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Identity and the Social Web. CCT 205. Identity and the Social Web. The social web (Web 2.0): result of the transformation of the Internet from an information space into a social space.

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Identity and the social web1
Identity and the Social Web

  • The social web (Web 2.0): result of the transformation of the Internet from an information space into a social space.

  • Passive users have become actors in a participatory ecosystem in which everybody contributes to the creation and exchange of knowledge using a variety of new tools and processes (social networking, blogs, wikis, role playing games in multi-user environments)

  • Development of online identity of the participants = patchwork of information of diverse origins and quality:

  • - Information explicitly provided by the users (in their home pages, social networking profile)

  • - Information that can be inferred from their opinions

  • - Information from online actions through the creation of characters

Online identity
Online Identity

  • Identity correlates to reputation and trust, and the construction of a good identity will translate into successful online experience.

  • Online Identity is also less and less “virtual” in its consequences

  • People spending increasing amount of their time online & online time is an increasingly important part of their real life, when it is not “colliding” directly with their off-line life

Areas of interest research
Areas of Interest & Research

  • How are Identities constructed on the web and in particular what are the different components of these Identities?

  • How reliable are these online identities?

  • Identity and privacy. Some of these systems may “feel” secure but actually expose more information than people think.

  • Identity and control of the online Identity: Identity in different Web 2.0 collaborative contexts such as Blog, Wikis, reputation systems, Online social networking

    • Identity and OSN (Online social networking). Facebook, MySpace

    • Identity and Wikis. (such as Wikipedia, anonymity and dynamic of contribution)

    • Identity in 3D Virtual worlds (Second Life)

  • Issues with online identities in the social web: people defining other’s identity, blurring between the private sphere and the public sphere

Augmented social networks questions
Augmented Social Networks: Questions

  • Power of social networks and the famed 6 degrees of separation:

  • Suppose you could go online and make relevant connections with others from whom you are separated by one, two, or three degrees.

  • Suppose that while working on a solar energy project in California, you could use such a system to find an engineer in Shanghai whose experience is directly relevant to your project.

  • Could the Internet be used to establish networks of trust that cross traditional borders?

  • Can the Internet be better at supporting the ability of citizens to self-organize and participate in civil society?

Growth of social networking sites
Growth of Social Networking Sites

  • By mid-2004 there were over 200 social networking sites, including Friendster, LinkedIn, Ryse, orkut, ZeroDegrees, Meetup, Tickle, and NeoSociety, Facebook, Twitter

  • In these communities, an initial set of founders sends out messages inviting members of their own personal networks to join the site. New members repeat the process, growing the total number of members and links in the network.

  • Sites then offer features such as automatic address book updates, viewable profiles, the ability to form new links through "introduction services," and other forms of online social connections.

Social web
Social Web

  • Facebook, Twitter and blogging websites are now more popular than email

  • In December 2008 more people logged on to a so-called member community websites on the internet than they did an email service, according to Nielsen online, a research company that monitors internet usage around the globe

Shift in internet use
Shift in Internet Use

  • "This really is a seismic shift in how people are using the internet."

  • During December 2008, there were 242 million unique visitors to social networking sites and 236 million to email sites around the world.

  • Twitter, the latest internet craze, is now being used more and more by businesses to spread their corporate message.

  • The Twitter website allows users to "micro-blog" – post a message of just 140 characters to their network of friends or contacts – and started out as a way young people could keep in touch while on the move, but now used by politicians (Obama, Toronto Mayor David Miller, CBC, Globe and Mail )


  • Estimated 276 percent increase in Facebook users ages 35-54 during the last six months of 2008; total = almost seven million.

  • Nearly 25 million users under 25.

  • Impact may be to alter, even obliterate, conventional notions of the past, to change the way young people become adults.

  • Holding onto old friends via Facebook may alleviate feelings of isolation for students whose transition to university campus life had proved rocky.


  • Online social networks are so new that it’s impossible to know their long-term impact.

  • There’s some evidence that college students have mixed feelings about being guinea pigs for the faux-friendship age.

  • One student interviewed for a study of why and how college students use Facebook (The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 2007) admitted that being privy to the personal details of “friends” who she had not seen in years made her uncomfortable.


  • 2007 The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication suggested that hanging onto old friends via Facebook may alleviate feelings of isolation for students whose transition to campus life had proved rocky.


