After watching several videos and reading innumerable articles this week on the themes of digital identity, the public vs the private, and the appropriate place for technology in our lives, I confess I felt somewhat overwhelmed. So what follows is of necessity a perambulation around borders.
Aleks Krotoski, in an informative article in the Guardian, Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?, compares and contrasts the “authentic identity” model being promoted by Facebook and Google with the “return to anonymity” goal of 4Chan’s Christopher Poole and the Tor Project’s Andrew Lewman. “The ability to forget, to start over is important,” argues Lewman, while Facebook’s Richard Allan believes that authentic identity provides a credibility and security that will work in Facebook’s favour.
A 2014 article in Wired, The Online Identity Crisis, comes at the same subject from a slightly different perspective. Rather than focusing on anonymity the author talks about compartmentalization and the notion of only revealing specific aspects of identity depending on the social context. This is contrasted with the “single sign-on” being pushed by Facebook, Google and others, which, whilst having obvious appeal, results in an aggregated user identity which breaks down trust relationships established between users and individual service providers, and in the end serves only to further Facebook and Google’s goal of monetizing user interactions.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that sharing is the new social norm finds a willing adherent in Jeff Jarvis, the author of “What Would Google Do?”, whose brief video, How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live touts transparency, “publicness”, and his book “Public Parts”.
Should you be mulling the purchase of “Public Parts” might I suggest that you first read Evgeny Morozov’s scathing review The Internet Intellectual in the New Republic, which dismisses Jarvis as a lightweight and the book as a “wordy marketing brochure”. Morozov, author of “The Net Delusion” and “To Save Everything, Click Here”, is not without his detractors and is, to put it mildly, an Internet sceptic. That said, his 7,000 word excoriation of Jarvis is thorough and was welcomed by some, including Milo Yiannopoulos in The Kernel, who noted “Jarvis takes great pleasure in underscoring his academic credentials, but not all professors are made equal, and this felt like Daffy Duck being decapitated by Immanuel Kant.”