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D11.1: Collection of Topics and Clusters of Mobility and Identity – Towards a Taxonomy of Mobility and Identity

The Concept of Identity  Title:
 The concepts of ‘mobility’ , ‘mobile’ and ‘locational information’


Mobile Identity

The definition of the concept of mobile identity used in FIDIS deliverable ‘3.3: Study on mobile identity management’ provides us with a good starting point for further considerations in the domain. Citing the deliverable, a mobile identity can be defined as “a partial identity which is connected to the mobility of the subject itself, including location data. The mobile identity may be addressable by the mobile ID. (…) Furthermore the mobility of a subject may be observed by others including the deployment of tracking mechanisms with respect to biometric properties, e.g., by a comprehensive video surveillance.” (Müller et al., 2005).


It is important to keep in mind that in defining the central terms within a specific debate we may tacitly subscribe to a paradigm that implicates a whole set of decisions regarding the scope and nature of the domain we are investigating. For this reason the choice of paradigm is a decisive factor in research and especially in a multidisciplinary context such as FIDIS, it is important to reflect on the implications of our definitions. As Thomas Kuhn states paradigms are ‘frameworks with shared beliefs values, assumptions and techniques which shape observation of reality.’ (Kuhn, 1962). Indeed, the chosen paradigm guides the selective perceptions. It may be the case that this definition is informed by a technocratic paradigm that underlies the common use of terms like digital identity, virtual identity and mobile identity (Saärenpaä, 2002) (Roussos, Peterson, Patel, 2003). In formulating mobile identity as a partial identity, we may employ a functionalistic point of view, which assumes that our personal identity is just the aggregation of our social roles in various social contexts. However, we think that our (ipse) identity is more than classifications of roles and the corresponding attributes (Castells, 1997).Therefore, we must be careful that we do not ignore the link with the ipse identity type when speaking about mobile identity. According to Saarenpaä the classical definition of digital identity is ‘a negative definition’ towards the concept identity because ‘the idea that identity is a composite of identifying information is misleading’ (Saärenpaä, 2002, p. 20). Indeed, identifying people on the basis of data derived from their mobile devices only points to their idem identity and tends to ignore the effects onto the ipse identity. Without this differentiation, Saärenpaä has a point in referring to ‘a negative definition’.

There is support for the idea that the concept of mobile identity as originated from  deliverable D3.3 - should be seen as a mobile idem identity and not as a ipse identity type, while at the same time it is important to acknowledge the relations between the two types of identity.


Saarenpaä ‘s ‘digital identity’ 

To argue that the presented concept of mobile identity concerns mobile idem identity, we can refer to the definition of digital identity of Saarenpaä. To him digital identity is ‘a message which is received about a person through digital information either as such or in combination with other information of that person (characteristics, habits)’ (Saärenpaä, 2002, p. 20). He states that by receiving digital information about a person, you receive a message about this person, but you do not capture an identity in the sense of an ipse identity.


Cameron’s ‘digital identity’ and ‘digital subject’ 

Other interesting comments on the conceptualisation of a mobile idem identity can be found in the writings of Kim Cameron (Cameron, 2005).  Cameron distinguishes a ‘digital identity’ from a ‘digital subject’.  According to him, a digital identity is ‘a set of claims made by one digital subject about itself or another digital subject’ (Cameron, 2005, p. 4). He further defines a digital subject as ‘a person or thing represented or existing in the digital realm which is being described or dealt with’ (Cameron, 2005, p. 5). The definition permits to take the idea of ‘claims’ into consideration when dealing with mobile identity, because of the fact that the digital identity is expressed through a list of ‘attributes’ related to the digital subject. As attributes are things expressed in claims, ‘assertions need always be subject to doubt - not only doubt that they have been transmitted from the sender to the recipient intact, but also doubt that they are true, and doubt that they are even of relevance to the recipient.’ (Cameron, 2005, p. 5). So, Cameron points out that ‘digital identity’ is about making claims. It stresses that attributes which are ascribed to a digital subject can be contested.


