Tuesday, November 25, 2008

boundaries, blending and portability

Was watching a colleague login to a wiki the other day, trying various combinations of 3-4 usernames and passwords-- a situation you're probably pretty familiar with. We have multiple, yet limited, online identities, each with their own digital breadcrumbs, associations, and goals.

Even the earliest theorists of self (e.g. James, Meade, Cooley) saw this coming -- our online memberships automatically embed us in different networks; it's only natural to shift your identity based on context. Blogger, mother, NY-er, Texan, etc...

It made me think about our tacit strategies to manage our online identities and attitudes toward portability. Danah Boyd, of course, talks about related issues frequently (and early on).

My Links are fairly distinct from my Friends and who I Follow -- not 100% -- but I don't really use segmentation strategies within networks to adjust who sees what/ what I see.

With single digital identities and proliferating technology top of mind, the effect of maintaining distinctions across networks vs. merging, and porting identities are weighing down on me. A pretty extensive literature in social psych shows that when primed with a given identity, we adopt a certain awareness that guides our attention and evaluations, and influences our subsequent behaviors. This is natural... I'm curious about the opposite effect-- blending boundaries into a melting pot identity and the behavior that would result from a potentially merged self.


Max Kalehoff said...

That's the money question. Pete recently talked about the melding of time, but even more profound is the melding of identities. Those different passwords are all friction, characteristic of a prehistoric Web (the one we're in now). They'll eventually go away and I suspect that context will drastically change, whereby parent context has less to do with destination (i.e., the physical locales that require incompatible profiles) and more to do with intentions or relationships.

kate said...

Hey Max - I agreed with your comment on Pete's blog, in fact suggesting that the blurring of identities was responsible for the melding of time. So I would argue that intentions and relationships already dictate our behaviors-- more so than physical destinations. Those would be examples of the tacit strategies I mentioned. But the intentions and relationships are segmented in a way that will probably seem Victorian in the near future: based on an artificial sense of identity boundaries. Isn't there a song "I think I'm turning Japanese"? It's as if we're shifting from an individualized culture to a collective one.