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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Identity, Context, Preference and Persona

Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, December 15, 2008
3:39 pm

While exploring how Identity is an enabler for personalization of products and services, I recently pondered on the relationship between four interesting words: Identity, Context, Preference and Persona.  Dictionary definitions of the three words include:

  • Identity: “condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is.”
  • Context: “the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.”
  • Preference: “that which is preferred; choice.”

In other words, I might say about myself:

  • Identity is who I am
  • Context is what I am doing at a particular time
  • Preference is what I choose to think or do

I propose that the fourth word, Persona, is at the intersection of the first three concepts.  The dictionary defintion:

  • Persona: “the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual; the public personality.”

In other words, a Persona is a personality I choose to project in a particular circumstance.

Graphically, we may diagram the relationship as shown below:

Persona is not just a partial projection of one’s identity.  It must take into account the context in which a person exists at the moment, and the preferences the person makes relative to that particular situation. Personalization of a product or service must be synchonized with the persona of a person at any relevant point in time – his or her current persona.

For example:

  1. My interest in photography is one of several attributes of my personal Identity.
  2. Last Saturday, my presence in a camera store less than two weeks before Christmas was my context at a particular time.
  3. My preference at that time was to find a replacement camera bag.

My current persona was essentially: 1)photography buff, 2)in a camera store, 3)with desire to buy a camera bag.

At that point, to present me with information about dairy farms in Idaho would clearly not be synchronized with my current persona, even though Idaho cows are a legitimate interest of mine.

As good fortune would have it, a very helpful sales person was very synchronized with my persona.  He showed me a great camera bag that would fit my needs, and knowing that Santa was coming soon, let me drool over a really cool, image-stabilized Nikon zoom lens.

Please let me know what you think about this concept.  I plan to share more thoughts in coming days.

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5 Responses to “Identity, Context, Preference and Persona”

    Mark -my entry covering your entry..

    Comment by Rakesh on December 15, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Interesting topic. I was discussing what wireless connectivity brought to the average Internet user with Furkan the other day. We agreed that it was location, mobility and persona!
    We came at the topic of persona from a slightly different angle, but very close.
    As I go through my day in my regular mobile fashion (to-from work, in-out of meetings, off to lunch, afternoon coffee, calls, etc.) my priorities change and consequently what is relevant to me changes as well. Another way to put it, is to say that the context within which I am operating is dynamic. Also, my preferences will vary. The only constant is who I am (i.e. identity). With the other two changing, my persona changes as well. This is worth thinking about when you develop mobile applications….

    Comment by Rikard Kjellberg on December 16, 2008 at 5:41 pm


    Thanks for your comments. I think the key word is "dynamic." Your context, which directly impacts your current persona, can change quite rapidly. Therefore, as you suggest, mobile applications need to adapt to the dynamic context of a person to be really relevant.


    Comment by Mark Dixon on December 17, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Nice visualization of the concept – mind if I create a dressy version of it for a prezo? I will credit you!

    Comment by Silona on April 2, 2009 at 10:41 pm


    That would be just fine. Please send me a copy of your prezo when it’s done.


    Comment by Mark Dixon on April 3, 2009 at 4:25 am

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