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


Chapter 6: Example Applications

Based on theoretical considerations, i have articulated some of what i feel is necessary to design and construct applications intended to empower individuals, most notably through awareness and identity management. Yet, my approach is predominantly theoretical in nature, based on observation and experience. In order to test these ideas and reveal the problems that they unveil, i have helped design and develop two different prototypes.

Social Network Fragments is a visualization tool that reveals underlying social patterns, most notably the social networks that evolve as people interact with others online through email. By providing users with a visualization of their habits, Social Network Fragments offers a unique view of otherwise obfuscated data. In this way, the system offers a level of awareness that is not typically available. In an attempt to provide users with a tool for identity management, i designed and implemented a prototype of SecureId. This system attempts to provide users with a way of controlling and managing their presentation online, through the management of facets and the information one might provide through such facets of their identity.

In the following two chapters, i switch from my theoretical discussion to focus on the issues that arose in the process of designing and implementing these systems. In doing so, i critique my own theoretical approach by recognizing why these problems are far more complicated than i initially suspected. For each application, i discuss the theoretical ideas that i intended to tackle in addition to the overriding goal of providing awareness and identity management tools. Using this, i highlight the most crucial algorithms that the reader needs in order to understand what the application provides. I provide usage examples for each system through a set of screenshots and mockups intended to convey the output and interaction schema. Finally, i analyze the systems in reaction to their intended goal, providing critical responses to the actual results.

Both systems are simply prototypes, intended to explore these ideas and ground my theoretical ideas through practical experience. Thus, they are not provided as examples of ideal systems, but rather systems for in-depth critique and consideration. In effect, they are the critique of my theoretical ideas. In my struggles to design such systems, i convey why this problem must be more fully considered and why the theoretical notions conveyed in earlier chapters are only a framework for contemplation as sociable designers begin the process towards empowering users. Rather than conveying solutions, they provide fuel for future research.