  • Facebook marks a return to the time when people remained embedded in their communities for life, with connections that ran deep, peers who reined them in if they strayed too far from the norm, parents who expected them to live at home until marriage


  • Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 2007

  • This research explores variables related to the use of personal-journal style blogs for interpersonal goals. A random sample of bloggers completed surveys exploring how the combination of extraversion and self-disclosure affect strong tie network size, which in turn serves as motivation to use blogs as an alternative communication channel.

  • Bloggers who exhibit both extraversion and self-disclosure traits tend to maintain larger strong-tie social networks and are more likely to appropriate blogs to support those relationships.

  • Age, gender, and education have no relationship to network size, blog content, or the use of blogs as a relationship maintenance tool.

  • These results contribute to the continuing discussion about the impact that the Internet and its tools are having on relationships by suggesting that, rather than promoting isolation, computer-mediated communication tools such as blogs often function to enhance existing relationships.

Identity and the internet
Identity and the Internet

  • “A rapidly expanding system of networks, collectively known as the Internet, links millions of people in new spaces that are changing the way we think, the nature of our sexuality, the form of our communities, our very identities.” (S. Turkle 1995)

Online identity1
Online Identity

  • Development of online identity meant human beings could, for the first time interact with each other and develop an identity specific to the online environment devoid of a physical barrier.

Virtual identities multiple identities
Virtual Identities & Multiple Identities

  • The internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life(Turkle, 1995)

  • New way of thinking about the identity as having the potential to be multiple. Through the internet, people are able to build a self by cycling through many selves.

  • Much of the converging media has created an arena for online participants to form new identities in other worlds in cyberspace. Users can now adopt identities that are different from one they have in real life

  • This other self or cyber self is uniquely specific to the internet

Multiple identities avatars
Multiple Identities: Avatars

  • Multiple identities or avatars occur mainly through online interaction in MUDS (Multi-User Dimensions).

  • Historically, (before the internet) it was difficult for people to operate with multiple identities because of the obvious necessitation to communicate face-to-face.

  • Turkle describes the importance of this multiplicity. She believes it has given people a new fluidity in their online lives and in some instances a new level of excitement, danger and risk as a result of not being harnessed to the one idea of the self

  • In her writing in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, Turkle uses the work of the poststructuralist, Jacques Lacan, (in particular his belief that the ego is an illusion ) to draw distinctions between his theory and the new self that is born for some online users.

  • Lacan believed the self to be a realm of discourse rather than a real thing or a permanent structure of the mind. The reconstruction of identity through the games people play with multiple identities cannot help but have an influence on society socially, politically, economically and culturally.

  • Multiple Identities and avatars are a result of the decentralization that has occurred from the use of the internet.

Properties of identity
Properties of Identity

  • Identity is social. Humans are naturally social. To engage in social interactions (including commerce) people need something that persists and that can be used as a basis for recognition of others – an "identity."

  • Identity is subjective. Different people have different experiences with the same individual and therefore attribute different characteristics to that individual; that is, they will construct different identities for her.

  • Identity is valuable. By building a history of a person’s past actions, exchange of identity information creates social capital and enables transactions that wouldn’t be possible without identity. In other words, identity lends predictability to afford a comfortable level of confidence for people making decisions.

  • Identity is referential. An identity is not a person; it is only a reference to a person. Even if a person develops spin-off personas so that other people know him through those various digital identities, and even if others create profiles of a person, ultimately the collection of characteristics that signal who a person is need to point back to that person.

  • Identity is composite. Some information about a person arises from the person himself; he volunteers it. But other information about him is developed by others without his involvement.

  • Identity is consequential. Because identity tells of a person’s past actions, the decision to exchange identity information carries consequences: Disclosure of identity information in a certain context can cause harm; failure to disclose identity information in another context can create risk.

  • Identity is dynamic. Identity information is always changing; any particular identity dossier might be inaccurate at any given moment.

  • Identity is contextual. People have different identities that they may wish to keep entirely separate. Information can be harmful in the wrong context, or it can simply be irrelevant. Keeping identities separate allows a person to have more autonomy.

  • Identity is multiple. People can have more than one identity at any given time.

Interactivity and games
Interactivity and Games

  • C. Pearce, The Next Interactive Revolution in Computers and Graphics (2002)

  • The impact of these new forms of entertainment is nothing short of revolutionary.

  • Through these experiences, the consumer is thus transformed into consumer/producer and consumption itself becomes an act of production.

