The spaces in which individuals connect on the Internet, as well as through other technologies such as mobile phones and networked gaming consuls, each have their own particular architectures. They are built with specific allowances and capabilities, in attempt to dictate the forms and types of interactions that take place within those spaces. Like any space, these configurations can be re-interpreted and re-inscribed by creative users (who almost always find ways to bend - or break - the rules), but nevertheless, a particular mode of communication and connection evolves for each new technology that catches our attention, and enables connection.
Records of Identity
In the age of digital media, identity assertions are no longer purely transient, exploratory exercises. For the most part, digital expressions of identity are here to stay, as at least somewhat permanent markers that remain visible for both creators, and others, to see. Even the deleted blog, or photo posted on the social network, may be saved in cache, or downloaded on some hard drive out there.
Sharing Secrets on the World Wide Web
Digital Natives are at home on the Internet. Whether âhanging outâ on MySpace (see Danah Boyd's "Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace" (2006)), organizing and discussing events on Facebook, commenting on each othersâ photos on Facebook, watching acquaintances football games, video diaries, or dance routines on YouTube, or spilling their heart out on countless blog services, Natives are expressing, sharing, talking â and shaping, presenting and developing personal identities â in all types of spaces online. How aware are Digital Natives that these spaces they often view as 'safe' are actually very public spaces? How aware are they of the potential consequences?
Teens use communication channels on the internet to broaden their circle of friends to include both real and virtual friends. In creating blogs, they share in writing thoughts about themselves, as well as comments about others, and the world around them. Beyond strictly blogging, the page design and links they include are also indirect expressions of the self (Papacharissi 2002). This points to a digital opportunity - beyond the technical/ design skills being learned, teens are learning to express abstract ideas (in this case the self) through visual appearance, design, and affiliations.
Asserting Identity with the Mobile Media
The Digital Native is constantly connected. To be constantly connected is to have continual access to your friends, to your chosen information, to your creative outletâ¦it also means that âdigital information explosionâ (the ever-faster growing amount of published information available) and 'Digital Information Overload' (defined on wikipedia as âthe state of having too much information to make a decision or remained informed about a topic,â] is always in your face. The information explosion surrounds, shoving the native simultaneously in different directions, making it hard to stand ground as âyourselfâ â especially when at times itâs impossible to even hear yourself think.
OMG,â Elizabeth thumbs into her cell phoneâs miniature keyboard. âHeâs soooo cute.â Send.
Perched in a windowsill high above the city, Elizabeth coos over her new nephew. âWhat a peanut!â
Elizabethâs sister smiles from the hospital bed. Andyâs not even a day old, still wrapped tightly in the wardâs white-and-blue swaddling blanket, his tiny facing peeking out from his motherâs arms.
Elizabeth points the cell at Andy and peers through the viewfinder. The baby screws up his already crinkled face. She clicks a photo with the built-in camera, which makes the sound of an old-fashioned camera shutter, for no good reason. Send.
âMust already be the most photographed baby of all time,â her sister laughs. âYou should have seen mom. Youâd think sheâs never seen a baby before. Her poor friends. Theyâve probably all exceeded the quota on their AOL inboxes from all her endless e-mails. Sheâs never learned how to avoid sending pictures as enormo attachments.â
Elizabeth takes Andyâs tiny hand. She runs her finger over the plastic bracelet he wears. âCohen, Baby Boy,â it reads, along with a bunch of other data that a nurse entered into a computer kiosk somewhere. Time of birth, momâs name, a unique identifier, and so forth.
- Do digital technologies facilitate escapist behaviour?
Consider, in the case of the Mp3 player, the comment of Keisha, a twenty-year-old college student:
I use [my Mp3 player] everyday. I have the remote for it, so I lie in bed, and press play, and it comes on in the morning. And then when I walk to school, I use it to walk to school, and then, walking home, and I also have it on as background when Iâm cleaning or somethingâ¦ I fall asleep listening to it through my speakersâ¦I donât like silenceâ¦I like to have something going on constantly, I think I might just sit there and think, and if I think too much, ahh, I donât like it, I just like to get on with things.
Relevant Research and Articles
Digital Identity Forum
Susan P. Crawford, "Who's in Charge of Who I Am? Identity and Law Online," December 8, 2004
Posting Your Resume on YouTube, The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2006
Danah Boyd, 'Facebook's "Privacy Trainwreck": Exposure, Invasion, and Drama,' September 8, 2006
Chinese Web Site Rips Off Facebook, Harvard Crimson, February 15, 2007
Google and Your Health Information, eWeek.com, May 29, 2007
The Identity Metasystem: Towards a Privacy-Compliant Solution to the Challenges of Digital Identity (Microsoft, 2006)
Identity and the virtual community (Donath)
"Staying Connected via Cellphone (and Cellphone Bill)", 'NY Times', June 27, 2007