Network of Representation

** This post is just another self-revelation piece. There is no evidence supported or academic grounded. Thus, READ CAREFULLY **

In Blogging class, Carolyn mentioned about social network for animal lovers (see the list in class’s wiki).  Now the social network welcome more dimensions of representations. The representation network allows people to maintain their own identity while they can grow their nodes of connection. However, the representation has to be unique and can be link to owner’s identity.

I tried to catch what are today’s keywords from danah‘s talk. Representation is one of the words. As long as I remember, I had not heard the word “identity” much. Well yeah, it was not a talk primarily about identity but I would think the term would appear more somewhere during the talk. Many scenarios discussed dealt with something about someone, but not quite exactly “identity”. Why did I say so?

What is actually identity?

Here are what I got from wikipedia:

In philosophy, the issue of personal identity concerns the conditions under which a person at one time is the same person at another time. From personal identity


Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences for an individual’s comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity. From identity (social science).

The crisis at friendster is the one proving that people would like to play with the conditions under which a person at one time is NOT the same person at another time. A fake profile does not leave any clue about a people who created it. Therefore, the word identity might not fit into social network scheme anymore. I would leave identity for idealistic situation. Instead, I prefer to use representation as a broader sense of identity. In another sense, the representation is the form of communication of identity.

So what are the differences between identity and representation?

Here is from what I understand. Think about the beginning of the classroom. A teacher would want to check the attendance by calling individual student’s names. Students are expected to reply back, “Yes!”. Generally, a teacher would look up from the name list and see the position of the one just responded. However, there could be a case when a teacher never looks up from the list and keep reading the students’ names. What the teacher uses for validation the identities are the students’ voices. Students use their voice as representation. Therefore, in case that I am absent that class and I have a friend who can pretend my voice, he could use my “representation” to prove my identity and existence.

It is the case that Claimid has aboutness section with “about me” and “not about me” option. Definitively, I do not think what is “not about me” (even it is “created by me”) can considered as identity. Instead, it is another form of representation that can be link to me identity (if applicable or allowed).

Why is it significant in social network study?

The ideal situation of social network such as facebook, myspace, orkut, or friendster, would be that all members reveal their actual identity. In that case, we do not need to concern about the representation. However, in the reality, whether physically or virtually, (or whether show or not) there are various dimensions of personal representation out there. For example;

Continuum of personal representation (From my conceptual mapping)

Real ———-> Masked ———-> Liar

Real refers to a person who reveal their own identity and maintain it everywhere and over period of time. This person also has a single role replicating across different communities.

Masked refers to people who reveal their own identity. However he or she might not maintain it everywhere and over period of time. However, across different communities, this guy change his roles.

Liar refers to people who fake their identity without maintain it. Definitely, s/he has different roles from community to community. The trickest thing that I am thinking now is if s/he maintain it over period of time and everywhere, can liar become real?

These dimensions should have different patterns of representation. If we could recognize these patterns, we might be able to develop a system to effectively police and govern online community. We can use Rhetoric situation to frame the concept. Also, we can connect this framework to study how trust happen in social network. What factors affect the maintenance, improvement, or deconstruction of trust in that environment? This understanding would help us to understand the characteristics of the community/society.

In terms of applicability, the understanding of representation would help the innovation of new type of social networking (unless we think “Ok, it’s enough”).


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