  • Where previously there was a clear boundary between producer and consumer of content, this boundary continues to become more blurry


  • User is directly involved in the narrative as a participant

  • User can manipulate, explore or influence the narrative in a variety of ways

  • User has an active experience – does something

  • Active relationship between the user and the content

    • 2 way exchange between user and content



  • Interactivity is fundamentally a dialogue between a user and the material

  • The user provides the input and the input is responded to

  • “Verb set” in a game refers to all of those things a player can make their characters do; actions that can be performed in an interactive work


  • Participants can both reproduce and challenge everyday rules of social interaction while also generating interesting and creative innovations in verbal dialogue and non-verbal expressions

  • When you play a multiplayer video game, like Counter-Strike, you enter a complex social world, a subculture, bringing together all of the problems and possibilities of power relationships dominant in the non-virtual world.

Second life
Second Life

  • Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003 and is accessible via the Internet.

  • A free client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars.

  • Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world, which residents refer to as the grid.

  • Second Life caters for users aged over eighteen, while its sister site Teen Second Life is restricted to users aged between thirteen and eighteen.

Second life1
Second Life

  • Second Life has an internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$). L$ can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art.

  • Services include "camping", wage labor, business management, entertainment and custom content creation (which can be broken up into the following 6 categories: building, texturing, scripting, animating, art direction, and the position of producer/project funder).

Second life2
Second Life

  • Second Life's status as a virtual world or a computer game is frequently debated.

  • Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules.

  • As it does not have any stipulated goals it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life.

  • Second Life contains an extensive world that can be explored and interacted with, and it can be used purely as a creative toolset if the user so chooses.

  • Vast majority of users use Second Life primarily as an entertainment medium and for most of them the ability to interact with other users is critical to that.

  • "Clubs" where users engage in generic chat, and sexually themed areas, are consistently the most populated.


  • Avatars may take any form the user chooses, animal, vegetable or mineral, including being made to resemble the person whom they represent.

  • A single Resident account may have only one avatar at a time, although the appearance of this avatar can change between as many different forms as the Resident wishes.

  • A single person may also have multiple accounts, and thus appear to be multiple Residents


  • Avatars can communicate via local chat or global instant messaging

  • Chatting is used for localized public conversations between two or more avatars, and is visible to any avatar within a given distance.

  • Ims (instant messages) are used for private conversations, either between two avatars, or among the members of a group, or even between objects and avatars. Unlike chatting, IM communication does not depend on the participants being within a certain distance of each other.

  • Voice chat, both local and IM, is also available on both the main grid and teen grid, using technology licensed by Vivox a provider of similar services to other MMO worlds.

  • Instant Messages may optionally be sent to a Resident's email when the Resident is logged off, although message length is limited to 4096 bytes.

H jenkins on digital games
H. Jenkins on Digital Games

  • “The last several decades of observation of the digital world teaches us that the digital world is never totally disconnected from the real world. Even when we go onto the digital world to “escape” reality, we end up engaging with symbolic representations which we read in relation to reality. We learn things about our first lives by stepping into a Second or parallel life which allows us to suspend certain rules, break out of certain roles, and see the world from a fresh perspective. More often, though, there are a complex set of social ties, economic practices, political debates, etc. which almost always connects what’s taking place online to what’s going on in our lives off line.”

Henry jenkins on second life
Henry Jenkins on Second Life

  • “Often, real world institutions and practices constrain our ability to act upon the world by impoverishing our ability to imagine viable alternatives. This is at the heart of much of the writing in cultural studies on ideology and hegemony. SL offers us a way to construct alternative models of the world and then step inside them and experience what it might feel like to live in a different social order. I think there are some very real possibilities there for political transformation.”

Mmorpgs avatars
MMORPGS: Avatars

  • For some players, the avatar becomes a purposeful projection or idealization of their own identity, while for others, the avatar is an experiment with new identities. There are also those for whom the avatar is merely a pawn - the means for an end. These differences actually fall along personality differences. Introverted players tend to create characters that are projections or idealizations of themselves, while extraverted players tend to experiment with new identities through their characters. Of course, differences in avatar importance are also influenced by differences in motivation. Players driven by achievement focus more on the power and effectiveness of their avatar’s equipment, while players driven by socialization or immersion are more focused on their avatar’s appearances.


  • These online environments also tell us a great deal about identity in cyberspace. While some might have argued that cyberspace freed us from our bodies and gave us freedom over our identities, gender stereotypes and even national affiliations transfer into these virtual worlds where male and female bodies are equal and where real world nations don’t even exist. Perhaps the complications of our virtual identities derive from our insistence of embodiment in virtual worlds, and MMORPGs are showing us how easily real world privileges, affiliations and power structures transfer into virtual worlds