Your profile data is scattered around the planet in little bits, here and there. They spring to life when you are online.
#3368 Created 04/26/2013 Updated 04/26/2013
I never got the link to the Forbin Project or Colossus, but the essential concept in this discussion is the emergence of a "fully normalized database" of consumer information in the Web.
Simply put, a fully normalized database is one in which every bit of data is independent. Each bit of information associated with my name, for example, is a separate record. My name and my street address. My name and my city. My name and my zipcode.
Fully normalized databases were conceived by Edgar Codd in 1970 as a way of ensuring that updating of databases would not result in duplicate or conflicting information. But in the Web space, the fully normalized database is a consequence of the way that users behave and information is collected.
Consider that all the data about an individual consumer's activities on the web -- browsing, email, transactions, chats, likes, shares -- are individual small records associated with the consumer's "identity". Its not a big list of data in one place, but little bits of data in thousands of places, all unified by their association to the consumer's identity.
My id and a web page address that I once visited. My id and an Amazon purchase. My id and a street address. My id and a blog posting. My id and an email account. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
These bits of data lie fallow, unused, until called forth by some process, usually a form of a search, that collects bits through patterns, and then assembles audiences by tracking back to the bits' owners.
Signing in to your social media account -- Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft -- is the act that can trigger the commercially-motivated search requests that wind up placing advertising on every screen you seen, recommending friends and products to you, and encouraging your participation in other ways.