Who are we? A Comment on Identity...

Over the semester, I have been refining my definition of identity. Similar to Twitter, which asks the question, "What are you doing?" to me, identity answers the question, "Who am I?" Luckily I don't have 140 characters or less to answer this question, but I did find one way of describing identity which might be short enough to define it in less than the required characters. In Betsy's entry To Be or Not to Be, she comments on identity as being our personal lens to the world. It reminded me of the glasses that Nicolas Cage finds and uses in National Treasure. His use of different lenses reveals different clues on the map. This thought implies that our identity is how we see ourselves in this world. It's our way of looking at the world. I want to expand upon this notion by defining on what I think creates that lens and ultimately shapes our identity.

First, I have been pondering about the purpose of a name and how important a name is in our identity. Minh's entry, On Identity, Community, Web 2.0, and the Design of Pligg, challenged me to articulate my thoughts on the purpose of a name. In this entry, she discusses her frustrations with Pligg regarding her inability to choose her name. Instead our Penn State identity becomes our name. Her passion challenged me to consider how names and the choice over names impacts our identity. In response to this entry, an interesting dialogue ensued on Pligg. For me, our names are what distinguishes us. In particular I take pride in my name even though I had no choice in its selection. My birth name represents my heritage. In fact when I married, I really struggled with losing my last name. After all, that name was how I defined myself for 25 years, and by taking on a new last name, I had the opportunity to create a "new" me. My link theory between names and identity was shattered one day in class when Doug raised a very philosophical question, which is similar to the adage, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Doug challenged my thinking when he raised the question, "If a man is alone in a desert, does he need a name?" His question required me to consider the link between identity and community. Considering these thoughts, I discussed my theory and Doug's question with McEd. McEducation affirmed my theory in that he commented on how we are our names. Providing me with a historical perspective, he commented on how originally people's names were related to characteristics that defined them including personality and occupation, hence the last name Smith, etc. Ultimately I still see our identities as being defined and communicated through our names sealing the important connection between identity and community.

John's entry, Identity is in the Eye of the Beholder, asks an intriguing question. He comments on this notion of perception when he asks, "Who decides on one's identity?" Identity is not just how we see ourselves; it's also how other people see us. Sometimes we select what we reveal to others and sometimes our revelations are accidental. Identity is inextricably linked to perception both internally and externally. Our identity is composed of our personal constructions of what we believe ourselves to be and how others perceive us to be. Sometimes those perceptions align, and sometimes they don't. It seems like our identity could be compared to a wiki - a page that is created, altered, and controlled by us and those who have access to us.

Mike cites some of Wenger's thoughts on identity in his post Finding Identity and Networking, same thing? He discusses how Wenger states that our identity is formed through identification and negotiation, and Mike poses the question of its relation to networking. Here again the notion of community intersects with identity. Our experiences inevitably shape who we are - our identity. To some extent some would argue that we have choice in those experiences. To answer his question, all members of the CI597C community will forever be changed by our experience and participation in this community. Access and participation in communities touch our lives and alter our identities both positively and negatively. CI597C has altered our identities - it has added and deleted content, some more than others, on our individual identity wiki pages.

In closing, Donna provides an intriguing visual of identity in her post "We're all Onions." Here she describes identity as an onion, layers of ourselves, which are altered by life's experiences. Whether we see ourselves as onions, wiki pages, or another analogy, our personal perceptions of ourselves and other's perceptions of us coupled with life's experiences shape our identity of which are combined and then attached to a label, our names, that act as our coat of arms in the world.