If I ever write one, my book is going to be called The Syndicated Self. I will attempt to explain after a hard day at work.
Google’s recent move to insist that all +1 accounts be registered under “real names” made me very angry. Over the weekend, the monolith started to wipe accounts out of existence if they appeared to be using a pseudonym, or as most of us would understand it, the names we go by in our digital lives and, often, in meatspace too.*
Three years ago, I was booted out of Facebook for “failing to use my real name”. And I still haven’t forgiven FB for its lack of understanding about on/offline/thereisnodifference identity and the right to exert any name (read, side of an identity) one wishes. It affords some semblance of boundedness between public, private, and semi public selves – yes, perhaps only conceptually, but still. Three years ago, I think I was more angry about the issue itself than the *real* issue which was that FB and others alike wanted to compel me to use my “real name” so that they could pin me down, and “productise” me more.
It prompted me to start thinking again about how much we the people have become (and have always been I suppose) the product, not the products that are advertised to us through FB etc, and not the services that purport to offer us something. They are buying *us*: they buy *our* attention and activities. We are the products. @ianbetteridge tweeted earlier today (which in turn prompted me to write this post):
If you’re not paying for a service, you’re being sold by it.
My response was that we are all products, and that “all our actions, musings, clickings, chattings, playings, voicings: all being harvested to make the fuel for money.”
We know why Google has done this. Google has since “revised” its policy but it goes no way far enough for me, and many others still maintain the right to use other handles. My online name is part of my identity. An identity. Of course, nowadays, you can still find what other names any given name of mine is linked to. But by choosing which name to go under, to connect to, in a particular context, I also actively assert and give you permission make assumptions about me, to know what my boundaries are.
I think it is my right. As is my right not to tell FB any other details about me than my online handle.** And it is my right continue to make it hard for the market to make me any more of a product than I already am. I have the right to have some control over how I syndicate my selves. I know I may be naive about whether this makes a true difference, but it is the principle I stand by.
* I have just bought an Etsy necklace of my online handle.
** yes, this does mean than FB thinks I am 76 and so the ads I get served are… well…weird.