Identity Category Archive


(rambling alert!!!)

Everything is a node.
And every node can be, at once, part of many contexts, and can also, just by being, create many contexts.
Every node has many properties.
And contexts can add and modify properties of nodes.
And every context has many properties as well.

This is what is on my mind. It is infused in everything I do and everything I am; from building multi context web aggregators, to how I view my self, society, and my place in it.

I am
I, the base node in my experience, who's core context, my self perception, which is only clear to me when I am lying quietly, alone... am.

Some examples

I do
Professional context: web specialist. This context groups me with a large number of people (globally). Some are friends, acquaintances, etc (relationship contexts), most I don't even know exist.

Where I do
I live and work in Montreal. This reduces the number of people in my professional context to a geographic context of "Montreal". (In my case this is deceptive: I am not part of the local web scene really and therefor I know very very few of my fellows here. But for arguments sake, let's ignore that.) We can further refine the geographic context with a location context: Laika. If I were more connected in teh social context of Montreal, very likely I could identify more web-workers at Laika.

Profession context: web-worker
Geographic context: Plateau, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (AND or OR)
Location context: Laika, BoLab

What I like to do:
Professional interests context: web-based communications, mobile connectedness, peripheral awareness, etc etc.
Personal interests: (some overlap... ;) Phenomena of culture, movement of society, perception and translation of environment and how that affects, feeds, informs and drives the previous two.

Who I like to do with:
Relationship contexts. Some broad ones, many specific one, and as many individual ones as individual nodes I interact with. Much overlap (node from Friends Context A is [relative of] node in Acquaintance Context Y, etc)

Time context. File created? File updated? File last accessed? File access frequency, across time. Forgetfulness, fog of time.
(Replace "File" with "Relationship", "Interest", "Location", etc... When was the last time I was in Vienna? Often had I been there? How frequently do i return? When was the last time I thought of snowboarding? Went? When was the last time I saw her? Emailed him? ... ... ...)

And so on... just imagine.

RDF (Resource Descriptive Framework) exists for the purposes of modeling the information sphere on the reality of nodes and contexts.

Wheels within wheels, the myriad creatures.



on lies: a necessary and healthy feature of sociality is lying. Lying is a feature, not a bug. The great dream of a utopian society is a system where lies are not necessary; the great nightmare, one where it is not allowed or even possible. That said, realizing you have been lied to, can be... very painful.

Fumi: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Me: I am what I want to be: myself. And I never want to grow up!
(I was very surprised myself to hear these words cross my lips.)

When I am here, strange colors appear in my life. I have bought a pair of socks; deep red. I have bought an umbrella; muted orange. What next?


Sound familiar?

"Attention Deficit Trait" caused by the technologies of constant interruption:

Clive Thompson via Techdirt has a fascinating post on Attention Deficit Trait, a related sydrome to Attention Deficit Disorder, according to Dr. Edward Hallowell.
"It has basically the symptoms as ADD -- such as an inability to concentrate on one task at at time -- except it's context dependent.

ADT is caused by the technologies of constant interruption in the modern workplace and the modern home, such as email, instant messaging, SMSes, mobile phones, and endless meetings (or endless preplanned children's sports).

The thing that makes the two conditions different, he says, is that ADD seems to be hardwired, while ADT goes away when you're on vacation or in a relaxing, non-hyper-stimulated place."

I guess "trait" is better than "disorder", but I am weary of it being so labeled. This behavior is definitely environmental - as our tools are part of our environment - and contextual. Also, referring to them as "technologies of constant interruption" smacks of luddite old-folk speak; it just sounds negative, when it not necessarily is.

Or maybe it is. Maybe we can't get used to - and function efficiently with - constant formatted data input. I don't see why not though. I mean, we process constant raw data input (5 senses, +?). Language processing, be it aural or visual, is a hack* of our mind and thus requires more resources, but we should be able to adapt no?

I guess that's what we are doing. Well... some of us anyways... ;)

*Looking at a page of text and reading are very different. Hearing a person speak and listening are very different. I have always considered communication to be an intrusion of sorts; an insertion. Words carrying ideas inserted into my mind like hot needles... as opposed to individual experience and deduction of environment seeping in and steeping. ;)

Now what?

So AOL has updated it's Terms Of Use for AIM:

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

(eWeek article)

It's bad enough that so much of our communications are going though their systems as it is, now they have the balls to claim they own it.

