Musing lazily about identity

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Who you are is a function of:

  • what you stand for
  • what you belong to (both blood as well as thunder)
  • what you like (and what you dislike)
  • what you’ve done (and what you’d like to do)

Sure there are many other things. Ways to contact you. The size of your wallet. All kinds of things that other people use to “define” you: your age, gender, marital status, number of dependents, address.

Interestingly, these mattered when “socio-economic groupings” meant something, when “marketing” could predict your propensity to buy something based on all the boxes they put you into. [If you’re interested in hearing a worthwhile rant on this subject, try and spend some time with Professor Richard Scase, “Futurescase” as he gets called. I’ve relished the privilege.]

Today, the marketers are in trouble. Socio-economic groupings mean jack when it comes to predicting purchase propensity. Long tails weave their equalising ways across class and gender and hirsuteness, or lack of.

In the meantime, everyone else (bar the marketers) is into biometrics. And maybe that’s acceptable. Was a shibboleth an early form of biometric identification? Well, at least the shibboleth identified someone as a member of a group (or not, as the case may be). You see, one of the problems we face with modern definitions of privacy and confidentiality is deeply connected to this need for a protected need for individuality.

No man is an iland.

We are going to have villages and towns and cities where the computing device is communal. Where that communal device uses opensource software and open standards and open platforms and open open open.

And we’re going to have to work out what identity means there. Not identity from a narrow financial-transaction point of view. But identity in the context of sharing information. Digital information. Letters. Photographs. Films. Music. Books. Whatever.

Communal devices. Communal devices that work when the local power grid goes down. Communal devices that don’t go obsolescent in 18 months. Communal devices that do their bit about global warming.

Communal devices.

Hey, let’s be careful out there. This is why I am so concerned about the garbage that gets one in the name of DRM and IPR. Have you really tried to use a “family” PC after Windows 95? One that three or four people use regularly, who are happy to share their files. If only they could.

An aside, still about identity. When I look at startups, one of the things that I check out very carefully is how the core team got together. Did they grow up in the same neighbourhood? Hang out in the same places? Know the same people? Go to the same university?

I’ve always felt this is important. Unless the core has some independent grounding, some reason to be together, they’re going to come apart when trouble comes their way. And every startup will hit trouble sometime in the early years.

In similar vein, I tend to check out what makes a group come together. Take America. The folk rock band, I mean, the ones who gave us Don’t Cross The River and Ventura Highway. [And Horse With No Name and Sandman, but those are not my favourites…].

Do you know how they got together? They were all sons of US GIs stationed west of London, in Ruislip, Middlesex. Their mothers were all British. They attended the same school. They broke up before they really got started, in 1969. And then came together in time to savour their success.

Just goes to show.

5 thoughts on “Musing lazily about identity”

  1. I, like you, see the wide gaping widening hole that has been blown into and eaten away by bloggers, rowdy smart-mouths, prosperous web guys, geek girls with balls, and nefarious unstapled pages of computelepathy.

    I have decided to go with Jacques Derrida first, and marketing, sales and management books second, and, in this way moving forward, only after mastering the slippery bowling bowls highways of differance and speech repressing inscription, slip into Deconstructive Marketing, similar to Winning Through Self-loathing, Spirtual Slothfulness, and Raiding the Immaterial: the Radical Unusability of Concepts and Superstitions.

    I mean, those are the books that are coming in and going out of me on my blog conglomerate New Reformed Insane Blog Media Network.

    Rage Boy is partly uninterested in how it all shakes up for me, but partly pitying I suppose, seeing as how I have NOTHING to do, but write poetry at other bloggers’ blogs, just to make “user generated content” for the “web”.

  2. You sure it’s wise to let RageBoy know that you have nothing to do? He’s read all the books you mention….

  3. Vaspers the Grate, for what it is worth, I have found Derrida to be at his most lucid when writing about other writers (particularly those whose write in pursuit of some other goal). Remember that the whole concept of DIFFERANCE emerged out of an intensive (and, for my money, quite helpful) study of Husserl, particularly the earlier texts. Reading SPEECH AND PHENOMENA did wonders for my understanding of Husserl, as well as my understanding of Derrida. I would say make the analogous comment for “Freud and the Scene of Writing” (which is in WRITING AND DIFFERENCE), although there is more than a bit of opacity in this particular text.

    Truth be told, there is not a lot of content in those marketing, sales, and management books; and most of that content can be found in the first chapter. (Every rule has its exceptions of course, but the number of exceptions I have encountered can still be counted on the fingers of one of my hands.) The real danger I have encountered is this guy, Emery Roe, who is trying to take a deconstructive approach to policy analysis:

    Since one of my primary business interests concerns the interrelation of actions and decisions and the resulting role of technology in “decision support,” I am keenly interested in how policy making sets the context of decisions and actions. Roe is probably right that all of this is grounded in how we read texts. However, his deconstructive stance presumes (possibly erroneously) that texts are written and read for their own sake, rather to provide the necessary context for how we make decisions and act on them. Mind you, since Roe’s book was published by a university press, rather than a business school press, I doubt that he will be read by the marketing/sales/management crowd, which is probably just as well since, to invoke a metaphor I employed yesterday, they would probably find his stuff all manure and no pony!

  4. Hmm as a migrant twice over, I don’t buy the where you come from routine. First the skills we take with us are ignored; second new alliances aren’t imagined.

    Long ties are good in stable environments where there is no need to include anyone new. I was there once myself – possibly that’s why I’m not now!

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