Data Portraits






  • Data portraits depict their subjects’ accumulated data rather than their faces. They can be visualizations of discussion contributions, browsing histories, social networks, travel patterns, etc. They are subjective renderings that mediate between the artist’s vision, the subject’s self-presentation, and the audience’s interest. Designed to evocatively depict an individual, a data portrait can be a decorative object or be used as an avatar, one’s information body for an online space.

    Data portraits raise questions about privacy, control, aesthetics, and social cognition. These questions become increasingly important as more of our interactions occur online, where we exist as data, not bodies.


  • 1. E. van Alphen, “The Portrait’s Dispersal: Concepts of Representation and Subjectivity in Contemporary Portraiture,” Portraiture: Facing the Subject, J. Woodall, ed. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996) 239-56.

    2. J.T. Hancock and P.J. Dunham, “Impression Formation in Computer-Mediated Communication Revisited,” Communication Research, Vol. 28, No. 3, 325-347 (2001).

    3. F.B. Viegas and M. Smith, “Newsgroup Crowds and AuthorLines: Visualizing the Activity of Individuals in Conversational Cyberspaces,” 37th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, IEEE Computer Society (2004).

    4. F. Viegas, S. Golder, and J. Donath, “Visualizing Email Content: Portraying Relationships from Conversational Histories,” SIG CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Montreal, Canada (ACM Press, 2006).

    5. S. West, Portraiture, Oxford History of Art (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004).

    6. A. Dragulescu, Lexigraphs, (2009) (cited January 7, 2010).

    7. S.E. Brennan, “Caricature Generator: The Dynamic Exaggeration of Faces by Computer,” Leonardo, Vol. 18, No. 3, 170-178 (1985).

    8. ]. Abrams and P. Hall, eds., Else/where Mapping (Mineapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Design Institute, 2006).

    9. R. Xiong andJ. Donath, “PeopleGarden: Creating Data Portraits for Users,” ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST), Asheville, North Carolina (ACM, 1999).

    10. A. Zinman, Personas, (2009) (cited January 6, 2010). u. Y. Assogba and J. Donath, “Mycrocosm: Visual Microblogging,” 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, Hawaii (2009).