Note:- I am planning to make this into a series of serious posts on
An Essay on The Individual, The Internet and the Metaverse.
I am hoping that I will be able to continue the series into a long and fruitful discussion of ideas.
The Web revolution that began in the first decade of this century has taken us by storm. Anyone who wishes to make his voice heard can now do so, in a jiffy. The web has started a new kind of media organism better knows as "Me-Media". It represents a Third Media Revolution, following the individualization and socialization brought about in the last 400 years by print and electronics. Its remarkably easy, these days, to play the role of a newspaper or a radio station. You only need to go to blogger.com, three Simple Steps and there you are are.... One step closer to your 15 minutes of fame, that Andy Warhol felt, everybody deserved.
After the Letter, the Telephone and the Television, this is the glorious age of Me-Media. Its not just a question of readership and popularity but a question of Reality and existence. Instead of focus on Technology (as has been the case in the past 5 or more years) the focus is now more on the entertainment aspect of the Web-Media. As jargonists would put it, iTainment is the order of the day. Learning and Pleasure, Utility and amusement go side by side, But with the Web-Media and iTainment, possible consequences are frightening. We could end up spending hours on the Internet, and still end up doing nothing. Not even remotely significant.
Web conversations are the new equations for creating power relationships. The fact that anyone can be anonymous and still be online, is yet to get to the grips of many. The Media Revolution, makes contacting customers, employees, and anyone else much easier. But it has also made innovation the order of the day. With new means to attract traffic, customers, ads,revenues, new strategies have to formulated, albeit at a cost. So where do we stand in this ? Virtual identities are rapidly replacing our real ones. In this age of Me-Media, digital alter-egos are soon becoming an accepted form of personal and brand identity. If you've noticed, these days, it is totally uncool, if you don't have a facebook profile or if you don't tweet. Social networking is the order of the day. The combination of virtuality and physical reality will soon create new virtu(re)al world, which will be called The Metaverse.
All the media and social revolutions are nothing by ta sensational evaluation (or evolution) of the individual. Weblogs (Blogs) and wikis were the first successes of the Web Revolution which clearly indicated that people were taking control. At the end of 2007, there were more than 120 million blogs on the Information Superhighway. Virtuality has reached the next level and with the physical world being mapped three dimensionally, applications like Google Streets that provide, real time, spatial three dimensonal data of extreme quality, It is just the beginning of the first chapter in Me-Media.
Note that the very fact that our physical reality, will soon be part of the new virtu(re)al Metaverse (note:- it is not the other way around !! ) is so science-fiction, yet Iconic.
Me-Media is emphasizing on the notion of identity. What is identity ? How is it formed ?
Wiki defines Identity formation, as
The process of the development of the distinct personality of an individual. This process defines individual to others and themselves. Pieces of the actual identity include a sense of continuity, a sense of uniqueness from others and a sense of affliation.
Without sounding too technical or jargonish, we can call this as "How an individual views him/herself both as a person and in relation to other people, ideas and nature."
It is the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self.
Digital identity refers to the aspect of digital technology that is connected with the mediation of people's experience of their own identity and the identity of other people and things. It is also the digital representation of a set of claims made by one digital subject about itself or another digital subject.
The Internet was built without a way to know who and what you are connecting to. As the users of Web increases, hundreds of millions of people began to use it indiscriminately. People, today, are OK to typing their names, addresses, passwords and other personal information into almost any text box that appears on their screen.. !!!
There is no consistent or reliable framework that allows them to evaluate the authenticity of the sites that they visit and no foolproof method of knowing whether they entity they are dealing with is legitimate or not. At the same time, there is no organised method to even remember the many different aspects of their digital existence.
Remember the different login-ids for gmail, hotmail, yahoomail, orkut, facebook, twitter, etc etc ?
A formal understanding of the dynamics of the digital identity systems, that will soon become the Identity Layer of the Internet, that it so badly needs, is required. For that, a set of laws need to be formulated. More about the laws and their significance can be read at the "The Identity Blog".
(BTW, an excellent starting point, for Digital Identity Crisis)
The Internet is now being used to manage and exchange things of great value, both materialistic as well as psychological. Phishing, Pharming and Spywares are just the tip of the iceberg, that criminal organizations use, to take advantage of the relative inability of the end-user (i.e You) in distinguishing between the genuine and the not-so-genuine entities on the Information Super Highway. The patchy framework of the Internet cannot withstand the systematic assault of these criminal organizations on the digital Identity. A time would come, when Internet would lose its credibility for economic transactions.
We have developed robust systems that can evolve in response to their environment, but as long as the digital identity remains a patch framework, all these systems will bite the dust. Knowing who is connected to what, and how is a must for the NexGen systems.
We need a unifying Identity Metasystem, within The Metaverse, that allows the one-off, ad-hoc digital identity framework to move towards a standard that is reliable, safe, and foolproof and works if not over the whole Internet, atleast within a metasystem framework.
P.S:- If you feel this went OTH (Over the Head).... Sorry... :(