Thinking about identity

I keep struggling to come up with an idea/theory/definition of identity that will be useful when thinking about new communication, online communities and the new influencer. So far, I have a bunch of elements but am trying to find good ways of connecting them or explaining their relationship.Here’s what I have so far:

  • Identity – this is the combination of how you present yourself and how you are perceived. This doesn’t need to be the same as your identity in the real world and in can be anonymous.
  • Presentation – this is how one choses to present themselves. Our online presentations can change according to the community, our needs or when our mood. Because presentation is a core part of identity though, the impact of presentation needs to be considered.
  • Perception (or reputation) – this is how others see and report on your and it may play a bigger role in determining identity than presentation.
  • Transparency – needs to be factored in to both presentation and perception. In both cases how honest one is being is important. Is there an agenda in the comments one makes, the opinions being expressed or the feedback being provided? In every case – consciously or not – there is and the more information one can provide up front the easier it is to factor those things into accessing the presentation and perception when interacting with someone’s identity.
  • Persistence – is also a really important element but a tough one to manage. I am who I am and want my identity – regardless of what it is called – to travel with me online. While I may present myself differently (different user name, different focus, etc.) I’d like people to have a sense of who I am and what others think of me wherever I am.

Because there is no editorial structure for social media, the issues of transparency and persistence are especially important in building and maintaining trust and validity over time. How these things will play out will be interesting to watch. Whatever happens, I hope that the elements described above play some role in how we evaluate online information and opinion and the people behind it.

As I’ve said, these ideas are rudimentary and I’m continuing to have conversations and interactions that I hope will help me develop them.

Does any of this make any sense?

[tags]Identity, Perception, Reputation, Transparency, Persistence, New Communication, New Influencer, SNCR[/tags]


5 thoughts on “Thinking about identity

  1. Trust is developed through credibility, and credibility is developed when you are seen as an expert in your field or community. Transparency appears to be important, in that if you cite other authors and give different points of view does that not add to the credibility of the author? That’s what journalists try to do with objective writing. However, I was thinking there is a difference between gaining influence, because you are being objective and gaining influence precisely because you are subjective. Political bloggers may be an example of this.

    You are right there is no editorial structure in blogging before the article is posted, but there is peer review on blogs after a blog post is published. Credibility is only maintained if your work is not criticized, the irony is I suppose the greater the influence of the blogger, the better known in your community the greater the chance of wider peer review, therefore the greater the influence the greater the risk to your reputation if you do make a misstep when writing a blog.

    I was thinking it might be useful to use a device web developers use in designing a website, develop several personalities for hypothetical influential bloggers, build stories around the bloggers and have them interact with hypothetical readers. An actual example may make it easier to develop your thinking further. I know many web developers swear by this approach.

  2. gpc says:

    I think that one can maintain credibility in the face of criticism – depending on how one responds (which in part is determined whom one is responding to – but that gets into a crazily cyclical discussion . . .) When I was referring to transparency, I meant it in the sense that I am forthright about who I am and any agenda that I might bring to a conversation.

    All of us carry a store of objectivity and subjectivity and we need to use both to convey as balanced information as we are able (assuming of course that balance is something we aim to provide). Too much subjectivity can harm credibility – even in circles where opinion is welcome.

    I don’t really follow your last point regarding using the Web developer device you refer too. Perhaps we can discuss in person at some point.

  3. You are right receiving criticism does not necessarily mean it is always correct. I think what I should have said was credibility is something that is earned, slowly through interactions with an audience. If you make a mistake, or don’t handle criticism in a way that is perceived as being sustainable, you will lose credibility.

    Lets talk more in Las Vegas.

  4. Greg, personas, that was the term I could not recall. Web designers create personas of the people they expect will visit a website, by building a profile and story behind each persona, when the website is designed the designer can consider what the imaginary person would want from a website.

    Alan Cooper from is a big proponent of personas.

    I was also thinking you should participation to the list of factors for identity, how much does an individual enable and allow participation with their community. Participation is a great way to learn, and also get more people involved in your community.

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