With all the pros and cons floating around about Twitter, I finding that as much as anything else, it is an interesting tool to drop a suggestion into my usual echo chamber – and if I can get more than one idea out of the chamber’s soundings, that means that there might be something to think about. One of the first of these for me related to our identities in this online age.
I’ll start with the past – one of the things that we should all know by now, that the ‘net is not the Pacific… where as the former has no memory, the ‘net remembers everything and it is this “feature” that is at the core of being able to identify an individual online. This identify is created by more than one service and also (possibly) more than one personality. So even if you try to delete one part of that identity, one can still go back to find out about what you were like – assuming that you have a consistent username (or set of usernames). So if you were to ever look for me, you would find me as idarknight just about everywhere except for on YouTube where there is some 19year old Spaniard who has that name, but my the bulk of the search results that a quick Google will return, you can see what I’ve been doing since I went online to the ‘net in any permanent form in the summer of my first year of undergrad studies when I created my username. So, though I haven’t detected any of “myself”, others have – Twitter seems to be the favourite whipping service for user deletion – there have been many people doing it. Most famously, you have Thomas Hawk and recently within this corner/cloud puff of the edu-blogosphere, you have D’Arcy Norman (though there might be some pangs of longing for the behavioral conditioning that is an addictive element for some – many?? – ). So after you delete, we can see that that one element of you isn’t really gone. So what does this mean for kids growing up with the ‘net these days who will go through the formative years of their identity fully immersed in this ‘net based realm?
This is the first sound that I heard in my Twitter echo chamber, when Kyle Lichtenwald sounded this tweet:
I don’t buy this idea of creating an double persona online. Why? What is the purpose? Show us who you are. Be authentic. Be transparent.
from there Kyle and I back a forthed a few times and I found this TR article on iJustine, and we agreed that for better or for worse, the extremes are easy to identify – celebrity or infamy – and that the youth have to learn to manage the various elements or versions of themselves as they grow up. Teens are always struggling to find out who they are, they change their clothing, personality – and online create multiple identities (hopefully they are doing it on SNS other than the “so yesterday” (nee 2005 – and don’t even get started on blogs…) MySpace or the recently found deficient Twitter (whip!)).
As you can see by the links, the sounds started to bounce and echo much louder over the next couple of days and arriving at an idea put forward by George Siemens, that repution may be obsolete because we can, on our own determine the history of an individual, all we need is all their usernames – or a core identity/pholio to do this. But then again… haven’t we always been able to do this? I am thinking about the scene in Back to the Future III where Marty is reading about why Mad Dog was so feared. The only difference is that the library is now accessible just about everywhere and the author isn’t an expert – it is the expert – the individual themselves. And just as in the past, when people remade themselves, eventually all the streams run together. So the kid who is a griefer/jock/nerd online may have three very separate identities in Jr. High/Middle School may lose the griefer as s/he grows out of the angst and the jock element may grow to support the nerd element and create someone new that “understands” the griefer. All this is out there in the open for those care to look for it, but only if the individual has made any attempt to make any of this public and perhaps coherent – something that is hard in the realm of walled gardens (which is the advantage of Twitter and News Groups of the past – as they are open).
Ok – I don’t think I can remember either of my original thoughts on this topic, but here is another one… based on the article George started off with. Reputation really hasn’t changed at all – it is still based on what you do as interpretted by others. It just much more easier to create and more accessible to others with a much longer “shelf life” than it ever has before and now exists for many more people. So does it really matter? Should we teach kids how to manage the digital traces of their lives? I’d say yes. Regardless of how many versions of “you” there are out there, eventually, if those persona have any digital traces they will come back to impact the person for better or for worse.
…snooze break again….
So what is my 9h post going to come out to – reputation is still important and all the online elements that make up the real individual (even their multiple offline selves) will eventually all thread together – making the management and understanding of persona online and off even more important today as there are more traces on which to build a reputation and more people looking to determine one’s reputation.
Who knos if this makes any sense… if I ever come back to it outside this very sleep state, I’m sure I’ll be able to make more sense – but if you have any ideas, comment them here or tweet them my way (comment tweets are good as post tweets these days).