Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Response to; I haz a Nom

A friend of mine; 'Victoria MacArthur' over at 'Propositional Structure' , today wrote an interesting muse about personal writings on blogs. In it, she put forward the question; as to how personal one should get in a blog? How much does one 'feel comfortable' with sharing on the web? And, what are the ramifications in terms of employers vetting candidates for jobs etc. ?

She seemed to raise 2 fundamental issues:
1. The question of instinctually or more cognitively wanting to protect and control one's identity.
2. The pragmatic issues around needing to negotiate one's privacy on the web.

This got me thinking about some of the key issues at stake which I've layed out as follows:

First off, there is the problem of ‘identity crime’. This is a type of crime which is on the increase and one further enabled by the web. This can occur whereby you leave enough breadcrumbs on the internet for someone to cross-correlate that information and build up a profile on you. This profile can then be used to create a false identity for another person, or even worse; to 'steal' someones identity. Outside of crime though, it may be a case that you unknowingly have left the jig-saw for an online profile of you, which can be pieced together by employers and others. Thus, you may incremently and unknowingly lose your privacy online.

Second off, identity in the 21st century has increasingly become ‘individuated’, whereby individuals construct the ’self’ through-out their lives. (Note: This construction can be conscious, unconconscious and indeed shaped with social structure at micro, meso, macro level) What’s important about posting information on the internet, is that it can leave relics of your previous ’selves’. Thus, your past can constrain your identity ‘construction’, particularly when it cannot be erased from the past. For example, archive.org has been archiving web pages on the internet for nearly 10 years now. Fragments of your past identities on the internet can be seen as both positive and negative. One positive, is that it means you have to face all of your past realities (and integrate them). On a negative, it can give people (such as employers) a false sense of who you are ‘now’; your past may constrain you in the eyes of others. It may also constrain your own sense of identity and your ability to construct.

Third Point. There is an issue with social networking sites etc., whereby individuals can have too much ‘control’ of their online identities. Individuals can now put themselves in a position to be able to package their life online, and this online construction may not be ‘holistically’ representative of the integrated identity. It may represent a planned and controlled fragment of your identity, or even an entirely consciously manufactured identity. At the other extreme, the fragments of identity that do lie on the internet, may result in people constructing a narrow and perhaps even false sense of who you are as an integrated identity.

Final point. The solution to all this seems 3 fold. (1)Government policy with regards to data protection etc. (2)Some responsibility and forsight with regard to website owners and content managers (3)Individual responsiblity, in terms of managing your online identity and maintaining a degree of foresight.

Overall, it seems like there isn’t a polarising solution. A balanced attitude to your identity and privacy on the internet seems the best approach. Individuals need to be vigilant and maintain foresight when posting information on the web. On the other-hand, individuals need to be attentive to how, ‘controlled’ and ‘representative’ that information on the web is of their ‘integrated identity’.

To see the original article, go to; http://www.victoriamacarthur.com/2009/01/20/i-haz-a-nom/
Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

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