identity 2.0


Sitting in a seminar today, my mind started wandering about and I started to think about identity 2.0. As of lately, quite a few people have written about it or presented about it, but there’s still not as much research going on as I’d expect, or maybe I just haven’t happened upon it.

To a large degree, Identity 2.0 works similar to Identity 1.0. (No kidding, huh?) There are some major factors influencing how we identify ourselves in relation to the world around us. Some of those factors have gained, other have lost impact. A whole new aspect – I just labeled it the Extended Self – is brand new and so-to-speak value added

Anyway, here’s a first quick sketch of what I think constitutes Identity 2.0.

Remember, this is a quick (and first) draft. So please bear with me and stay constructive …

Identity 1.0   Identity 2.0
    ‘Extended Self’
  • social networks
  • information
  • identity
  • semi-private identity
  • self-constructed / in-flux identity
  • access to knowledge networks
  • memberships
  • collaboration / participation / productivity
  • tech/cyborg
Social groups
  • security
  • values
  • identity
  • status
  Social groups
  • identity
  • values
  • membershups
  • access
  • identity
  • model of society
  • security
  Nationality / Jurisdiction
  • legal framework
  • Security
  • Identity
  • Status
  • Values
  • to networks, social groups, extended self etc
  • where/when/how you can live out your identity
  • Status
  • Values
  • (Societal framework)
  • level of development
  • proximity of other cultures
  • proximity of peer group
  • level of development
  • access

(note: By making the boxes above different sizes, I’ve tried to show how much I think they impact. Maybe an HTML-table isn’t exactly the right tool for that kind of graphic…)

Identity 2.0:

  • much more complex, wider
  • more in flux more flexible
  • to a large degree self-constructed
  • fragmented, yet integrated. Not necessarily always coherent.
  • Towards the periphery, complexity and density decline. Blurry borders.



Replaces religion and family insofar as they used to allow or prohibit access in any way (because of belief, money etc.)

Extended Self

  • new category which virtually didn’t exist before
  • mix of social network, self-constructed and self-communicated identity, memberships, activities, participation in collaborative projects, access to knowledge networks etc (compare Luhmann’s idea of external memory etc)
  • Extended self and social groups can’t be clearly distinguished, the border is blurry; both overlap. Depending on involvement, face-to-face time and level of access to each other’s offline identity among others
  • To get a basic idea of what kind of stuff constitutes the extended self, check out Dick Hardt’s great OSCON 2005 Presentation 2.0 where he gives a good overview of what identity 2.0 emcompasses.

Nationality / Jurisdiction

  • Nationality is losing its imporance except for the legal framework it provides. The classic constructivist view used to be: “Nationalism is the cultural framework of modernity; it is the main cultural mechanism of social integration and therefore, construction”. (Greenfeld 1999) –> Nationality hardly adds to a feeling of identity anymore. Instead, it’s the jurisdiction that counts. In other words: Where your body is, you can get sued.
  • Nationality is also a fairly recent concept and not one that is essential. Compare Liah Greenfeld: “For millenia, humanity was able to do without [nation], and this represents a good reason for presuming that it an be avoided again.” (Greenfeld, “Is Nation unavoidable? Is Nation Unavoidable Today?” 1999
  • Note that the focus here is clearly a legal one. Even more so, as national borders may not even be legal borders: Take for example the European Union. Any European resident won’t only be affected by their country’s law, but by the EU’s law as well.

Time zone

  • In a heavily mediated and interconnected society where social contacts are maintained online to a large degree, geography and physicality plays a smaller role than time zones. To interact with your peers, it is relevant to be online at the same time as they are, no matter where they are or where you are. In other words: It is more important when you are online than where you are online. (Cory Doctorow develops this idea in-depth in his novel Eastern Standard Tribe.)

Update: Gender is, of course, another essential determining factor of our identities online. There’s plenty of material out there, too. Recommendations? Also, I’m not sure which way this factor developed from 1.0 to 2.0. It certainly got a bit more blurry and flexible. Also, I’d assume the gender impact decreased quite a bit, but I’m not absolutely sure about it. Ideas?

Feedback? Drop me a line: peter.bihr at

In 5 years… (Digital Divide)


In 5 years is going to be a little mini-series dealing with emerging trends in a number of fields. Note that most of these ideas have been out there for a while. Where I remember the immediate source, I’ll reference it. Where I don’t, well, I don’t. (If you know the source, please let me know.) However, please note that I do not claim authorship for any of these ideas!

This isn’t about looking into the future, either, really. Instead it’s more to look back in five or so years to get an idea about our perception at the time, and either say “Hah! Told you so!” or “Ewww, this really turned out different, eh?”.

So here you go. Today’s topic:

Digital Divide. In five years,…

  1. Judging information quality will be a key skill. To counter information manipulation by interest groups of all sorts – and this includes commercial messages – it will be a key skill to judge the validity, source and quality of information. This will be a significant part of what we’d call web literacy.
  2. Ads will be for the poor. As ads will be the single-most important source of funding for otherwise-free services, they will become more and more obnoxious. We will have to pay our way out of ad-funded services: Being ad-free online will be a status symbol in itself, while using ad-sponsored services will become an indicator of low social status. This trend has long since started and will grow much stronger.
  3. It won’t matter who you are, but how fast your connection is. Society won’t be divided into strata based on education, age or ethnicity, but increasingly on web literacy and connection speed.
  4. The depth of information you can access and its interconnectedness will depend on your budget. The more you pay, the more inter-connected and context-sensitive – the deeper! – your online experience will be.While all users will look at the same website, they will see very different things depending on their budget.
  5. Basic protection of your privacy will become a UN basic human right. This right will be challenged often and massively, and we’ll have to fight hard to defend it. But it will be recognized as a human right.