Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Online Identities

Umlud has been a long-time online identity of mine, going way back to 1996. What is an online identity?

Well... not to let the cat out of the bag or anything, my name ain't really "Umlud", donchaknow. Rather, "Umlud" is the moniker/pseudonym/pen name I use as a social identity in networks to which I belong. It also happens to be my most used online identity, but I have five or six more of them.

With "Umlud" as my online identity, it is impossible (or difficult) for another person to actually "know" who I am in real life, and I'm free to re-define my personal identity in a manner that I see fit. Of course, if I wish for my "Umlud" ID to become established, I will slowly have to adjust to certain "Umludian" characteristics which may closely mimic my own real-life characteristics (and for me, this is an easier thing to do, rather than building up a different personality for my most-used online identity).

Why don't I use my own name as my online ID? Well, for many reasons. However, the main reason is that, like some people who prefer to write under a pseudonym, I (the "real me") feel that the use of a different online ID makes it easier to write some posts, since it isn't the "real me" that is writing it. A little part of me thinks that if I had a "John Smith"-like name, then I would possibly be less likely to use a pseudonym, since a commonly held name is similar to having innate anonymity.

So who cares about this whole thing about online identities, anyway? Well, about a year ago, I was thinking about researching some issues surrounding the use (misuse, and security issues) of using online identities as a graduate student instructor or faculty member at a university. At the University of Michigan, everyone is assigned (with some personal input) a choice of an online identity - called a uniqname - that will be used minimally for logging on to university systems.

Of course, with some people, these uniqnames do become a second identity. This merely adds layers to the use of your online ID, security of your online ID, and possible repercussions (in academia) of the [perceived] mis-use of your university-bestowed online ID (or at least repercussions due to things you might do/say whilst using your university-bestowed online ID). The thing that I did, though, was to divorce what is written here from what I do with my UM-bestowed uniqname.

Next I will cogitate upon some issues of online ID security that university people (specifically graduate student instructors and faculty) will need to be cognizant. Any suggestions by you, the readers, will be helpful. (Cheers!)

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