My Kind of Argument

Phil Windley (Ha! no one thought I even remembered Phil — hi, Phil!) points to a useful argument from Timothy Grayson on the subject of digital identity. It’s the sort of argument I love — he calls attention to the extent to which our frustrations and conflicts over “digital identity” and “privacy” involve conceptual confusions left over from the conditions that prevailed before the advent of digital interaction. The technical problems are aggravated by linguistic confusion.

Three cheers for that good catch! The difficulty arises when you try to attend not only to the changing conditions that require us to redefine our expectations (that’s a tough enough job by itself), but also to the moral intuitions, the social forces that inculcate our sense of identity, and the negotiations by which we mediate these non-personal factors. You can’t just “cahnge the language,” nor should we simply turn the language over to people who assure us they know what they’re doing, even if they’re good guys like Kim Cameron and Dick Hardt and Eric Norlin (well, OK, Eric has that sinister NSA side to him, but you get my point). Our language needs to change and will change, but the right answers for DigID will take when the affordances that the technology offers align with expectations that non-geek citizens are willing to bend in order to enjoy the benefits of comfortable, secure, trustworthy online interactions.

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