Big brother badge tracks workers… and gossip mongers

MIT's Media Lab is always looking for new and creative ways to mess with our heads, and at a recent corporate event in Tokyo, it came up with a doozy. Lab researchers pinned sociometric badges on 70 attendees to record their actions (it logs voice features, proximity to other individuals, and face-to-face interactions) while they schmoozed around the conference. The info was transmitted to a visualization program in near real-time, and projected to a screen in the break room for all to see. The corporate guinea pigs said the visualization inspired them to network more.

I can just see corporate PR types licking their chops to get this technology in action at events that bring together clients, business partners, and press. Yup, pretty soon the suits are going to know more about your social networking habits than you do. And when a friendly gal from human resources visits your cube to pin a badge on you, it might be more than a simple piece of flair: One MIT researcher has used the badges to analyze social dynamics in the workplace and worker productivity. He reports that “certain individuals acted as information bottlenecks; others as polarizers, group thinkers, or gossip mongers.” Consider yourselves warned, water-cooler groupies.

Via New Scientist