The bach­e­lor thesis ~IDENTITÄT – The »Gestalt« of dig­ital identity of Jonas Loh & Steffen Fiedler eval­uates how dig­ital identity is generated to determine pa­ram­e­ters on which a compa­ra­ble anal­yses of the dig­ital identity is pos­sible.

More than one hundred thou­sand person­al raw data sets were crawled from the web to fill this pa­ram­e­ters with subject mat­ters. Based on the thesis that the dig­ital identity is measur­able and compa­ra­ble these data sets were vi­su­alized us­ing custom compu­tational tools.

These stud­ies were designed to under­stand the data and determine its char­ac­ter­is­tics regard­ing the construction of dig­ital identity.

Af­ter the anal­ysis phase the data was vi­su­ally abstracted and interpreted to give the disembod­ied dig­ital identity a unique and char­ac­ter­is­tic »Gestalt« in form of a generated sculp­ture.


Today almost ev­erybody has at least one dig­ital rep­resentation on one of the nu­mer­ous social communities, like Flickr, Facebook and MySpace. We cre­ate these pro­files to ex­press our­selves, find friend­ship, connection and gain rep­u­tation. The pro­file data is constantly al­tered, retouched and updated to cre­ate a comprehensive im­age which draws at­tention, the currency of the web.

»Success is solely defined by the number of followers on twitter«
Sascha Lobo

Our im­pres­sion of the dig­ital identity depends on how one combines the differ­ent pro­files of a per­son. Depending on whether one com­pound these identity frag­ments or stacks it changes the overall
im­pres­sion. When we think of a dig­ital rep­resentation of a per­son,
the im­age is always disembod­ied.

∑ai = a1 + a2 + a3 + a4
The digital identity stack a is the sum of all identity fragments ai

We don’t imag­ine how she or he looks like,but think of spe­cif­ic person­al data (im­ages, videos, texts) which we as­sociate with that
per­son in­stead.


Focusing on specific data for comparison, the digital identities of eight specific people were recorded and observed through a custom webcrawler. Their consumerist (amazon), communication behavior (twitter), interests (delicious) and listening habits (last.fm) were saved in a custom database. Furthermore this data was analysed in detail to determine four parameters that generate the form of the sculpture.
1.­The inter­ests of a per­son
were anal­ysed to uncover the connection be­tween differ­ent inter­ests: rep­resented by tags from de­licious and twitter. Building couples, triples and quads out of the top tags which were used in the same con­text al­lowed us to calculate how of­ten they were used to de­scribe the same source. This spec­ification cap­tures the per­son's inter­ests as an individual pa­ram­e­ter, giv­en the fact that no two people would have exactly the same sets of tags.

generative(24)   art   0.1667f   ♥♥♥
A tag couple at its specific force

2. The communication behavior was determined calculating the ratio between dialogues and monologues made on twitter.

3. The activity of a person was defined by how often the personal data in one of the specific social communities was updated over time.

4. The age of the digital existence. Out of these parameters a particle system was developed as an underlying structure.


To find an abstract form which expresses an analogue snapshot of a complex digital identity, instead of creating a readable data sculpture of someone's digital life, three consecutive studies had been designed.


The first was based on a planar mesh covered with diverse cones forming a landscape. The range of variation of this metaphor did

not reflect the complexity of a digital identity and the eight different test persons looked very similar.


Concentrating on the particle itself the second approach lead to an accumulation of polyhedrons spread in three dimensional space. Through the method of marching cubes the transformation of a
point cloud into a continuous face was possible.


In the next step the connections between the interest couples of a digital identity were shaped. The result was a three dimensional structure. This draft was successful in terms of the individuality and comparability of every single digital identity but was limited in its expressiveness.

These three intermediate results were based on clusters of geometric objects describing a space. Each one was limited by its statement. Either based on metaphors, or an accurate visualisation of prev­iously collected data.


The goal of the project was not to create a readable data sculpture of someone’s digital life, but to express how an analogue snapshot of complex dig­ital identities can be presented. Based on four de­fined cri­te­ria all sculp­tures had to be compa­ra­ble in their form, size and ex­pres­sion. Af­ter generating those sculp­tures based upon the particles only, we added time as an under­lying factor. The particle system, which rep­resents a persons inter­ests, spreads in space until it is bal­anced. The speed of this expan­sion, the thickness of the cre­ated hull and the starting point of the drawing process is connected to the factors age, activ­ity and communication behav­ior.

This system leads to an embod­i­ment for the final ~Gestalt of dig­ital identity. A still life of an ongo­ing process about re­defining and dec­orating. This dynam­ic process of dig­ital »day life« is cap­tured in our person­al interpretation of the dig­ital identity as an amorp­hous sculp­ture.