Sunday, 5 October 2008

The duality of Digital Identity: We ‘r’ what we do!

Posted by: Ash Khanna

The ‘science’ of digitization follows from the worldview of Newtonian Mechanics; i.e:

  1. Materialism: All that matters is ….. ‘matter’ (i.e. tangible / quantifiable)
  2. Reductionism: Take it apart and analyze the pieces
  3. Determinism: We can predict the outcome

But to understand even the ‘gene’, the atomic representation of an individual’s identity, this world view is unsophisticated:

“When a gene product is needed, a signal from its environment, not an emergent property of the gene itself, activates expression of that gene.”

(Nijhout, 1990)

In fact, according to 'Quantum entanglement':

"The peculiar situation is:

the best possible knowledge of a whole does not necessarily include the best possible knowledge of all its parts

even though it may be entirely separated....."

(Schrodinger, 1935)

Hence, the objective syntax & semantics of mediating artifacts that facilitate the storage, communication, aggregation and processing of ‘personal data’ are in ‘tension’ with the impressionable, subjective and indeterminate but holistic perception of ‘personal identity’.

There is a significant increase in the (digital) devices and applications that individuals use to transact and interact. Also, “my”, voluntary (e.g. online registration, blogs, etc.) and informed (credit card transactions, online medical records with the NHS, etc.) or involuntary (e.g. bank sharing account details with the tax man) and unknown (e.g. profiling my online behavior and selling it to marketing companies) are ‘traces’, over time, of my activities in the digital environment. In other words, the digital identity of the person grows.

Ownership of my ‘identity’ is expressed as a need to control these traces of digital activities, individually. But the sustained management of the dispersed multiplicity of these traces is humanly impossible. Hence the individual can feel a sense of greater than objective loss for the ‘violation’ of a trace of her/his identity.


'There is a correlation between the increasing awareness and assertion by individuals of their ‘right of and to identity’ and the frequent use by ‘others’ of their digital data(s).'