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October 13, 2003
faceted identity != multiple personas
At FooCamp, i realized that many people have been misreading my pleas for contextualization of identity presentation. I have regularly argued
that people facet their identity and present different aspects given the context. Although i've argued against the multiple personality approach that emerged in the 1980s' cyberculture research, my statements keep getting re-read as promoting multiple personas.
The easiest way to talk about how people facet their identity is by talking about dualisms. Unfortunately, this segmentation creates confusion. It also creates the assumption that people are always hiding one aspect of their identity from groups of people. Additionally, this approach seems to indicate that only a small fraction of the population reads context into their identity presentation.
In fact, we all read context into our presentation of self. The vocabulary choices you make are dependent on the audience you are speaking with. You speak to your child differently than you speak to your lover; you use different vocabulary when talking to someone with shared expertise than you do to someone whose doesn't know the terms common in your field. Depending on shared history, you provide a different level of background information. Depending on perceived shared interests, you magnify your favorite interests differently. We constantly alter what we are presenting depending on to whom and in what context. This is not about deception; this is about contextualization.
When i speak of faceting one's identity, i am not speaking of the ability to explicitly segment a manageable number of identity components; i'm talking about the ability to constantly adjust what is being presented, to whom, and in what context. Without this ability, people rely on the least common denominator. (This is why the majority of personal webpages out there read like a resume - the aspect of one's identity that one is most readily comfortable sharing with everyone.)
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