Just what kind of derivative work can AOL produce from millions of Instant Messages a day? Why, keywords of course. How much do you think a marketing exec would pay to know that his top brand was mentioned X more times today than his competitor? Hrmm? Homeland security would love a daily report of how often someone said "bomb" or "ok, we're set" in the last hour...

It's really too bad that IM didn't develop the same infrastructure as email, where every ISP would handle the account for you, every hosting package came with a IM server built in, etc... Just like mail and www now. Can it still be done? Is it perhaps Jabber's time, now that AOL could conceivably experience a mass exodus, now that there is a plethora of IM clients available, and that even the next version of iChat will support it? Hrm. Is there a business model which could run such a service?

Matt on Etech et al

Matt posted a rant about the upcoming ETech:

It's just that the topics on offer: y'know - the copyfight, social software, bloody blogs, web services etc. might still be worthy topics for discussion, but I feel like I've been around those blocks quite a few times now, and I want some genuine outbreaks of the future.

We chatted briefly about it and I totally agree. In fact, and not to be too jaded about it, my one foray to ETech (and two to SxSW, self funded those were), though loads of fun and at times very interesting, were mostly just schmoozefests, a chance to meet many like-minded new friends. But by no means was I overwhelmed by genuine outbreaks of the future.

Put another way, what Matt, and I, agree upon is that while it is definitely necessary, important and interesting to consider "today", some of us who are already quite knowledgeable and comfortable with what is already going on really want to think more about what WILL be going on.

Geo-politcal/economic factors aside (we should all have signed up for mandarin chinese classes by now), I really want to explore the developments in, again as Matt suggests, things like bioinformatics, neuroscience, cognitive sciences - i want us to look at trends in art and culture, the weathervanes[1] of change - the development of architectures for interfaces as we emigrate our minds from our heads to our screens... The needs and effects of being, simultaneously, in ourselves, in the world and in cyberspace.

Did I mention I am lacking sleep thanks to reading too much Derrick De Kerckhove again? ;)

Perhaps a smaller event, perhaps similar to Design Engaged in structure, a symposium type-o-deal... presentation / conversation. Oye, I feel a rant coming on...

In any case, the only way I get to ETech this year is if someone gives me a good reason (flight, hotel, entrance fee being perfectly good reasons... ;) , and SxSW depends on how much work I take on between now and New Years. But show me an event which is truly about emerging, forward looking thoughts and technology, and I'll seriously consider getting excited and pulling out the (overused) plastic.

It's not that hard to get me excited, by the way.

[1] Q: What does the wind look like?
      A: The wind looks like what ever it moves...

In a postpostmodern state of mind.

In order to avoid ambiguity, over- or false- interpretation, it is crucial that one properly contextualize every element, in relation to every other element in it's environment.
Meaning can only be found in the relationship of each object with each other object in it's environment.
Each relationship, symbiotically influences the being of each object, connecting each into the whole.
This applies to everything: concepts, objects, individuals... humans.

Without you, I am less me. Or, conversely, with you, I am more me.

By easing communication, we enhance, strengthen the relationships, binding all elements tighter to the one.
By externalizing, reaching out, we draw in, collectively. Osmosis.

It is fascinating to me how many instances of evidence of these concepts are to be found in our cultures.


Style is the answer to everything.
Fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous day.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style.
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art.
Bullfighting can be an art.
Boxing can be an art.
Loving can be an art.
Opening a can of sardines can be an art.
Not many have style.
Not many can keep style.
I have seen dogs with more style than men.
Although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.

When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun, that was style.
For sometimes people give you style.
Joan of Arc had style.
John the Baptist.
Garc??a Lorca.
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is a difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water, or you, walking naked
out of the bathroom without seeing me.

- Charles Bukowski See comment below.

Identites and celebrity

"Madame Hollywood"
Felix Da Housecat

Everybody wants to be hollywood
The fame, the vanity, the glitz, the stories
One day I'll become a great big star
You know like the big dipper
And maybe one day you can visit my condo
On the big hill you know like 9-0-2-1-0

Just imagine my face in the magazine
People analyzing my look, my body or
Any plastic surgery.

You know like the big dipper
And maybe one day you can shake
My hand on the planet Hollywood

You say I'm not underground
I'm rich, I'm famous, I vanish, I'm glitz
I am the story, I am the star
You know like the big dipper

Sex, Drugs & Rock n' Roll
It's Over
I decide it's over

Everybody wants to be hollywood
And maybe one day you can visit my condo
On the big hill you know like 9-0-2-1-0
Oh Yeah

How am I not myself?

- Do I bring my own chains?

