, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 15-20
Date: 10 Feb 2012

So who am I really? Personal identity in the age of the Internet

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Abstract

The Internet has become a field of dragon teeth for a person’s identity. It has made it possible for your identity to be mistaken by a credit agency, spied on by the government, foolishly exposed by yourself, pilloried by an enemy, pounded by a bully, or stolen by a criminal. These harms to one’s integrity could be inflicted in the past, but information technology has multiplied and aggravated such injuries. They have not gone unnoticed and are widely bemoaned and discussed. The government and private watchdogs are working to protect the identity of citizens though at least in the United States both the government and individuals all too often side with prosperity when it conflicts with privacy. Still, these information-technological threats to identity have been recognized and can be reasonably met through legislation, regulation, and discretion. There is another kind of danger to our identity that is more difficult to define and to meet, for it has no familiar predecessors, has no criminal aspects, and exhibits no sharp moral or cultural contours. Still that threat to our identity haunts us constantly and surfaces occasionally in conversations and the media. It makes us feel displaced, distracted, and fragmented at the very times when to all appearances we seem to be connected, busy, and energetic. At the same time, the culture of technology, and of information technology particularly, has opened up fields of diversity and contingency that invite us to comprehend our identities in newly responsible, intricate, and open-minded ways.