in social & community

thoughts on the less intentional profile

So, something that I’ve always been quite fascinated with, is the way that people ‘perform’ themselves in virtual space… consciously or not. It all started by reading some Sherry Turkle while I was at university and has simmered away ever since.

In the ‘olden days’ of social technologies, creating your ‘self’ online involved a fair amount of work. You had to craft your identity out of the lines of text that you shared with others online, on your website or in a MUDs and other places.

These days, however, your online identity is as much about what you *don’t* share, as what you do. There are so many ways and means to communicate your identity with others, that it’s almost simpler to censor those things you don’t *really* want to share. Like, only Twittering when you’re doing something cool or being somewhere exotic. Or only declaring certain favourite books or music or films.

Maybe this is not so different to what we were doing before. It just feels a whole lot easier and, somehow, codified.

What is perhaps a little different are the less intentional profiles we create. I was thinking about this in terms of the attention data that we generate and share – say through sites like Last.FM (I’m sure there are others tho none are springing to mind at this late hour).

So, one minute I’m just listening away to my music and the next I discover that Robbie Williams is my second most listened to artist and I have a quandary… I’m not going to dispute the correctness of the data, but at the same time… the impression that is created by presenting this data to my social network is not one that, to me, gives an accurate portrayal of the kind of music I like to listen to. (I’m *way* cooler than that… really?!)

Trust me? Well… I’m not sure that I would either.

After all, which is more correct – what I tell you I like, or what the statistics say?

Which is more appropriate to the creation of a ‘profile’ or a virtual self?

Guy Parsons also got me thinking about a whole other stream of data that on the surface seems kind of irrelevant – like the groups you leave on Facebook – and how this data is actually really interesting in develop a sense of how your profile is changing over time – not to mention tracking memes as they flow in and out of popularity.

Fascinating stuff, I think. The profile we create when we don’t really mean to at all.

What do you make of it?

  1. I ran into this same problem when I first started using last.fm. I had just bought a Natalie Imbruglia CD and didn’t really think through what would happen if I scrobbled it (or whatever the right term is). Soon I had a recommendation for Kevin Federline! And that was right about the time I joined the RedMonk dorktunes group, with me being older and more female than everyone. I felt embarrassed and pretty much stopped any public display of my music tastes.

    I’ve decided, though, that it’s too hard to maintain some sort of persona other than my real one. So I generally just do what I want whether it seems cool or not. Part of what people resonate with in blogging, I think, is the authenticity and humanness of it.

  2. I keep an eye on the tags on my blog in much the same way, Leisa. I think you’re absolutely right. It is really interesting to listen to very strong young people on this kind of thing – if they have an original bone in their body, they hate the whole constructed persona thing (two of my kids are like this!Sorry I haven’t been reading you much lately either – less tech blogging happening, doing more writerly stuff.)

  3. We fool ourselves more often than we fool others, and things like last.fm and Attention Recorder give us the proof. That can sometimes be surprising for us, but I think you’ll find close friends and relatives won’t be.
    Anne is right – trying to live a double life is very wearing, and ultimately self-defeating, because that also tends to reveal something about us, albeit unwittingly.
    As for last.fm – the more you scrobble, the more accurate the picture – if you stopped straight after Natalie, Anne, we at dorktunes will possibly get the wrong idea about you, but if you keep scrobbling, maybe the lapse in judgment will get lost! You could raise your cred immediately by listening to Natalie’s husband Daniel Johns – his band is Silverchair, and they are VERY different to Natalie!

  4. I’m a bit slow in not clearing my google alerts, but i enjoyed your blog. I find myself thinking twice about whether i put things i want to find again in delicious or in my endnote, just because i would hate people to make judgements about me with regard to some of the stuff i collect for my doctoral research.

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