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May 13, 2009

Identity in a Web 2.0 world?

In the flurry of Twitter comments about the Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World report yesterday I noticed the following tweet from Nicole Harris at the JISC:

#clex09 disappointed by lack of attention to identity issues in the report-despite it being included in the definition IDM hardly mentioned

I have to say that I share Nicole's disappointment.  Having now read thru the whole report I can find little reference to identity or identity management.  Identity doesn't appear in the index, nor in the list of critical issues.

This seems very odd to me.  The management of identity (in both a technology sense and a political/social sense) is one of the key aspects of the way that the social Web has evolved, witness the growth of OpenID, OAuth, Google OpenSocial and Friend Connent, Facebook Connect and the rest.  If the social Web is destined to have a growing influence on teaching and learning (and research) in HE then we have to understand what impact that has in terms of identity management.

There are two aspects to this.  I touched on the first yesterday, which is that understanding identity forms a critical part of digital literacy.  It therefore worries me that the report seems to focus more heavily on information literacy, a significantly narrower topic.  The second has to do with technology.

Let me give you a starter for 10... identity in a Web 2.0 world is not institution-centric, as manifest in the current UK Federation, nor is it based on the currently deployed education-specific identity and access management technologies.  Identity in a Web 2.0 world is user-centric - that means the user is in control.

Now... I should note two things.  Firstly, that Nicole and I might well have parted company in terms of our thinking at this point but I won't try to speak on her behalf and I don't know what lay behind her tweet yesterday.  Secondly, that user-centric might mean OpenID, but it might mean something else.  The important point is that learners (and staff) will come into institutions with an existing identity, they will increasingly expect to use that identity while they are there (particularly in their use of services 'outside' the institution) and that they will continue using it after they have left.  As a community, we therefore have to understand what impact that has on our provision of services and the way we support learning and research.  It's a shame that the report seems to have missed this point.


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Hi Andy - I think we are definitely in agreement on this. Digital literacy definitely affects both online presence and online reputation...and users have both before becoming affiliated to an institution, or a professional body, or any other organisation that might impact on presence and reputation online (i.e. JISC for me). I kind of toyed around with this a bit incoherently in this post: http://access.jiscinvolve.org/reputation-is-everything/. I think 'the user is in control' question is very interesting and valid - but sometimes the user is also out of control potentially because of poor digital literacy but also because of their affiliation (employment, other role) which does not allow them the freedom they want in their online persona.

"identity in a Web 2.0 world is not institution-centric"

Hear, Hear!

I do wish I heard MORE people say that...

Joss Winn has a nice follow-up to this post - The user is in control, http://joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2009/05/14/the-user-is-in-control/ - which echoes my thoughts very strongly and which refers to an Open Education Project Blueprint that he has been developing:


Does user have a control over his online identity? Well he has. Manage your online identity by creating a profile using Google . It will be one cohesive place for all your online profiles and it can get indexed by Google easily. Market your personal brand by verify your credentials using Free Crederity account.

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