The Committee of Me

I was over reading Dusan’s blog and a paper linked in its comments that sent me into a little mental spin. Normally I’d just comment at his blog, but quite frankly, I didn’t read all of the stuff there yet and I wanted to hatch a bit of this thought I was formulating about myself. I was just at a conference about newer web-enabling technology of how we deal with information to make it more computable. One thing that struck me there was how many people there seemed to have no qualms about laying out their identities on the web. One guy gave the URL/URI for his RDF FOAF and said “this is me”. I didn’t grok it then and after trying to ponder it for nearly a week, I still don’t get it, especially because he said, “this is not my web page, this is ME”.

Maybe I am paranoid or shy, but I don’t see how a network of all my life needs to be web-enabled for all to surf.

As Pais, I have a blog. No other part of me has a blog, especially one using my real name. When I saw “Virtual worlds don’t exist”, even without reading more than a few pages I remembered how earlier in the day I was backing myself out of FaceBook and LinkedIn because I was getting friend requests, pokes, and other associations that may work well enough with fragments of my self but I didn’t want laid out for all the sniffers, yokels, background checkers, identity thieves, and who knows what else to see.

Then I thought of Pais’ blog, where that fragment of me can talk and share in his own circle, and not have to muddy or be muddied by my other selves. Then I wondered if I should create alts for my work self, my family self, my college buddies self, my various hobbies selves, and so forth. All of these only need be connected to my legal identity when they need be.

These are twisted times for identity. We have an administration that wiretapped the entire country’s phone and email. We have marketers that are profiling our buying tastes and habits. We have people that assume our identities to take our money and property. Why do I want to connect up all the dots? Instead, perhaps I need to diversify my life, my mind, and my identity.

I met a person in SL with dissociative identity disorder. Well, actually I met first one of their personalities in one alt that introduced me to another personality who had another alt. The alts are different sex and age. After meeting “them” and getting to know them both, as well as talking to one of them about their multiple personalities and their RL(s), I pondered about how much I also have partitions of self and identity, although not as dramatic as my friend.

I have come to like being Pais, like an author that publishes some of their stories under a pseudonym to allow them freedom from the restrictions of the rest of their work, splitting off a chunk of identity for a reality partition makes more sense now than ever before to me.

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5 responses to “The Committee of Me

  1. Nice post Pais – and I think Grace is possibly misreading the article she links to, which isn’t proposing that we associate our identities (avatar and actual) but rather that we think about the domain or perspective from which we study them.

    Having said that, this issue of the blurring of the actual and virtual continues to be such an emotional and provocative one – and in reading I, Avatar…which is definitely from the perspective of an immersionist, he makes the point that in considering our avatars and alts and identities and asking questions about them, we’re really asking the question what does it mean to be human.

    What is an individual? Where does an individual actually begin and end? Is an alt of my alt of my main still me? If so, why? Is something more me if it’s attached to indicators of identity? Or can identity be decoupled from things like name and even body (let’s face it, our body isn’t of our choosing – but is it our BODY that’s ME? Or are we defined because our body is the prosthetic of our soul? Our interface to the world – change the interface, change our ability to express other things.)

    Which veers dangerously off into a discussion of Foucault and he always gave me a headache, so maybe I’ll avoid loops and social construction for tonight and, um, watch TV or something.

  2. Oh – and that FOAF quote is priceless, the best loop I’ve seen in a long time – gonna swipe it:

    “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.”

  3. I didn’t mean to imply I thought the article I link to was about virtual vs. real identities, but I can see how my hasty writing gave that impression. I linked it because it is interesting, but the connection to my blather was that I got the idea while I was reading through it, even if it was a different focus.

    But you really nailed one thing for me – metaverses, MMOs, virtual worlds – show a promise to help us discover a big more of our humanity.

  4. Another thing to throw into the debate – a good friend of mine studies privacy on the Net – what he does, what a cool job haha. Anyways, I used the words ‘identity theft’ one night and he freaked out – and he was right. Someone doesn’t steal your identity. They steal your identifying data, they commit fraud, they hack your credit – but they don’t take your identity.

    But what’s interesting, he said, is how culturally we still call it identity theft. Why is that I wonder.

  5. Pingback: Pais Visits Real Life « Pais Kidd’s Weblog

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