Identity and Computing

went to a talk today by some hp engineers working on the “cooltown” project. basically its aim is to introduce pervasive and ubiquitous computing to entire communities at once, with their pre-setup system. it was actually pretty solid, with good thinking on privacy issues for once . . .

almost every system i’ve seen so far to do this relies on absolute knowledge of the identities of each person and thing. that immediately sets off alarm bells in most normal people’s minds, fearing a “big brother” sort of situation. the argument, as best articulated by howard rheingold in smart mobs, has been that people justify this by the benefits they receive in exchange for their information. this is supposed to make people feel better about a computer knowing all their intimate information.

but that’s not what the internet is built on. rather, we see all over the web instances of people taking on different personas to fit different situations. i myself am a “CEO of a design firm” to some business management websites, an “undergraduate student” of several different universities when testing out their calendars, and i recall being “over 21” to access Absolut Vodka’s website (to put their ads on my desktop) when i was definitely not of drinking age. other people i know have different names and personalities for each chat room that they visit online.

until our society fully realizes the open source/open information movement (led by our own Larry Lessig), we will all find a need to be different people in different situations–not unlike we do at parties, or in “fudging” our resum

One Comment