First Monday

Identity and Identification in a Networked World by Tim Schneider and Michael Zimmer


Identity and Identification in a Networked World

Increasingly, who we are is represented by key pieces of information scattered throughout the data-intensive, networked world. Few spheres of our daily lives remain untouched by technologies of identity and identification: medical records are increasingly digitized and aggregated, loyalty cards collect shopping habits, Web cookies track online activities, electronic toll collection systems record vehicle locations, detailed user profile pages fill social networking Web sites, biometric scanners are in use at workplaces, banks, and airports. Online and off, the digitization of identity mediates our sense of self, social interactions, movements through space, and access to goods and services. There is much at stake in designing systems of identification and identity management, deciding who or what will control them, and building in adequate protection for our bits of identity permeating the network.

On September 29-30 2006, over 120 students, scholars and practitioners gathered at the “Identity and Identification in a Networked World” multidisciplinary graduate student symposium at the New York University School of Law to discuss the critical issues of identity surrounding new digital media and information technologies. This two-day event showcased emerging scholarship from 20 graduate students at the cutting edge of humanities, social sciences, systems design, philosophy, and law. Prof. Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology at the University of Ottawa began the symposium with a keynote addresses on “DRM & the Automation of Virtue.” Dick Hardt, founder and CEO of Sxip Identity presented a keynote the second day  entitled “The Emerging Age of Who.”

Over the course of the two days, participants discussed and debated the critical and controversial issues surrounding identity and identification, including the impacts of emerging technologies, the role of the State, the emergence of social networks, and online identity construction and management. Exchanges between students, scholars and professionals laid the foundation for future collaborative work, and the symposium closed with discussions of creating a new discipline of “digital identity studies.”

The papers featured here represent a small sample of the research presented over the course of the two-day symposium. Three of the four focus on the unique questions of identity posed by the rise of social networking sites and other social media. In her paper, danah boyd considers the role of “Friending” on MySpace and Friendster, describing the motivations behind Friending practices and the implications of Friendships. Ryan Bigge attempts to “make strange” the phenomenon of social networking in order to examine the potential negative implications of their increasing prevalence, including the costs of non-participation. Stacey Schesser tackles the admissibility of evidence obtained from user-generated online sources such as blogs, MySpace, and eBay.

The use and misuse of data collected by governments was also a central question for symposium participants, who presented case studies and analysis of data collection strategies from around the world. Veronica Pinero’s paper examines the concept of a “criminal record,” and its impact on the lives of convicted criminals after the completion of their sentences.

We look forward to the forthcoming work of all of our symposium participants as they continue to explore the boundaries of identity in our networked world. End of article


About the authors

Tim Schneider is a second-year law student at New York University (NYU) School of Law.

Michael Zimmer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University and a student fellow at the Information Law Institute at NYU School of Law. For more information on Zimmer, see his blog.



The Identity and Identification in a Networked World symposium was made possible by the generous support of the National Science Foundation PORTIA Grant (CCR-0331640), Microsoft Corporation, NYU Council for Media and Culture, Department of Culture and Communication, Steinhart School, NYU, and the Information Law Institute, NYU School of Law.

The symposium was co-organized by Tim Schneider, J.D. student at NYU School of Law, and Michael Zimmer, Ph.D. student at the Department of Culture and Communication. Prof. Helen Nissenbaum provided invaluable guidance and support, without which the symposium would not have been possible.

Over 50 paper submissions were reviewed by the Program Committee: Martin Galese (J.D. student, NYU School of Law), Alice Marwick (Ph.D. student, NYU Department of Culture & Communication), Joseph Reagle (Ph.D. student, NYU Department of Culture & Communication), Jessica Shimmin (Ph.D. student, NYU Department of Culture & Communication), and Aaron Williamson (J.D. student, NYU School of Law).



Identity and Identification in a Networked World
A Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Symposium

September 29-30, 2006
Furman Hall
245 Sullivan Street
New York University School of Law


Friday, September 29  
1:00p – 2:30p Keynote: DRM & the Automation of Virtue
Prof. Ian Kerr, University of Ottawa
(lunch will be provided)
2:30p – 4:00p Student Panel: Emerging Technologies & Impacts
The Nexus of Intellectual Privacy and Copyright
Alex Cameron, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Copyright Contraband
Eddan Katz, Information Society Project, Yale Law School

Privacy and Identity: Technologies of identification and shifting boundaries, autonomy, and public-private tensions in a digital world
Lorraine Kisselburgh, Media, Technology, and Society, Purdue University

Should libraries continue their transition to RFID tags in circulating items, considering governmental interest (à la the US Patriot Act) in patron records?
Olivia Nellums, Library & Information Science, Syracuse University
4:00p – 4:30p Break
4:30p – 6:15p Student Panel: Identity and the State
Before the law — Questioning Kafka in the Face of E-Government
Christoph Engemann, Graduate School of Social Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany

Our border is not your border: An analysis of the UK’s e-Border system
Mathew Kabatoff, BIOS Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science

Panopticism vis-à- vis criminal records: some socio-legal implications
Verónica Piñero, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Is There a Place for MySpace?: The Admissibility of Social Web site Content Under the Federal Rules of Evidence
Stacey Schesser, Boalt Hall School of Law, UC-Berkeley

Wherever You Go, There you Are
Anne Uteck, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
6:30p – 8:30p Reception
Saturday, September 30  
9:00a – 9:30a Light breakfast
9:30a – 10:45a Student Panel: Identity Construction
Fitting identities into preset boxes: reflections on the case of medical records
Valentina Lichtner, Centre for HCI Design, City University, London

The rewards of identity: Pursuing and targeting consumer surveillance
Jason Pridmore, Sociology, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada

Space 2 B me: A thesis on teen identity construction in instant messenger
Evelyn Grooten, New Media and Digital Culture, Utrecht University, Netherlands
10:45a – 11:15a Break
11:15a – 12:30p Student Panel: Social Networks
The Cost of (Anti-)Social Networks: Identity, Agency and Neo-Luddites
Ryan Bigge, Communication and Culture, York/Ryerson University, Toronto

Writing Friendship Into Being: Group Identity in MySpace
danah boyd, School of Information, University of California – Berkeley

Identity within Social Networks: The Creation of
Megan MacMurray, Nanna Halinen, Catherine Colman, Jungmin Oh and Yonatan Kelib, Interactive Telecommunications Program, NYU
12:30p – 1:00p Demonstration: TrackMeNot
Helen Nissenbaum & Michael Zimmer
1:00p – 2:00p Lunch
2:00p – 2:30p Keynote: The Emerging Age of Who
Dick Hardt, Founder & CEO, Sxip Identity
2:30p – 4:00p Student Panel: Identity Management
Managing Identities and Moral Identification
Noemi Manders-Huits, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

Selling Your Self: Examining the Ethics of Identity 2.0
Alice Marwick, Culture & Communication, NYU

Toward an Archival Approach to Digital Identity Management
Fred Stutzman, Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina

Contents Index

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Identity and Identification in a Networked World by Tim Schneider and Michael Zimmer
First Monday, volume 11, number 12 (December 2006),