Digital Identity Dilemmas

On Saturday (5am in the UK) Facebook allowed users to select a vanity URL which will point to their regular profile page. Naturally there was a mad rush to capture the ‘best identities‘ and some people just weren’t quick enough (further discussed by Brian Kelly on his blog).

Once users have selected a name they are not able to change it or transfer it. Digital identity experts urged users to give some thought to their choice.

Why a Vanity URL?

Well firstly having a number for your ID isn’t particularly user friendly. This new approach will make it easier for users to share their profile pages and link to other people’s pages. There may also be other reasons too. Mike Nolan suggests 3 possibles on his blog:

  • OpenID Provider: Facebook are being forced to become more open, and one way which gives the illusion of openness is OpenID. It’s similar to Facebook Connect and an easy thing for them to offer while still forcing you to log in with them.
  • Jabber/XMPP: They’ve already announced that they were going to open up Facebook chat to connect with third party services such as Google Talk. It will be based on XMPP which uses email-like addresses to reference accounts. A username is almost essential for this to be easy to use.
  • Email: Many – especially younger people – already use Facebook mail considerably more than regular email accounts so I imagine they’ll allow you to use your as an email address. I just hope they’ve got good spam filters!

Digital Identity

Digital identity refers to the aspect of digital technology that is concerned with the mediation of people’s experience of their own identity and the identity of other people and things. Wikipedia

Our digital identity is becoming a big issue. Twitter have recently begun verifying accounts and many Facebook urls are already being sold for hard cash. The problem for many people, especially early adopters, is that they didn’t realise the significance of user names when they started registering for all these services. As Lorcan Dempsey explains the result is a fractured online identity. In in a Facebook note based on an old blog post Lorcan talks about his (and Andy Powell of Eduserv’s) quests to centre their decentralised identity and consolidate their network presence.

It seems clear that managing our network presences and the relationships between them is becoming of more interest. And this cuts across previous boundaries – between work, family and friends, for example – in different ways.

Digital Identity for our Children

Lorcan also touches on the issue of digital identity and naming of children. This resonates strongly with me. Having a Dutch Mother and a Dutch name (Marieke) and an Scottish/English Father I grew up with a pretty unusual name (Marieke Napier). Even my married name (Marieke Guy) is rare and I’ve yet to come across any other online people with the same name. You only need to do a quick Google search for me to see that as far as Marieke Guys go I’m the Webs number 1 (5,020 hits). Having a clear digital presence is quite straightforward for me. I don’t have people queuing up to steal my name and this morning registered with no problem. No getting up at dawn for me!

The irony of all this is that I have 3 children who, despite our best efforts to be original but not too wacky, now have pretty common names: Catrin, Keira and Zak. My husband’s name is Andrew, but at University he decided to rename himself Bill (his middle name) in order to distinguish himself from his other 3 friends (also called Andrew). There are moments when while sat at toddler singing-group with 2 other Zaks (or Zacs or Zacks), a Zachary and an Isaac (my son’s registered name) I bemoan that I didn’t call him Andrew – at least there are no babies being called that name these days!

Anyway it seems to me that my children will have to join the orderly queue when it comes to assigning their digital identity. Or maybe we’ll be doing things differently then and a quick retina scan will do the trick!

Any other Marieke Guy’s out there? Anyone have problems registering their Facebook url? Anyone totally opposed to the whole digital identity movement?

8 thoughts on “Digital Identity Dilemmas

  1. Pingback: Baby names search - Search for zak

  2. My twin boys (Reuben and Joshua) had their own domain names registered a good two weeks before I registered their actual names at the local Registry Office. I see digital identity as important, and particularly — as demonstrated — to safeguard their identities for the future. I just need to teach them HTML next … not that they can even speak yet!

  3. I’m not sure if you knew this already, but your post reminded me that your name somehow got scrambled into “Guy Marieke” in an article published a couple of years ago in the Bulletin des Bibliothèques de France (Olivier Le Deuff, “Folksonomies : les usagers indexent le web,” BBF 51(4), mai 2006, pp. 66-70,

    That this was not a one-off is demonstrated by the Web of Science database. Two articles (not including the one mentioned above) cite your 2006 D-Lib Magazine article under “MARIEKE G”, while the remaining 31 use “GUY M”. I’m not entirely sure how significant all this might be, but some aspects of our (digital) identity are beyond our control.

  4. Thanks Michael,

    I didn’t actually know this. I guess it is one of the problems of having a possible first name as a surname.

    Currently digital identity relies very much on trust (I say I am XXX and therefore I am) – it’s highly likely that in the future this will change (technologies like OpenID, Information Cards, new authentication models will have a role to play). It’s an interesting space to watch.


  5. Pingback: Cultural Heritage » Blog Archive » Elsewhere on UKOLN Blogs: June 2009

  6. Pingback: Lorcan Dempsey : News, pictures, videos, biography

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