About The Blog

Debate at the intersection of business, technology and culture in the world of digital identity, both commercial and government, a blog born from the Digital Identity Forum in London and sponsored by Consult Hyperion



  • Add to
Technorati Favorites


  • Creative Commons

    Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

    Please note that by replying in this Forum you agree to license your comments in the same way. Your comments may be edited and used but will always be attributed.

« The Zimmerman CDs | Main | Bi-fi »

Chinese whispers

By davebirch posted Nov 26 2007 at 11:56 AM
[Dave Birch] Lying on your Facebook page is part of the fun, isn't it? Just like being a man in Second Life if you're a woman. Surely being able to play around with multiple identities is one of the fascinating new aspects of life online? Apparently, not everyone shares such a playful and experimental view of virtual identity. One of China's major game operators has announced that they will freeze the accounts of male players who have elected to play as female characters in the King of the World MMORPG. Apparently there are no bans on women playing male characters, but women (and men-wanting-to-play-as-women) will be required to prove their gender via webcam. I did not make this up. Women will be required to prove their gender via webcam (how, exactly? -- the mind literally boggles). And this is in a country with compulsory ID cards. Next they'll be saying that you can only be a Gnome Bard if you are in real life less than four feet tall and able to recite a medieval Icelandic saga from memory. Who is running these games, David Blunkett? (Note to foreign readers, David Blunkett was the British Home Secretary who introduced the current British identity card scheme).

Technorati Tags: , ,

Underlying this nonsense is, of course, the notion that a person has only one identity and that they must present that identity at all times under all circumstances. To my mind, this is simply not true.

For example: a friend of mine (don't all these stories start like this?) swaps genders for a particular discussion forum. She has discovered that -- and I understand from my some of decades old computer-mediated communications (CMC) texts that this is a well-known effect -- it is better to been seen as being male on some topics and female topics. Another rather obvious case is that when it comes to discussions about religion, or politics, it is easy to see why people might want to express pseudonymous opinions. Many years ago I was in an online discussion group in a thread about credit card interest rates when I got a rather disturbing e-mail threatening me (and I assume the others in the group) with all sort of dire consequences because interest is against God's law, or something to that effect. Naturally, I never use my real identity in these kinds of online discussions now. And I don't want to exclude myself from valuable discussions. (This is not, incidentally, an argument for unconditional anonymity, although I do understand why some people advocate that position.)

It should be entirely reasonable for someone to have a portfolio of identities that they use for different purposes. The essence of the "little sister" society (in stark contrast to the "big brother" society) is that you should be able to do what you like with your identities, but if you get up to no good then "little sister" will tell. So, I might easily envisage having to present a digital certificate from my bank to a MMORG in order to obtain a new avatar. This avatar is represented externally as another digital certificate and I can present this to whom I please. Under normal circumstances, no-one will ever know that Leadbelly Gutbucket (the mightiest of the Dwarven heroes of Ravenscrag Pass) is none other than me. But if Leadbelly were to get up to no good, the forces of law and order could follow the certificate chain back to my bank and with an appropriate warrant the bank would (of course) point to me. There is no reason not to do this.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Chinese whispers:


The comments to this entry are closed.