Our screen habits say a lot about us. Will we like what they unveil?

A new research effort wants to be the digital equivalent of the Human Genome Project.


January 16, 2020

Quick. Take a screenshot on your phone. Keep reading for 5 seconds.

Now take another one.

Congratulations, you’re (sort of) mimicking how researchers plan to capture the digital equivalent of the Human Genome Project.

It’s called the Human Screenome Project — and it aims to help us understand the implications of everything people do on their phones.

This isn’t just about ‘screen time’

For years, researchers have thrown time and effort into understanding what happens when kids and adults stare at glowing rectangles all day long. For one thing, those screens are good at killing our zzz’s.

But the brains behind the Screenome Project say measuring time alone isn’t good enough. Watching YouTube videos for hours is different than, say, toggling between text messages, Twitter, and Instagram.

In other words: The mix of what you’re watching on that glowing rectangle is just as important as how long you’re watching it. More important, even.

The big question: Privacy. MIT Technology Review says the researchers gathered 30m screenshots from volunteers in the US and overseas. 

That’s a lot of pictures of sensitive stuff already, and the researchers suggested they need more. With concerns about Big Brother only growing bigger, will people go for it?

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