Faceted Id/entity:
Managing representation in a digital world

danah boyd
MIT Media Lab
Master's Thesis

Thesis document [pdf]
- Abstract
- Introduction
- Negotiating Identity in Social Interactions
- Reconsidering Social Interaction for the Digital Realm
- Self-Awareness in Social Interactions
- Digital Identity Management
- Example Applications
- Social Network Fragments: A Self-Awareness Application
- SecureId: An Identity Management Application
- Conclusion
- Bibliography

Related Projects
- Social Network Fragments
- SecureId

About the author



In this thesis, i articulate a theory of how and why individuals use context to convey only a facet of their identity in social interactions. Through this lens, i discuss current issues in digital identity management. In this discussion, i focus on the role of design in affecting an individual's ability to maintain control of personal representation and identity information. I argue that the architecture of current digital environments has altered our notions of context, motivating users to develop new mechanisms for managing their presentation. I take the stance that users should have the ability to control their digital identity for the same reasons that they seek to control their physical identity, most notably to present themselves in an appropriate manner in relation to the current situation.

From this perspective, i argue for a design approach that will aid sociable designers in developing human-centered technologies that allow for individual control over personal identity. First, i argue the need for mechanisms of self-awareness and discuss what forms of awareness users should have. In doing so, i analyze current approaches to awareness and critique my own work on Social Network Fragments, a visualization tool for revealing the structure of one's digital social network. Alongside self-awareness, i present the need for identity management and critique my work on SecureId, a prototype intended to give users control over their digital presentation by offering security through identity-based knowledge.

This thesis argues for empowering users through awareness and control, so that they may provide the level of regulation that is desirable. In doing so, i offer a novel approach to context and identity management in digital social interaction.