SecureId :: context

context :: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs; environment, setting

In the physical world, context denotes a location as well as a set of circumstances. The location frequently dictates the types of people and activities that will occur, giving a fleshed-out meaning to the idea of context. Context is important because it gives an individual a sense of what types of behavior and language is appropriate.

When translating the idea of context to the digital realm, an initial approach would be to associate context with digital location (i.e. website, email, bboard or IM window). We might presume that changing websites signifies the same types of change in context as changing shops does in the physical world. Unfortunately, though, this is not the case.

In the digital world, information can be easily aggregated between different sites or forums. Not only do cookies allow sites to share information, but search engines help converge any output that one might have entered into a variety of different sites. Thus, what might appear to be appropriate at one site becomes inappropriate when the context shifts to the Internet as a whole.

One of the most obvious ways in which people manage context digitally is to maintain separate accounts that aren't associated with an individual's name. In this way, individuals can articulate separate personas without fearing the repercussions of them being linked. Unfortunately, such an approach is confusing and a hassle.

Digital context must be reconsidered. Location is simply a substitute for context because it conveys a great deal of meaning about the types of people and their activities. Since location is convergent online, it becomes meaningless as a way to make sense of who is accessing information that one is presenting. In order to give meaning to context, we must focus on the interactions. Who can get access to information and how can that determine the context?

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