Ev Williams tries to boil down identity to five parts:
- Authentication - Do you have permission?
- Representation - Who are you?
- Communication - How do I reach you?
- Personalization - What do you prefer?
- Reputation - How do others regard you?
This is a very tool-centric, or marketing-centric approach, and leaves out — or dismisses — all the messy and interesting philosophical aspects of identity.
Consider issues like publicy: How much of these various aspects of identity do you want to be revealed? Or context-based identity: you are a different you with the bowling league, at work, or on Suicide Girls.
Ev’s list is based on information flows — how people and systems might communicate or interact with people through identity markers of various kinds — but it doesn’t get at our personal motivations, needs, or requirements around identity as an aspect of human psychology.
Great points Stowe. Additionally, Ev’s model ignores the inward facing aspect of identity - the person we see in the mirror, the inner truth, the self-knowledge of both our greatest strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and fears. That individual, that identity, is very different than the one we advertise. So, let’s extend upon this and explore the complexity of identity between two people.
First, the basic identities.
- Me - my inner view of myself
- Me - my advertised self to the world
- You - your inner view of yourself
- You - your advertised self to the world
Now let’s look at the interpretation of the identities in a conversation.
- Me - my interpretation of your advertised self
- Me - my interpretation of your inner view of yourself
- You - your interpretation of my advertised self
- You - your interpretation of my inner view of myself
So, during any conversation among two individuals, we can be having multiple dialogs - which identity is communicating with which interpreter? Let’s add one more layer here providing complexity in communication.
- Me - my awareness of your interpretation of my advertised self
- Me - my awareness of your interpretation of my inner view of myself
- You - your awareness of my interpretation of your advertised self
- You - your awareness of my interpretation of your inner view of yourself
Now, if you really want to blow the lid off things in terms of complexity, bring in pre-judgment, what others have said, expectations based upon past interactions, mood, etc.
The point here is that identity is much more complex than Ev’s 5 buckets, of which, coincidentally, Twitter and Facebook address with Kunderian unbearable lightness.
Philosophy, glad you’ve met technology.