- We always do...

I ‚ô• Huckabees

I and U

Jyri posits:

What counts as a person? What might it mean to design not for preexisting, independent individuals with fixed boundaries but for partially known, locally enacted performances, out of which "individuals" may temporarily materialize as relational effects? How might a non-atomistic metaphysics be enacted in the mundane practices of design, amidst the very real pressures of for-profit mass production? How might one sustainably practice design, insisting that the division between people and machines and other nonhumans is not a stable, universal lawlike division, but a locally negotiated temporary cut? What would it mean to even ask such a thing? To risk it?

Much time have I spent pondering the concepts of "person" and "identity". Nodes in a network, faceted identities, etc, ad nauseam. The classic question always returning to me: "who am I?" While I am quite comfortable in my view of my self, I am particularly fascinated with how that interfaces with the outside world. "Who do you think I am?"

A current view of my "self" and my environment is more sub-atomic and multi-connected. A visualization of myself thus may render as a cluster of constantly evolving multi-surface shapes, each interfacing with my environment in different ways; each interface an individual and unique relationship.

What Jyri posits fits nicely into my view. How does one design for an audience of individuals who are nothing like the set definitions ("user/ consumer/voter/member/actor/author/hero/villain/agent/node/ sender/receiver/mover/shaker") that market analysis set them out to be?

On a constant basis I interact, not only with people, but with objects as well: computers, software applications, cellphone, chair, espresso maker, pepper grinder, shoes, jeans, magazines, cars, wine glasses, product packaging, etc. With each of these objects, I share a special relationship. The more attuned each object is to the surface of whichever particle of my identity it is interacting with, the tighter, more enjoyable, and possibly long-lasting, the relationship is.

This is not new; the best designers, artists as well, know this and work towards it. You must speak to that one little part of your audience that is most receptive to what you are putting forth. You must find that little part, and establish the relationship.

"It grows on you." Especially when you foist tons of fertilizer on it! Ahem.
The assembly-line of mass-production is currently tuned to crank out millions of copies of a design, once market desire is focused in balance with economic potentiality. The next step, customization per segment, is already evident, but constrained to a limited amount of choices: the color of your car, the faceplate of your mobile phone. Here again, the brushstrokes are wide. As industry's ability to micro-produce grows, we will see finer lines in it's works.

The market wants a mobile phone. "Done."
This segment wants exchangeable faceplates, that one requires productivity features. "Done, and done."
Boris wants a small device with a camera, handwriting recognition, PDA functionality, Always on Internet access, Personal Area Network access, oh and it has to be blue. "Um, we can't make that just for you, sorry."

Still today, market research consists of ascertaining what a group of people want. "What do you, as a group, want?"
Current customization, of hard goods anyways, is still constrained to "What do you, from these options, defined by what the group you seem to fit, want?"
Will industry reach a level of production capability where it can ask: "Boris, what do you want? We will make it for you."

Of course in the digital realm this is much easier. Pushing bits is easier than pushing atoms. Custom compilation music CDs can already be bought from wall-mounted kiosks.

Until industry can attain such a level of customized production, designers will remain constrained to designing for "you-as-part-of-this-group", as opposed to "this-one-specific-sensibility-that-this-individual-has".

But NO! Wait!
It is entirely true that groups of individuals share sensibilities and desires. And yes, industry has learnt to home in on those. Hello Apple people! The key point however is that these sensibilities are identified, verified and after making sure they are stable enough to warrant the investment of design, production, marketing and distribution, they are exploited. And THEN, it is made sure that these sensibilities are reinforced, woven in tighter into the fabric of the individual's identity... because hell we tooled up a multi-billion dollar mechanism to exploit it! We wanna milk this as much as we can!

And here I come back to how this relates to identity. Lifestyle marketing and design is all about meshing with individual's identities. And then taking them over. The current "consumer-backlash" comes from individuals who have the awareness to see that they, on the level of their own identities, are being manipulated in order to sustain industry.

Until industry does not need to disrespect my interfaces, it will continue to do so.

My answer to Jyri
What does it mean? It means a required level of respect, of relationship nurturing, one to one. I believe for-profit production is evolving, for it must, and could one day attain the level where it is sustainable to do micro customization. The ramifications are staggering, especially if it happens too quickly. Think of the socio-economic impacts... political as well. We are seeing it already.

Perhaps we are seeing the designer slowly morphing back into the artist, who must whisper to the deepest corners of who we are.

And we must whisper back... This is what will be different from here on.