I am an ID : non/persisting our sociotechnical digital identities
Brubaker, Jed Richards.
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references. Our online identities are collaborations between user behavior and technology. Increasingly, computers speak on our behalf, representing our identities in configurations that are shaped by the technological systems through which they are communicated. This sociotechnical relationship is particularly evident in the user profiles seen on social network sites. Given the rise of technologies that utilize identity, this thesis examines the role of persistence by considering the ways in which users and technology collaborate in the creation of digital identities, the ways in which technology structures and stores these identities, and the social behaviors these identities enable.; The concept of identity persistence is explored through two case studies: persistent identities on the popular social network site Facebook, and non-persistent or "single-use identities" seen on craigslist Missed Connections, an online equivalent to "I saw you" personal ads. Facebook allows users to capture and store personal and interpersonal information that can then be reused across social activities and system features. This universal profile however, results in a singular self-presentation that must represent the user across the various social networks to which his Facebook profile is exposed. Users on craigslist engage in much of the same behavior, but without technology to structure and maintain their identities. Instead users produce single-use identities for each post by utilizing interpretive resources from outside of the craigslist system.; This thesis concludes with a consideration of digital identities as a part of our larger social and institutional infrastructures. Software such as Facebook is built around essentialized conceptions of identity that, once stored as a set of categories and classifications in a database, can become rigid and unusable. Approaching identities from the perspective of the work they perform, I argue for a reexamination of digital identity as a functional unit of larger infrastructures, and articulate some of the potential challenges when persisting something as dynamic as identity.
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