Roussos et allii: ‘identification’ and ‘digital self’ 

A third resource that can contribute to an adjusted conceptualisation of mobile identity is found in the paper ‘Mobile Identity Management; an enacted view’ by Roussos et al. (Roussos, Peterson, Patel, 2003). The authors make a distinction between identification and the digital self. Whereas they claim identification to be ‘a static concept’, the concept of the digital self “is altogether more dynamic because it is arguably situated, negotiated and underpinned by trust” (Roussos, Peterson, Patel, 2003, p. 3). To Roussos et al, “Identification is a restricted concept that refers to some combination of facets by which an entity is recognised. Digital identification is a set of data that represent the personal information of an individual or an organisation.” (Roussos, Peterson, Patel, 2003, p. 5). The concept of the digital self of Roussos et al. can be seen as the outcome of the interplay of someone’s ipse identity and his various ‘digital’, ‘mobile’, or ‘virtual’ idem identities.


Based on these analyses, mobile idem identity can be understood as the result of categorisation of data derived from the use of mobile devices. Combining Saarenpaä and Cameron, we can say that the ‘messages’ result in ‘claims’ which means that a mobile identity can be seen as a contestable representation of the (digital) subject (in the sense of Cameron). As the idem identity is about a core representation and thus – in the sense of Roussos et al. - about identification rather than about the sense of the self, we could refine the definition of Work Package 3 as follows: A mobile identity in the sense of idem identity is a message or a set of (linked) messages derived from mobile computing devices, constituting claims about the mobility, the location or other characteristics which are used to represent a data subject. Time, location, personal characteristics, location based authentication and pseudonyms thus contribute to constitute one’s mobile (idem) identity.


As to the diachronic meaning of identity, we can say that it ‘is of paramount importance to establish a certain and continuous chain’ (Beller, Leerssen, 2001, p.1) between the data subject and its location. Indeed, the discourse of many mobile identity services, such as the Location Based Services industry, is “to capture once and for all the immediacy of the given self, to read off identity from location.” (Harper, 2002, p. 9) Location Based Service providers may pretend that the representation of a data subject through the use of mobile devices reflects the subject’s self, however mobile identity should rather be acknowledged as a (contestable) idem identity type.


While this analysis suggests that mobile identity must be seen as an idem identity type, it is also important to acknowledge that mobile computing devices can help people in their identity building and are thus part of the process of the ipse identity building. This is the case because these devices - with their capacity of managing communication and information – provide options for specific social interactions on an almost continuous scale (wherever, whenever, with whoever one chooses). In this sense, both the way you are presented through (the use of) mobile devices as well as the way others ‘see you’ and react to your messages, will influence your ‘outlook on life’ which may cause you to reshuffle the narrative of your life (introducing new contacts, whether private or professional; creating new preferences; being available to a much further extent when outside the reach of one’s non-mobile phone). On top of that, profiling techniques which use information from mobile devices can have implications on the ipse identity, especially when this is done on a continuous, real time, invisible manner.


According to FIDIS deliverable D3.3, both GSM and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) can capture the mobile identity of a person. For people communicating through their GSMs, their location need not be that important for the purpose of having a conversation (of course, location is at stake when one is in a location with no ‘reach’).  Having a GSM enhances communication from almost everywhere at almost any time, which enables the user to have social interactions. Through these social interactions, one is able to change one’s outlook on life. A CCTV is rather about the surveillance of a specific location, and only when you anticipate or know about the CCTV in an certain area, you can adjust your behaviour or appearance . This can have impact on your ipse identity as well.  So both mobile identities, that of a person using a GSM and that of a person being watched by CCTV could affect one’s ipse identity. However, CCTV management schemes seem to bear a greater risk to the reciprocity and the understanding principle. This is an important fact, as these principles are essential for the freedom to build one’s identity building in the ipse view.

After exploring the concepts ‘identity’ and ‘mobile identity’, we can now have a closer look into the concepts of ‘mobility’ and ‘mobile’. 


The Concept of Identity  fidis-wp11-del11.1.mobility_and_identity_03.sxw  The concepts of ‘mobility’ , ‘mobile’ and ‘locational information’
Denis Royer 20 / 58