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Monday 05|29|06
On the nature of Identity

I have been thinking about Identity a lot lately. One of the things my team thinks about in relation to the Yahoo! Network is identity and how a person is represented across the websites. It got me thinking back to an essay I started to write back in 2001 about the same topic and I wondered if we know any more today than we did back then.

Back in 2001, when I was researching Identity models for the internet, there wasn't a lot to pull from. People had studied the way users represented themselves in online chat spaces and MUDs and places like the WELL but there was so little user participation on the web it wasn't very relevant. All the academic papers I had found were focused on the contained spaces and nothing had been recent.

Fast forward to 2006 and Identity online is a hot topic. It can be stolen, it can be spoofed, it is exxagerated or underplayed. People go out of their way to make a persona or two, or three, for themselves depending on context and it is no big deal. Who I am on Flickr is very different than who I am on - or is it?

Today's youth evolve themselves through their online identity. Places like MySpace and Facebook seem to be as important to socializing and defining one's self as the telephone was when I was that age.

So I wonder how all this will play out. We leave bits of ourselves across the internet and for some of us it is as intertwined with our "real" offline lives as breathing. How does this evolve and change as we age. We all are seeing now that you can't get rid of the drops you leave behind. Google and the Internet Wayback Machine and the Usenet archives are making sure of that.

I have more questions than answers right now and I expect the industry as a whole will be solving some of these issues over time. I know we are looking at a lot of these questions at work and hopefully we can create some smart ways for folks to take control of themselves and the pieces they leave behind.

Posted by erin at 04:21 PM | in Community

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