When in 1999 I did an IRC web performance called “I only have my name” I wrote : “In real life I have the feeling, that the only thing of me that will never change is my name. In this project I shared this never-changing element with others, so maybe for the first time I was confronted with the abyss of self.” The project confronted me with some aspects of identity that puzzled me, maybe even embarrassed me. I was aware and comfortable with my personality being multiple and continuously changing, but online, in this experiment, it became completely fluid. Afterwards I couldn’t even recognize myself in the four texts written by four different Annies. So, indeed the only stable thing, my name, was something that I probably shared with some other persons somewhere in the world and that could be used by everyone in this online environment. I decided not to play with my name any more.
Nowadays besides my name, I also have a lot of information stocked and restocked in databases on servers all over the world.
“The process of image management on facebook is already less an outpouring of expression than it is an exercise in omission of information about one’s self” Brad Troemel in Why You Should Make Yourself Someone Else Online (page 98), essay no 11 in his book Peer Pressure (I recommend). This phrase from Brad’s essay perfectly illustrates tendencies commented on by Sherry Turkle in the book Alone Together (I recommend) and made me think about my actual online identity practice.
Somehow I don’t feel misleading search engines and data mining practices by creating different identities or by becoming more opaque is an option for me – by doing so I would also lose a lot: energie, acces to vulnerabilities etc. I rather think the opposite might work. Opening up all kinds of information, becoming as transparent as possible seems a better tactic.
I don’t even understand myself, I hardly know before, when I will do what with whom, and even less what I might think in a few seconds – how could google or any algorithm know? If I don’t want “them” to make me a fixed identity I should give “them” as much information as possible and “they” will be as lost as I am.
For me there is one more argument for total transparence: If I make available enough data, not two computers in the world will show the same search results for my name and so I will have regained my multiple self.
Am I dreaming?