Identity and persona

For years, people have had different facets, or different persona, for different environments: you were the beer-swilling ex-con down at the bar; the football fan at work; the gentle & loving parent at home; the party-animal when out with your buddies; and so forth.

Of course, people know that we all have these different persona – so when groups cross, you can get funny looks when your behaviour is “unusual”

When it comes to the on-line world, this practice of multiple persona continues: your facebook account is different to your Live Journal life; your Google identity is different to your work ID; and you Twitter with two or more IDs, depending on when you want to day.

The proliferation of identities is exacerbated when each service you want to use requires you to create an account: Amazon is not PayPal is not eBay is not ….. any of the previous identities either!

On the other side of the fence, service providers have to decide how AUTHORITATIVE they want the identification of their users to be. Services that are available to one-and-all (such as Flikr) can just verify that the subscriber can respond to an email message, whereas services that are limited to a specific group of people need to be more specific in who can subscribe.

In the UK academic environment, the solution to the problem of restricting access to services has been to devolve the Authentication back to Institutions…. this is what the UK Access Management Federation is: a user AUTHENTICATES their identity via their University, and then service providers can AUTHORISE for specific Universities.

Outside the closed environment of UK Higher & Further Education, there is a system called OpenID. This is most obvious when you use your Facebook Login to gain access to some other service (As an aside, Facebook uses OpenID internally for lots of things: all of these Facebook Apps that you sign up for are all using OpenID to both Authenticate you, AND access your data!)

So what is this all leading up to?

Well, we are approaching the point where people have multiple identities (or persona) and want to use them to identify themselves.

The interesting question is:

Are these all different

  1. identities for the same person (meaning that the person has access to a service and can identify themselves), or
  2. persona for the same person (where the different persona have different levels of connectivity to a Service)


Is there merit in having a system that allows different identities to me connected: so you can use a number of identities to access a service?

Is there merit in a service that will personalise your interaction depending on which persona you connect with?



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