September 17, 2005

Piling on: "The importance of [the word] identity"

Phil Windley has posted an observation (On the Importance of Identity) on Jon Udell's short observation on the importance of identity. Typically I agree with Phil -- after he wrote the book on Digital Identity and is a smart as hell guy besides. No different this time with the exception of one niggling little quibble.

As long as I've involved myself in this developing technology/process/business of (digital) identity, I've been troubled by the imprecision of the language. Imprecise language leads to imprecise thinking, which, in turn, leads to no good in the end. But, while technical standards are being developed and fought over, no such coordinated effort appears to be happening with the lexicon or taxonomomy of identity.

Phil fits in here only because in making an observation about the importance of identity -- online and off, more about which in the next, separate post -- he makes the following statement: "Our online and offline identities are, for the most part, separate." The implicit assumptions here is are that (a) identity appears to be tied to unique credentials and (b) there are or can be several identities for any individual. I rail against such a definition of the word because is contrary to my belief about (core) identity, as I've argued in essays ("The Philosophy of Identity" among others elsewhere on this Website) and in posts like this and this and this among others.

Having said that, I'm willing to change my use of the word to that of the majority if somebody can figure out and rationalize in a big picture how and why (and what we call) the unique "identity" of an individual that underwrites all those other "identities" carried about and propagated by credentials.

Posted by Grayson at September 17, 2005 04:00 PM