Networked Identities – an Open Book Project

“Networked Identities” is the title of the open textbook project Serge Ravet (EIFEL) and me have initiated not long ago. The first step of the project is the workshop at the 10th ePortfolio and Identity –  ePIC 2012 – Conference in London. As “Networked Identities” is intended as an open, collaborative project, we invite everyone interested in the questions of:

“How digital technologies reshape identity construction in the 21st century?”

to shape this project with us. The Networked Identities Workshop will be dedicated to collecting the first inputs from the community on the book, discussing book objectives, structure and core areas to be covered. For the time being our introduction to the book says:

“The environment in which we construct and express our identities in the 21st century is being dominated by the ubiquitous presence of digital networks and media. To what extent do digital networks and media contribute to renewed forms of emancipation and/or alienation? How can we maximise their beneficial effects in empowering autonomous identity construction, whilst minimising adverse consequences? Does the emergence of a Cyberspace challenge our current understanding of identity construction? Is it primarily an issue of ‘assimilation’ (integrating new means to do slightly differently what we did before) or ‘accommodation’ (the need to transform our representations and invent new practices)?  What is the impact on the future of education, practice, research, technologies, business models, policies, etc.? Is there a risk that identity-related technologies and regulations might be retrofitted to the ‘real world’ with negative consequences on our freedom? How can citizens be empowered to make contributions to the technology and policy debates on identity issues?”

The Call for Abstracts for the Networked Identities Workshop is at the same time a Call for Chapters and Contributions for the Networked Identities Book. This means you can submit an abstract for the workshop and/or abstract for the book itself. Authors of selected workshop abstracts will be invited to submit chapters for the book.

We are very glad that  Athabasca University Press, a fully open access publisher dedicated to the free dissemination of knowledge throughout the world, has already expressed a keen interest in publishing the collection, contingent on the successful outcome of external peer review.

The digital version of the book will be published under Creative Commons.

We are looking forward to shaing this book with you and welcome first contributions for the Networked Identities Open Textbook!

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Quick links:

Digital Identity

Digital identity is an interesting and complex (some say nebulous) concept and field of research. Recently, I have been digging a little bit deeper into current theory and research related to digital identities taking int account that the challenge of researching digital identities already starts with defining (digital) identity. Surely this can be and has been done from a number of different perspectives, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, media studies and many more.

Here I would just like to start with some of my favourite, thought-provoking conceptualisations of identity:

  • Social identity is not a fixed possession, but a social process, in which the individual and the social are inextricably related (Jenkins, 1996)
  • Patchwork-identities and identity construction as a dynamic and interactive process of patchworking of different identity components (Keupp, 1999)
  • Changing nature of identity (fluid identity), self-identity including self-reflexivity and creating biographical narratives (project of the self) as an inescapable issue in post-traditional societies (Giddens, 2002)
  • Collective identities as resistance identities, the identity-based social mobilisation in the network society and identities as reflexive achievement in post-traditional societies (Castells, 2006)
  • Identities in “liquid modernity” are negotiated, formed and reformed (Bauman, 2007)

And now I will add some of my favourite conceptualisations of digital identity:

  • Using virtual spaces to construct identity as multiple yet coherent notions with the identity on the computer as sum of the sum of distributed presence (Turkle, 1995)
  • The tripartite play of identities in context of video games: multiple real-life identities, virtual identities and projective identities (as a fusion between game-players and their avatars), as well as  the idea that learning involves taking on and playing with identities (Gee, 2003)
  • Digital identities as data that uniquely describes a person as subject or any other entity, which also includes information about the relationship of the subject to other subjects or entities (Windley, 2005)
  • Identity expression in digital media as part of community involvement, which in itself provides strong incentives for creative expression and active participation in terms of “participatory culture” (Jenkins, 2006)
  • Constructing digital identities as empowerment and personal growth through online self-expression by means of self-publishing, self-reflection, self-documentation (Stern, 2008)
  • Compulsory individuality and regulation of self-expression through consumer culture, exploring the relationship between the structured of consumerism and the agency in terms of the capacity to think and act freely (Willett, 2008)
  • Representations of digital identity as a constant process of negotiation and self-presentation (Boyd, 2004)
  • Digital identity narratives as stories we tell digitally about ourselves to the world linking digital identity to digital storytelling (Koosel, 2011)

Many times it is pretty hard to identify the relevant publications or initiatives as the concept of digital identity is often not explicitly referred to as “digital identity”, but for example as “self-presentations” , “personal brands”, “digital narratives” or “digital traces”.

As these are all different descriptions or different forms of digital identity, I have created a stack on Delicious dedicated to curating web resources related to (digital) identity that I find inspiring. I am aware there are probably many more good publications and examples out there and it would be great to hear from you about related research and practice!