Monday, December 21, 2009
I was contemplating the Christmas season and what it means to those of a religious bent when it occurred to me that the idea of “persona” – different facets of a single identity – is thousands of years older than our digital world.
A few years ago I defined persona as “an aspect of identity in a specific situation: office persona, parenting persona and so on. “ Since then, I’ve refined it to be a collection of related attribute-value pairs, a subset of all of the attributes that make up an entity’s identity.
Over 1500 years ago, Roman Catholicism’s St. Patrick was attempting to convert Ireland’s Druids to Roman Catholicism. One tool he used was the shamrock, a sacred plant to the Druids. Patrick illustrated the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (one God, three aspects: the father, the son and the holy spirit) by noting that the plant has three leaves but only one stem. Today we could say that the entity, God, has three personae: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each persona emphasizes a particular set of God’s attributes yet each persona is still the entity, God.
That led me to take another look at the God of the Old Testament – God the Father in the Christian tradition. But also Yahweh to the Jews and Allah to the Muslims. Each of these is merely a persona of the entity God with a mildly differing set of attributes interpreted by those humans known, collectively, as prophets. One God, multiple personae.
But, in looking farther afield, we find it isn’t only the near-Eastern monotheistic religions which offer us a God-entity with multiple personae. Hinduism is also based on this concept. As Hindu Wisdom (http://www.hinduwisdom.info/Symbolism_in_Hinduism.htm) puts it:
“Hinduism is often labeled as a religion of 330 million gods. This misunderstanding arises when people fail to grasp the symbolism of the Hindu pantheon. Hindus worship the nameless and formless Supreme Reality (Bramh) by various names and forms. These different aspects of one reality are symbolized by the many gods and goddesses of Hinduism. For example, Brahma (not to be confused with the over-arching Bramh) is that reality in its role as creator of the universe; in Vishnu it is seen as the preserver and the upholder of the universe; and Shiva is that same reality viewed as the principle of transcendence which will one day 'destroy' the universe. These are the Trimurti, the ' three forms,' and they are not so much different gods as different ways of looking at the same God. Each emphasizes a particular aspect or function of the one reality. The forms are many, the reality is one. It is the same with all the gods and goddesses: they are not rivals but aspects of a single principle. Hindus have represented God in innumerable forms. Each is but a symbol that points to something beyond; and as none exhausts God's actual nature, the entire array is needed to complete the picture of God's aspects and manifestations. It has been said that images are to the Hindu worshipper what diagrams are to the geometrician.”
Explaining the concept of persona is never easy, but at least this might give you an edge with the practicing religious folks in your organization.
[reprinted from Network World]
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Identity-centricPam Dingle has a bit of a rant today about the term "user-centric." Well, not about the term itself but about people's desire (e.g., the entire Burton Group) to get away from it.
"Sure, there are a few blind worshippers of the cult of user-centric out there, but I firmly believe that common sense has to win out in deployment scenarios, and that various technologies should and will be used where applicable to solve problems. "
I think it's about more than just a term, more than just a feel-good quality, Pam. The "User-centric" term was coined, initially, to try to differentiate internet-based individual identity protocols from those used within the enterprise. But it's really all identity, and there doesn't need to be a distinction. That's why I wrote, last month, "Why there's no 'user-centric' or 'enterprise-centric' identity," where I said:
"Enterprise-centric identity management, we postulated, is really all about tying together all the activities and attributes of a single entity into a readily accessible (and reportable and auditable) form; while user-centric identity is about keeping various parts of your online life totally separated so that they aren't accessible and no report can be drawn.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The Peter Principle of ProtocolsA good Post today from Eve Maler reminding us that it's not just people, and it's especially not just on-line people, that have identity issues.
"I realize that the description I’m after is more like 'human-centric identity'. It comes with both online and offline scenarios and still needs to allow for (real-time or not) informed consent and attribute exchange."This might be a good time to, once again, plump for "persona" as the term for what many call "on-line identity" so that we can keep straight what a real identity is.
She also alludes to the fact that not all identity protocols need to be able to do everything.
There's still room for lightweight, on-line digital person identity systems (vide OpenID) to be used within limited situations. It's not a criticism of OpenID to suggest that it only be used in low-value transactions. What is wrong is to apply a sort of "Peter Principle of Protocols" to OpenID, extending the original Peter Principle (formulated by Laurence J. Peter almost 40 years ago) thru the "Generalized Peter Principle" promulgated by Dr. William R. Corcoran: "anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it causes a disaster." Let's keep, and improve, OpenID for the things it does best. Let's not try to teach that pig to sing.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Throwaway identities?dana boyd recently took note of a phenomena she claims is rampant among, at least, teenage girls - and is contrary to what we all believe that web site users want.
"Many teens are content (if not happy) to start over with most of their accounts in most places. Forgot your IM password? Sign up again. Forgot your email address? Create a new one. Forgot your login? Time for a change.
Could it be that the whole thrust of SSO, self-service password reset, federation, etc. - the areas we in IdM seem to spend all of our time - will have little meaning to the next generation of business users?
Or is it possible that these teens are way out in front of us on the use of multiple personas, multiple "digital identities" to express themselves? Perhaps - some time in the not so distant future - they'll be clamoring for a way that they can unite all of their "identities" - but only if they can guarantee that they alone can see the consolidated material. Food for thought, and for endless discussion while we wait to see what the users actually do!
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