I had an iChat with my sister Mimi last night. (Luna and Eamon are my niece and and nephew 3 and 5)

iChat with Mimi
Mimi: It's so funny... watching Luna and Eamon. they are sure that they are going to get married. They were both so crushed when we broke it to them that it is not the way it works, though now Luna's latest is that she is going to marry her best friend haley

Joi: hehe

Mimi: kids are so great because they don't buy the societal expectations yet

;-) I thought this was great. I've been thinking a lot about identity after danah boyd helped connect my notions of identity on the level of privacy and security and identity on the level of my personal identity as a Japanese/American chanponite. I promise to post my notes from this weekend which will put a sharper point on this from a Japanese identity perspective, but what is amazing as you start to deconstruct the notions of identity is how contextual, cultural and artificial it is. I think that approaching the issue of identity from a technical perspective or a "productivity tool" perspective is the wrong approach and that we have to listen to the sociologist and anthropologists in this space A LOT MORE before we get too far down the road.

Lucky for me I've got a sister in this space too. ;-)

10 Comments

Joi,

Looking forword to your thinking on this because I dont want to follow my reflex to disagree. I'm curious to know how identity can be artificial. So... Who are you anyway?

I can only make guesses at where Joi is deriving artificial, but perhaps it has something to do with our conversation about Erving Goffman and "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." In this seminal text, Goffman speaks a lot about how we construct our identity as a performance, negotiating our audiences systematically, working as teams to present a 'front stage' in a way that protects the 'back stage.' If you haven't read it, i highly recommend it as it's one of my favorite theoretical texts.

This is a fascinating area of study Joi - fascinating when technology seems to bring us all closer together, whizzing around airports with CNN on all channels. But then it just seems to amplify those differences. We have history and media showing us what people in other parts of the world are doing, what our parents did. And we have our friends from all over the world telling us what they want to do. How are we supposed to sort through all of this and figure out who we are? How we want to construct and protect our identities?

For that reason, Chanpon is a good link, because Chanpon people are an example of people who make themselves up, who have to make themselves up! Because they're situated between the entire world and a society with rich traditions and particularly exclusive views. Prototype citizens for a high-velocity future.

Yeah, maybe "artificial" was not the right word. I was referring to what danah pointed out. Basically, at one level, we construct an identity based on what our society expects, what we would like to be like and we're obviously not the same to everyone we interact with. Why I am to you is probably different then who I am to my grandmother. I feel different, act differently and have a different "identity". When I've got a different voice on my blog than I do on #joiito. Which is a different voice than when I'm partying with you all. I'm the same person physically and legally, yes, I am one person, but emotionally and what I have to offer to people who interact with me is quite different.

Another way that danah described identities to me was talking about axis or dimensions. There are certain dimensions of my identity that I just don't expose on my blog. This voice is absolutely a legitimate instance of Joi Ito, but it is obviously not the whole of me. In fact, I don't think I would be able to express the whole of me because of the impact that the context has on who I am.

What I hope to write up soon is how difficult it is to combine the Japanese and American contexts into one identity and what happens to people who try. ;-)

about 18 months ago I was giving a creative talk to a group of peers at a 'grass roots' type of event in London. It was the first time that my wife had attended such an event where I happened to be speaking. She claimed afterwards that as I took the stage and began addressing the audience there was a major transformation in my persona and I 'became' someone else. She still expresses amazement at this today.

This was fascinating for me because although you are aware of the different 'identities' that you have with different people, or groups of people, this was the first time that someone from one side (and who knows me so well) had witnessed the shift to the person other people knew.

Having someone so close to me witness this, and talk about it afterwards made me examine the different 'Pete's' that I had in reserve and look closely at the traits and social pressures that made them 'different'. Ultimately, I believe that it is a simple shifting of emphasis between certain parts of my personality that created these different me's and not a major change what actually defines me.

Anyway, I would be very interested to read further about other people's ideas on this. Especially from a cross cultural point of view. Come on Joi, get typing...

Joi, I think that it is fair to say that I am the same in Japanese and in English, with my family and at work. Yes the subject matter may change but my personality and soul does not. I think that this is because I always try and "invite" people into my world rather than conform to the society around me. Don`t necessarily recommend this although most people would say that I am one of the most genuine and consistent people they have ever met.

That is amazing; I was the same way with my sister. I recall a trip to my aunt's house when I was about 6 when I broke the news of my sister's and my engagement, only to have the engagement broken off by my mother. It really didn't make any sense to me either why I couldn't do that. It's very interesting indeed.

OK, this is kind of what I thought you might be talking about. I guess most people figure this one out at some point in their lives. Guess I'll still have to wait for your notes on this.

Pete - i think you're dead on. For most people, it's the subleties of performance that show of different sides of one's identity, not some huge distinction. This is where i think a lot of digital theorists got it wrong in the 80s. People are not hugely fragmented; they're faceted. They have a coherent sense of self and they show off slightly different aspects at different times. [If you want to read more on this, check out my thesis on Faceted Id/entity at http://www.danah.org/papers/ ]

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