Identity - it's in the air

Everywhere I turn this semester the topic of online identity is cropping up. A couple of discussions have either touched directly or indirectly on the problem of maintaining an online identity. My classes on recommender systems, information ethics, and copyright have all mentioned or discussed the motivations and pitfalls behind online identities.

Jenny Levine at the Shifted Librarian points to a recent cover story from U.S. News that dubs itself a parent’s guide to MySpace. She praises the story for not going too far off the deep-end of social networking paranoia. Stephen Downes points to this summary of online risks for children.

The upshot is that the way we present ourselves to the world is changing. An online presence is becoming necessary for everyone.

Today Jon Udell gave another talk about Superpatrons and Superlibrians. The talk gave a nice summary of the efforts by himself and others, such as Ed Vielmetti, to empower users with information from libraries.

Afterwards the conversation took a turn toward the question of identity. Bill Tozier asked about openness in academia, Udell turned the question right around to the audience, and then solicited advice about managing his own identity on the web.

It turns out that the openness of academia in general is almost impossible to talk about. The stories shared in the room showed that there are as many approaches to openness as there are people and departments in academia. Some groups get it, others are still trying to catch up.

To me the challenge of openness on the web has only begun. I was recently thinking about what would happen if business started posting web pages for their employees. I bet that would start a wild discussion. Most academics, consultants, and entrepreneurs already do this. For them being on the web is an integral part of managing their reputation.

So in an effort to collect some of my own reputation capital on the web I’ve been playing around with two new web sites that claim to manage your online identity by creating a summary page for yourself. ClaimId and Naymz are both worth looking at. Here’s what I’ve added about myself.

The ClaimId weblog has posted some interesting stuff recently about how to manage online identities.