Media & Entertainment

Porn, Big Data, And What We Search For When No One’s Looking

01st Feb `14, 11:48 AM in Media & Entertainment

We’ve seen before how porn sites use data to deliver targeted advertising. But this study’s aim is a…

BDMS
Guest Contributor
 

We’ve seen before how porn sites use data to deliver targeted advertising. But this study’s aim is a bit different. The accompanying totally suitable-for-work tool, Porngram, was engineered by data scientists at Sexualitics, an organization whose mission is to “contribute to human sexuality understanding through a Big Data approach.” Think Google’s literary-focused Ngram Viewer, but, you know, for recreational bedroom pursuits.

How does Porngram work, you ask? Researchers combed through some 800,000 videos uploaded between 2008 and February 2013 to Xhamster.com, a streaming site not ostensibly concerning furry pets. Using a script, the team tallied the frequency of keywords in video titles and metadata (taken from keyword tags), using algorithms to filter out non-revealing information. (The word “sex,” for example, which can be used for anything.) “Traces left by billions of users give us cultural snapshots of tastes,” write researchers in the abstract. “[M]ore importantly, they enable researchers to look for structures and patterns in the evolutionary dynamics of practices adopted by a significant and growing proportion of the human population.” You can read the whole study in its SFW entirety here, but it’s the the tool itself that gives us the most revealing look into what people are watching when the blinds are drawn.

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