The Virtual Identity, Digital Identity, and Virtual Residence of the Digital Citizen

The Virtual Identity, Digital Identity, and Virtual Residence of the Digital Citizen

Fortunato Sorrentino (Università degli Studi di Firenze, Italy)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-845-1.ch108
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Abstract

Since cyberspace appeared (Gibson, 1984), our existence has been endowed of a new dimension: “the virtual”. This new “space”, open to many interpretations, has been recognized as a philosophical category, becoming a subject of passionate speculation by many thinkers: Deleuze, Lévy, De Kerkchove, Maldonado— to cite just a few of the recent ones, but one could recede even to Aristotle and Plato. However, if we leave the conceptual level, we realize that today “the virtual” exists for us because something very real exists and is surrounding us: technologies. We shall discuss this view and the effect that “the virtual” and the technologies associated with it have produced on us: the birth of three new attributes for any individual living in the digital society, a person’s virtual identity, digital identity and virtual residence.
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Introduction

Since cyberspace appeared (Gibson, 1984), our existence has been endowed of a new dimension: “the virtual”. This new “space”, open to many interpretations, has been recognized as a philosophical category, becoming a subject of passionate speculation by many thinkers: Deleuze, Lévy, De Kerkchove, Maldonado—to cite just a few of the recent ones, but one could recede even to Aristotle and Plato.

However, if we leave the conceptual level, we realize that today “the virtual” exists for us because something very real exists and is surrounding us: technologies. We shall discuss this view and the effect that “the virtual” and the technologies associated with it have produced on us: the birth of three new attributes for any individual living in the digital society, a person’s virtual identity, digital identity and virtual residence.

In the past, information and communication technologies (ICTs) worked exclusively as agents of transformation of the corporate and business worlds. For a long time Internet and the Web behaved as places for blurred, faceless crowds. Then, in less than a couple of decades, and with a sudden acceleration, the impact has shifted to the individual. A specific set of emerging technologies (e.g., wireless, locative and micro/nanotechnologies), is affecting the private, intimate sphere of the individual, where identity, reputation and privacy reside. At the same time the virtual and real dimensions begin to mix and sometimes even to collide.

There are currently many efforts to understand, define and manage the three attributes mentioned above. They are becoming essential possessions of man in the digital world, while the complexity of the issues relating to them proportionally increases. It is therefore convenient, before we delve deeper into the subject, to set up some provisional, informal definitions (see Table 1).

Table 1.
               Virtual identity               “iPod, therefore I am”: this is how the young generations, roaming the digital sound spaces, state their identities (quoting Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs on his cult music player).
               Digital identity               The representation of a human identity that is used in cyberspace to interact with machines or people
               Virtual residence               An attempt to establish in cyberspace an equivalent of “domicile”” in the off-line world
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Identity

First of all, what is the concept of “identity”? This term, already confusing in the real world, risks to be all the more so in the virtual world. There is an entire European Network of Excellence dedicated to exploring this concept, FIDIS (2005), “Future of Identity in the Information Society” (http://www.fidis.net). One of its key researchers attempts a basic definition:

Identity has to do with the characteristics of the individual, and what makes it unique or on the contrary similar with the others. Identity can be defined from an internal perspective or in the perspective of its interaction with the environment. (Nabeth, 2004)

The notion of identity affords many levels of complexity in its wide semantic field and it is a changing one (Rost, 2003). It is a composite concept, as represented in Figure 1.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tactile Feedback: A glove that uses air pressure or vibration to apply force to the wearer’s hand, giving a realistic perception when virtual objects are touch.

Soft-Computing: A discipline situated at the confluence of distinct methodologies: fuzzy logic, neural network, and probabilistic reasoning, the latter including evolutionary algorithms, chaos theory, belief networks and, though only partially, learning theory. Soft computing differs from conventional (hard) computing in that, unlike hard computing, it is tolerant of imprecision, uncertainty, and partial truth.

Data Glove: A glove wired with “biosensors” to detect hand and finger motions.

Immersion: When several of a user’s senses are isolated from the real world and fed information (images and sound) coming from a computer.

Head-Mounted Display (HMD): A graphical display device, such as a pair of tiny LCD screens worn like goggles. Often combined in a single helmet with position tracking sensors and earphones for 3D sound.

Flight Simulator: A mechanical or electronic system for training airplane and spacecraft pilots by simulating flight conditions. The purpose of simulation is to thoroughly familiarize students with the vehicle concerned before they undergo expensive and dangerous actual flight training.

Non-Uniform Rational B-Spline (NURBS): A mathematical model commonly used in computer graphics for generating and representing curves and surfaces.

Fractal Algorithms: Algorithms used in creating computer-generated images. Using either an iterative or recursive process, simple geometric shapes are divided and replaced by smaller versions of themselves.

Haptic Feedback: It is the sense of touch at the skin and force feedback information from muscles and joints.

Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML): A language that specifies the parameters to create virtual worlds networked together via the Internet and accessed via the World Wide Web hyperlinks. The aim of VRML is to bring to the Internet the advantages of 3D spaces, known in VRML as worlds whether they compromise environments or single objects.

Avatar: Derived from the Sanscrit for the incarnation of Godhead. In virtual environments, an avatar is the “body” that a user “wears” in a virtual community, an animated, articulated representation of a human which represents the user.

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