Identity Ownership

During lunch on the first day of the Identity Open Space in Brussels one of the attendants mentioned that he wanted more power over his identity since he owns his own identity.

He used the following example: when he send his resume to a potential employer, he wanted to be informed about what happened to that resume. That sounds fair to me, it contains private and potential sensitive information. However, he went even further and said that when the recruiter ranked the resume, he wanted to be informed of that rank and why it was ranked like this. His reasoning was: that resume is part of my identity, an identity I own, so I am entitled to that information.

Immediately I was thinking about this article. The article explains in great detail the difficulties you have with “user consent” and “owning your identity”.

If I meet a person, I build up an identity of that person. Part of that identity is based on my perception: the way he walks, talks and behaves. Other parts of that identity are based on what that person told me: his name, phone number, telephone number … Reasoning that the other party also owns the identity I created based on my perception is a bridge to far for me. I should not be forced to disclose my perception about a person because it is somehow connected to him.

You don’t own your identity, in fact, without other people around you, you don’t even have an identity. For me, identity only exists in a relationship with some other party. That identity is the perception that other party has about you. That perception might be based on information it got through several channels. In all cases, you only own a small part of that identity if you own a part at all.

The only identity you really completely own is the identity you have built about yourself in the relationship you have with yourself.

I would like to blog more about this idea of identity only existing within the context of a relationship. Feedback is more then welcome.


3 thoughts on “Identity Ownership

  1. If you were the only entity in the universe, would you have an identity at all?

  2. At least you wouldn’t have the usual identity aspects like a first name and last name. Those are part of the identity society (through your parents) has made about you and communicated with you so they can have active and state full relationships with you.

    The only relationship between you and a knowledgeable entity is the relationship you have with yourself. You will built an identity perception about yourself. You recognize your own thoughts as being yours since they fall within the boundaries of what you expect from your own perception (identity) about you. If you would suddenly develop some case of schizophrenia, you would somehow recognize this since you will develop thoughts that do not fall within these boundaries. You will not identify that part of you as being you! At least not in the beginning.

  3. Bavo, we’ve been working on exactly this point for a while over at the Burton Group. Mike Neuenschwander has been blogging about identity in the context of relationship on our team blog; this entry started the thread and it’s continued here. We’ll have more to say about this, both on the blog and at our Catalyst conference in June.

    PS thanks for the citation!

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