Identity is established by networks which allow people to publish and form human relationships along the following lines:
- Social Media - a publishing platform
- Social Networks - the source of reputation developed via interpersonal relationships
- Reputation - Nothing more than a few numbers used as a gauge which give our online profiles a “humanness” score which measures the effort we have invested into making relationships and maintaining them within the context of a specific online community. If the community has value then the numbers it bestows upon online identities also have value. Then you can use this number to gauge how the community values a specific person. It also measures the efforts we took to build up our online persona and make it of value to us. People are less likely to commit evils with identities that are of value to them due to the cost which is the loss of reputation for which they have worked to build.
- Identity management performed by the platforms we use - HTTPS, usernames, passwords, 2 factor authentication. All of these secure our ability to log into accounts from which we build our online identities through publishing and establish our online relationships (what eventually becomes our reputation) through our interactions on the network.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Github are platforms for publishing.
Many people who do an AMA on Reddit post a picture of themselves with a sign that says “Reddit I am ask me anything”. The picture serves as proof that the source behind the username is the genuine person. But if you never met that person and there are no pictures of them on the internet and they simply are not famous enough for anyone to know what they look like then its a pretty futile effort for them to post that single photo.
Imagine what a picture of someone holding up a sign saying “Reddit I am Satoshi Nakamoto inventor of bitcoin AMA” would actually look like. What would your gut reaction to such a sign be, how many people would react by thinking “wow now I know what Satoshi Nakamoto looks like!” Ok now imagine if the person holding up the sign was a noteworthy scientist (NS)? If you never met that person and there was no pictures of him on the internet this would mean nothing until that person took the following steps to establish his identity:
- NS could state on his own blog that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.
- NS could update his LinkedIn account with a picture of himself.
- NS could use his twitter account to inform people that he is doing an AMA on Reddit.
- Finally the most definitive proof would be that NS sends 0.001 BTC from accounts belonging to SatoshiNakamoto to a bitcoin account address of 1NoteScientistIsSatoshiNakamotoxxx.
The above four items establish NS’s identity but how do they do it? What is the one thing that all the above items have in common? They are all related to publishing across various social media platforms which results in the establishment of an online identity.
- More publishing = more established identity
- More relationships and participation in a community = more reputation (social capital)
If this is true the idea known as proof of individuality
is useful only insofar as it uses publishing to establish an online identity. The outcome of chatting with people over Skype is that something is published and that published record not the chatting itself serves to establish identity. If the Skype conversations are seen as having little to no value because they do not form meaningful relationships between participants then they would have no ability to impart value into the system at large. If the system has no value then consequently neither do the identities on the system.
Summed up in one chart:
The internet is just a publishing platform. Social media is nothing more than publishing. Social networks are nothing more than online relationships. Reputation is nothing more than a measure of how valuable your interactions with people have been in the context of a specific online community.
To sum up:
Establishing an online identity relies on the relationship between social media as a publishing platform, social networks as reputation systems and social capital as the value that we have to specific online communities. So long as the communities, platforms, and networks that we belong to have value within the context of the society in which we live then publishing establishes our identity. All this has a foundation in the fact that our ability to publish is secured by encryption protocols and that our current use of usernames, passwords, and account recovery mechanisms although not perfect are good enough to allow the system to continue to work the way it does today.