Through September 13, 2009

Connections at the MIT Museum explores the social potential of new communication technologies. Art installations and research projects by the Sociable Media Group challenge visitors to think about the rapidly changing world of social interaction and the ramifications for the future. Avatar chairs, data portraits, and an immersive information cityscape are just some of the exciting aspects of this new exhibition.

The Museum also held Connections-related talks and programs throughout the spring.



This installation was about living in a world overflowing with information and non-stop communication. The sounds and visual imagery incorporate live and recorded data ranging from personal updates and private information, to global news reports. Visitors were able to choose to become part of the exhibit, their images captured by surveillance cameras, their names entered into databases, their voices recorded and played back by in the echoing soundtrack. From the Media Lab: Judith Donath, Alex Dragulescu, Yannick Assogba, and Aaron Zinman, 2008.


Data Portraits

Portraits depict something essential about a person, usually by delineating the subject’s physical appearance. With the Data Portraits series, the Sociable Media Group explores a different approach, portraying people by expressively rendering their online interactions and data about them.

Themail: Relationships portrayed in email

Themail portrays its subject’s relationship with another person and how it changes over time, based on their email correspondence. A word’s size, for instance, in the portrait shows how frequent and characteristic it is in a person’s e-mail. Themail skirts the boundary between public and private: by using only single words, it depicts the essence of a conversation without revealing the specific meaning. From the Media Lab: Fernanda Viégas and Scott Golder, 2006.

Lexigraphs I: Portraits of micro-bloggers

Lexigraphs I is a group portrait of Twitter users. Here they can be seen as a crowd of individual writers, each delineated by the words that characterize their postings and the rhythm of their writing. From the Media Lab: Alex Dragulescu, 2008.

Mycrocosm: Self-portraits in statistical graphs

The collection, use and control of personal data is an important and controversial issue. Mycrocosm users record everyday “personal statistics” using simple graphs and charts to display their data creating self-portraits which highlight the expressiveness of personal patterns over time. From the Media Lab: Yannick Assogba, 2008


Experimental Graphical Chat Spaces

Chat Circles
Experience how online spaces have the potential to go beyond replicating everyday experience. With reduced realism comes the freedom to explore new forms of communication. From the Media Lab: Fernanda Viegas and Matt Lee.

Information Spaces
Presents research in moving away from literal representations of tools, spaces, and people to take better advantage of mediated graphical environments. From the Media Lab: Drew Harry.


Chit Chat Club

The Chit Chat Club was a prototype for a connected “café” where remote visitors, appearing via human-scale avatar chairs, could join company with local patrons. Each chair was designed to explore a different aspect of remote communication.

Cheiro Chair 
The Cheiro Chair features expressive typography, allowing a remote user to communicate via typed text rather than speaking, while still presenting a vivid and animated presence. From the Media Lab: Francis Lam, 2006.


Slim was designed to fit into a conversational setting with minimal effort by the remote user. The mouth and eyes moved automatically in conjunction with the user’s speech, and the user could change its expressions with a simple “emotion wheel” interface. From the Media Lab: Karrie Karahalios and Kelly Dobson.