Identity Crisis


Within the 21st century, technologies have been fused permanently within our daily lives, making it near impossible to imagine a day without simple interaction. Most people use the internet to browse and buy, use their smartphones for maps and games, and within film, we immerse our minds into the story of the screen. When it comes to these technologies, as consumers, we are disregarding privacy, for personal enjoyment, while providing sources with dominance over our negligence. When it comes to the internet and these mentioned mediums, there is a willingness to give up control, as well as personal data for its function.Related image


As explained in We Are Data by John Cheney-Lippold, we are all network/technology users, calculated, surveighed and recognized by the data we subconsciously provide. Our identity is calculated and controlled by our own commitment to these personal interactions within networks. It’s important for users to understand that as an individual’s we are disregarded, but our interactions with these technologies, provides personal data that is monitored and constructed to shape our online identity. This identity dictates what type of information is presented to us and is used as a marketing tool for business.

As an example, one day I was scrolling through the web and came across a beautiful sapphire, teardrop ring, on sale. Out of pure curiosity and entertainment, I decided to click on the gem and be humored by a price I probably would never be able to afford. After I found the price, laughed (and cried) I continued on with my casual internet browse as if nothing happened. The problem was, that with that innocent, curious click, I datainstantly was identified as a woman looking for the next jewel to add to her collection. Every social media site I went on for the next month, I found myself staring at ads like Tiffany & Co’s “There Is Only One True Love” or Neil Lane’s “ Buy Her Forever”.  My one, click had entered me into a world of engagements and overpriced jewels, when in reality I really just enjoyed the humor of a ten thousand dollar rock. With ASR devices like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home we must question their control as well as how and who uses this data to construct its user’s consumeristic identity. It’s important to review and question this system so we can begin to stray away from a falsely constructed identity within a categorized lifestyle.

This past summer I studied the ASR device Alexa, transcribing and translating received data into categories that the device could fully deconstruct. When we talk about the privacy of our data, let me just reiterate there is none. Yes, to a extent, large corporations have “secure” sanctions for sensitive data, but all in all, it is and has always been accessed, listened to, and categorized. Intelligent device systems like Alexa process personal data without our recognition. This unsuspecting data is then handled by a team, and depending on it’s content, is sent to another team, so on and so forth. The cycle is endless and is in constant motion. Data within Alexa is broken apart and categorized by gender, nativity, age, all without verifiable data. Listening to soundwaves, commands and desires categorizes the user as certain type of consumer. With this continuously processed personalized data, Alexa and her team, provides information that allows human like growth within her own system, allowing her to comprehend and link individual users to certain products based on data that really can’t be verified.

“Data is more powerful in the presence of other data. It is an immutable law of 21st-century living, which in this case means that the most serious threat to each of us is the profile that can be created with the willing suspension of our agency.” – Shelly Palemer

As digital media expert Shelly Palmer put it, “Data is more powerful in the presence of other data. It is an immutable law of 21st-century living, which in this case means that the most serious threat to each of us is the profile that can be created with the willing suspension of our agency.” It is important that as users of these devices, we become aware of their power and find ways to break apart from their controlling system. We do this by recongnizing the data we subconsciously give away and by avoiding certain encounters. Identifying the power of devices and simple searches throughout the internet, will help us shape our own online identity, allowing a path for a more independant and controllable future.


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