The past few days I’ve been reading a lot about identity, privacy, and self.
According to The free Dictionary, identity is, among other things, “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known”.
On another text (which I can’t find now…) I also read that, although identity comes from the Latin word idem – meaning “the same thing” – it is built on many different aspects of the “self”: the one we think we are, the one we show to others, the one made of what other people think we are. Identity could be, then, described as a kind of a puzzle, made of different and multi-coloured pieces.
In virtual world, where the authenticity of the self is “disembodied” from physical aspects like skin colour, voice tone, fingerprints, the different dimensions referred above are, in a certain way, blurred. We, in a certain manner, are what we publish. The pictures we choose to add to our profile. The opinions we write, the comments we make. Our identity, then, is constructed trough our own activity on the network, leaving digital prints that can last forever. Like taking the red pill, there’s no turning back.
Not being a “privacy freak” – if I don’t want people to read what I think, than I shouldn’t publish, right? – I take special care when selecting the media I use and content I share to project myself on the screen. But, in an age where any mobile phone is a video camera, where conversations are recorded and published on newspapers, and where people are added to friend’s list without being asked, this privacy things are somehow harder to control.
Our picture can be tagged on Facebook without our permission or knowledge, anyone can create a twitter account with our photo, name and general information. It happened before, it can happen again, and it is happening now (via @josiefraser). Kind of a dark side of the web: uncontrolled, unauthorized, unrestrained.
So, what can we do? Run away? Delete all accounts? Or should we try to study, develop and create virtual spaces where our identity is protected (through authentication mechanism, for example) and/or associated with other people and institutions?
And if we could have a space like that, where we could create, share, publish, upload images and videos, built our own authentic space, would we take it? Or would we prefer the risk of a non-controlled environment, where all our selves could construct their (our) own identity? ;)
(back to readings…)