Ironically, the process of reclaiming our data for our own use in an accessible database duplicates it, and necessitates sharing with even more corporations. Despite our interpersonal messages being readily available to powerful entities, it is far trickier to make them actually public.
Though our intention was to make our intimate data public, the gesture was conceived as a unidirectional process, accessed primarily through our research website. We believed it would be unlikely that the project’s audience would come across our interpersonal messaging on the Twitter platform itself, and so were surprised when some individuals followed our account or engaged with our conversation. Of particular note were the surveilling eyes of the bots, who interacted with tweets based on keywords. For example, @TheGuysLongHair interacted with a tweet mentioning a “manbun.”
Though our personal data is accessible to myriad corporate and governmental actors via digital platforms, it remains relatively inaccessible to us as users. For example, Google Takeout enables access to the personal data shared on the Google platform, but only through difficult to manage nested JSON files. For this project, in order to replicate the real-time experience of direct messaging as closely as possible while collecting and sharing that data in a convenient format, we hacked together a system that uses Twitter, Google Sheets, and the app If This Then That (IFTTT). We have shared the protocol for doing so here.