Thursday, 22 May 2008


Susan Greenfield worries about the impact of technology on our future identities in her article in this week's New Scientist magazine.

She defines three types of identity:
'Nobody' is the hedonistic, impulsive self.
'Anybody' is the collaborative spirit, working to serve the identity of the group.
'Somebody' is about personal achievement.

Greenfield's concern is that the 2D, screen based lives that we are all increasingly living will lead to the overdevelopment of the 'Nobody', as our imaginations are spoon-fed literal representations. I'm sure there are plenty of people queuing up to dispute many of Greenfield's arguments, but the expertise of a brain scientist should never be dismissed without some careful consideration.

She concludes the article with a message of hope for our future identities. She adds a fourth type of identity, the 'Eureka', which is defined by those 'Aha!' moments achieved during a creative process. She imagines a future in which a balanced individual flips between all four types of identity, with creativity central to our well-being.

The only real issue I have with this article is that it proposes a strategy for the future that has already happened. Design education consciously and deliberately strives to achieve a balance between the unrestricted and impulsive (Nobody), the collaborative teamworking, subject specific or audience satisfying (Anybody) and the personal achievement of the author/producer (Somebody). We glued all this together with many, many 'Aha!' moments (Eureka).

Our first Open Habitat pilot study ends tomorrow, and we are just beginning to digest the data, but it is clear that individual and collective identity is bound together with the creative process. Greenfield's identity work provides a useful framework for helping us to understanding the significance of creativity in relation to identity in virtual worlds.

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