Most people are fascinated with anything that suggests it will tell them something about themselves. You don’t really need to look much further for evidence of this than the seemingly endless facebook character quizzes that tell you which particular character of a particular show/movie/book/whatever you are most like.
For some reason, this magically seems to turn fairly ordinary content into something people care about enough to share, pass on, etc. – whether we agree or disagree with the findings, we still have an opinion because its about us.
This VW banner did a similar trick by taking twitter feeds and turning them into car recommendations:
The interesting thing about this is that by telling you what kind of car it thinks you like, it generates an opinion – whether positive or negative – about that car. A kind of unintentional engagement.
Not sure what kind of logic it’s working on though – it used to give me a Golf R32. Now it gives me a Rabbit.
In a similar vein, but on a much loftier scale, is Aaron Zinman’s Personas project. Created as a critique of data mining, the site reports information about you “as the internet sees you”. You enter your name into the site and it spits back a visualisation of things that it has apparently discovered about you from the internet. (I think it helps if, like me, you have a reasonably unique first and last name). It makes the point that the broad assumptions involved in data mining make it easy to arbitrarily group and label people.
But I couldn’t help noticing how interested I was in something that was supposedly telling me something about myself, no matter how flawed it was. Maybe its a personal thing, but I think a lot of people would say the same. And there would have to be some interesting ways to use this trigger creatively, beyond the structure of the “Which character am I” quiz.