suggests that the medieval peasant’s smock contained a lot less information than the clothing of even the poor today.

I suppose by choosing one out of 76,000, you might argue that I am providing something like log2(76,000) = 16 bits of information about myself.

The more popular the one chosen, the less information it represents in this calculation. I am currently using 'Olivencia Pale Pastel', and the website says there's '1 active daily user' of this scheme - I'm not sure whether that means me or someone else. Others have hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of users, so mine is an obscure choice, and therefore probably represents rather more than 16 bits of information.

Except it doesn't. I certainly didn't go through all 76,000 and chose this one. A little bit of thought did go in to finding it, maybe 5 minutes, but a large part of the decision was random chance.

If I had time, I would create my own using my own image files. I guess that would then represent more information about me. But maybe 'if I have time' is the key. There's no shortcut to producing information, it takes time.

(And anyway, even if it did represent 16 bits, or 32 bits, say, that's still pretty small compared to a few words.)


Hehe, look what Olivencia Pale Pastel looks like with the colours in my blogger! Even I can tell that's terrible. It's so bad I've got to keep it now.

No comments: