Identity is not binary – plusgate

I have to join in with support for those people out there who wish to use a pseudonym or handle to express themselves on the internet. This is all sparked out of the apparent short sightedness of Google and it Google+ on suggesting that if you don’t use your “real” name you can’t be on the “service”.
It is true that this is a free service, it is one, like most social networks that the owners can choose their own terms of service, however it is not an excuse to miss the point of all this connectivity.
The web is about people, social media is about people, virtual worlds are about people. People are not merely defined by a first name and second name and a physical home address. Those are merely an anchor point for physical services. People are defined by their actions, by their affiliations. They are also defined by the creative output. Social networks are not a forensic legal network of our DNA kept and logged with fingerprints, voiceprints and an absolute 100% certainty “we are who we say we are”. I am sure some people think that would be the ideal, however it is missing an important point.
Just because you know someones real name and potentially real address it does not mean that you know that real person. It no more indicates that they will tell you the truth or tell you a lie than if you ask them to roll a dice for you, 3 means truth 5 means lie the others are not sure.
People choosing to either use a different handle, a nickname or an AKA are not usually hiding. A few characters or a picture to express who they are in the context of a particular social network is more likely to offer insight into who they are rather than the surname handed down by birth and a first name given by parents.
Trust is very different from physical appearance or labelled identity. Having a human face profile picture does not make that profile “genuine”. The actions of someone or the organisation behind the profile are where trust is formed and where bonds are strengthened.
I can understand worries about accountability or security of knowing the same person is using the same account, but these are completely different from anonymity or pseudo anonymity. I am more than happy to talk and deal with the same person time and time again regardless of their “name” just as I am happy to deal with them regardless of race or creed. If the “name” they have made for themselves and their actions is an alias then so what?
Much of this has sparked form the virtual world communities, in particular Second Life choosing to help and early adopt Google+. In part to get away from the over controlling nature of Facebook and it’s names and identity policy. It seems though Google want to be a copy of that.
I am wondering where this ends though. Should we not be able to search the internet for fictional characters, are we not able to engage with people with imaginations online. Should everything be geared to a replication of the physical world?
It is lazy to treat identity as binary. I have seen corporations and companies try this with employees (and fail). We are complex messy collections of carbon atoms. We all have more than one mood and persona. Different situations require us to suspend disbelief or augment ideas. Nothing is black and white.
Does this affect me? Well not exactly. I am known as epredator on a number of systems. People call me epred when we meet. I am also Ian, Mr Hughes, Sir, Oi You, Dad, Son. I have an avatar in Second Life that wears a mask, yet I don’t hide behind that mask. I have not made a specific separation between me online and me offline in that I am shades of me and shades of characters in different situations at different times. I do however admire those who have a completely separate online nom de plume, why shouldn’t they? It is part of the magic of the human condition. Just as with a magic trick, once you know how its done it loses its appeal.
So, who ever you are, do not stifle creativity and creation, do not stifle humanity by fixing a technology based policy in place just because you think it “might be a good idea if…”. I reserve the right to have an anonymous profile that I can fill with whatever I want to explore a character and some ideas. Google “do no evil?” killing creative expression sounds rather evil to me?

3 thoughts on “Identity is not binary – plusgate

  1. Excellent article, Ian. Certainly a good take on Google+. You might be interested in looking into Mozilla’s new BrowserID authentication system if you haven’t done so already, which springs to mind reading this. I’d be interested in your opinon.

  2. Pingback: Is that me hiding? I don’t think so more Google Minus « Life at the Feeding Edge

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