Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Over the past few months, I have been pondering about how to describe Identity
in a way that encompasses how we think about ourselves in the "natural
world" as well as how we represent ourselves in the "digital world."
I asked myself, "How would I describe my own Identity? How would I categorize
the many attributes that uniquely describe my own existence? Out of those ponderings
have emerged the "Identity Map." I offer an introduction today and
will describe the various elements of the Identity Map more completely in days
I welcome any and all comments.
Core Identity. A fundamental premise undergirding
the Identity Map is that each person is unique. This unique "Core Identity"
can be identified or described by attributes categorized into Names, Characteristics,
Relationships, Roles, Location, Experience, Knowledge and Reputation. Each attribute
adds to the fundamental uniqueness of each individual. Brief descriptions and
examples of each include:
Names. I am known by many names. My given name is Mark.
My surname is Dixon. My i-name is MarkDixon.My social security number is [wouldn’t
you like to know?]. My kids call me Dad.
Characteristics. I have some measureable characteristics
that don’t change – my DNA signature, my fingerprints. Others change over
time – height, weight, hair color. Does IQ change? I don’t know.
Relationships. I have relationships with people, institutions
and things. I am father to my children, brother to my siblings, husband to
my wife. I am an employee of Sun Microsystems and an alumnus of Brigham Young
University. I own a Nikon camera. I love Chinese food. I can’t stand professional
Roles. The functions I perform in life are roles: Father,
husband, Sun Identity Practice Lead, Identity blogger, Church volunteer, registered
Location. When I used to travel every week, I’d tell people
I claimed home addresses in Mesa, Arizona and United seat 2B. These are descriptors
of physical locations, relative to different known reference points. However,
my current location (latitude, longitude, elevation) will vary, depending
on where I am physically located at any moment in time.
- Experience. I have experienced many things in the 52+ years
of my earthly existence. I have been stabbed by a pitchfork, run for a touchdown,
flown around the world and milked a cow (many times). Each experience adds
uniqueness to my core identity.
- Knowledge. During my existence, I have amassed much knowledge,
some of it shared by many, some of it unique. Both you and I probably know
the Pythagorean Theorem. You probably don’t know the names of my kids. I hope
you don’t know my blog password.
Reputation. Other people and institutions say things about
me, some of it good, some of it bad. The credit bureaus say I have a good
credit rating. The DMV say I’m a so-so insurance risk because I’ve had a couple
of tickets in the past three years – but they also say I hold a valid drivers
license. BYU says I hold a BSEE degree. My wife likes me (and that is what
Physical Identity refers to tangible items that represent
identity attributes. Common physical identity items include birth certificates,
drivers licenses, graduations certificates, etc. Each of these symbolically
represents one or more attributes from the categories listed above. Creation
or destruction of a Physical Identity doesn’t alter the core identity attributes
it represents. If my drivers license gets trashed, I still exist. For 4 bucks,
I can get a new one.
Digital Identity refers to symbolic digital representation
of identity attributes. These are normally very small subsets of the entire
Identity. Common digitally-represented items include user ID, password, name,
address, telephone number. Digital identities can be stored, transferred, used
for access system, or stolen (ouch!).
Blended Identity refers to physical items that contain
identity attributes. Smart cards or credit cards with magnetic stripes are examples
of physical identities that contain digital identities.
So, there it is – the Identity Map. I hope this framework proves to be valuable
for discussing the various facets of Identity. Stay tuned for more.