Heather Schlegel, VP Product Development, DebtMarket
I am speaking today on something I don't usually speak about. In my day job for the last 15 years, I build products, I launch them and help people understand. As I do this, I thought a lot about our customers, about the impact of tech on society. One of the things I thought about a lot for 25 years was identity, and how we create I. That's what I'm going to be talking about.
My interest in this is a bit, I've had this interest for quite some time, for over 25 years. Not many people are about their identity creation. A lot of people just go through life, and more proactive identity creations is happening under the guise of the personal brand. How do structures encourage certain behaviors? Some people have touched on this. But, an environment, virtual online or meatspace, where we're here today, has a set of rules for behavior. People behave within these rulesets, and my most recent interest, based on creations and experiences on my personal brand, most people know me online as HeatherVescent. I'm not the first person to think about this stuff.
The medium is the message. The medium is the massage. As you communicate the message via the medium, it changes it. More recently this was explored by Jaron Lanier, "You are not a gadget". Within a musical concept, and the limitations that technology put on tech. Douglas Hofstatder explores identity concepts in "I am a strange loop"- where you create copies of your friends and loved ones, you create a library of replicas of your best friends, amused loved ones up here. Last week, NY Times had articles on multi-tasking and attention impacts on the brain. Multi-tasking changes your brain, whether for the better or the worse. The medium is changing us.
How I think about this is how we experience and create and respond to technology. I like to look at the underlying value sets in the systems. I have to understand where I am coming from, because I have my own value sets that I am looking through. Who am I? Who are you? It's a fallacy to think that we're always the same person. We have facets of our identity that we bring out at appropriate times- I am not the same person at work, on stage, or talking with you right now. I experience these moments fluidly, in the present moment, and are linked to my corpeal state, my physical form in front of you. Online, these identities can grow and expand without the limitations of being associated with other potentially conflicting identities.
Our fragmented identities have exploded online. I am not going into the pros/cons on anonymity, however it's a defining characteristic, a meta-value of the internet technology system. Pen names and pseudonyms gives the wearer a sense of security. These fake identities give the wearers to act beyond traditional and accepted laws, they become tricksters and accepted fools.
Sometimes these identities take on a life of their own, they become bigger than the person they are representing. Success equals stagnation when a pop star.. it's as if a pidgeon holed for their identity. Many of you might have been experienced as being pidgeon holed based on past success. He shocked the music industry about his sexually explicit songs. I've already mentioned Hofstadter's strange loops, you might just be a jerk, but you might just be having a bad day. We extend our identities in many ways, we do it with brands, cars, devices, objects, how many will identify with brands of Apple? We also identify with groups, institutions, movements, communities, and musics, and musical types, and sets the stage of our mentalities.
We have multiple identities, some may choose to segment them, while some want some that are open and integrated, and some might remain private to keep their aminineity. Express an identity, explore these through avatars and games and role playing. Physical and beauty modifications change our identity for external and internal reasons. Adderall, modafinal, caffeine changes our intenral state. As a conference, scientists can participate in the experiment itself. We've opened the doors of expression.
Citizens of second life are not limited to the biology of the meat world. You create characters and then go and experience in this other world. You can try all of these constmes, with blogs and twitter and myspace, which are all systems that encourage self-expression. Some of these pseudoynms become personal brands, are created in response in conjunction with an audience. Contrast this with facebook which connects with your real identity, which limits the way you want to limit it. Co-opted parts of identity via identity thefts. In the Pirates of the Carribean, Jack Sparrow is based on a real life guy. He's this crazy tattoo artist guy. Here's a picture from Second Life, it's really immersive, visually, and you can see how you can fit and evolve in it.
So do we get lost? I get lost. People become enamored by their avatar selves. I've got caught up in my own identities, and caught in feedback loops that reinforce mindsets ideas and behaviors. Has anyone ever become the experience of becoming someone else when the cameras turn on? What's the motivation for participation? Is it to get attention, to communicate, to bond, to distract? And why are you participating, or why do you not participate? It's because you want to remain private?
Then there's questions about self-value, let's skip that too. Let's talk about ownership. Who has your ownership when you expand it with brands? I'm me, and I own my identity, but when I project it, I don't have control over how you interpret me. Which parts of those are truly ours? It changes us in a way that no longer identifies with us, and that makes us feel betrayed. The truth is easier ever to know.
We can use these technologies to know ourselves up. Twitter capture, real life capture, if we go back to experience them and read them. We create a history collectively with many people documenting stuff with their perspectives. Physically we can learn more than ever.
Identity is not created in a vacuum, it evolves in response to a changing environment. The medium is a massage, if you are created with a system and the tech of the environment, you may create you. I encourage.. what values are being encoded in what you create, and how those values are being impacted by the people that use your products. How are your interactions with these technologies defining others as well as yourself?
Lewis Carrol: I - I hardly know, sir. ....
I know it's okay, to have these identities, several times each day. Thank you.