May 23, 2008
In Social Psychology the concept of _Identity_ formation stresses how a subject is demarcated as an individual. Common Identity definers include geophysical locators via street, city, country and biological factors such as age, weight, and height. Consciousness contributes to Identity formation via assessments of an individual’s personality traits and corresponding _ego development_.
Identity formation is deemed beneficial via the mechanics of statistical marking and the achievable entrenching of a subject into a surrounding social milieu. Medical and psychopathological models frame the concept through a health dichotomy that positions dysfunctional identity as potentially Dissociative. This type of fragmented dissociation from a subject’s internalised concept of self is viewed as undesirable. Alternatively in synthetic environments a type of projected or distributed Identity is considered acceptable _and_ beneficial.
Most synthetic creches – whether they be gamer-pitched, environmental or social networking in orientation – form identities that emulate the ecological or topological. Instead of relying on preformed psychological or sociological architectures, MMOEs and virtual environments encourage deliberately fluctuating Identity construction. These identities, established through the use of avatars or profile creation, alter according to the foibles of specific platforms and interfaces [think: Seesmic, Facebook, Meez, ExitReality, or Vivaty]. A subject may have a multitude of profiles created across a wide distribution base. Each profile may consist of the creation of two-dimensional or three-dimensional projections such as multiple character creation in WoW. Individuals may also utilise programs that allow for cross-navigation of such profiles according to usage patterns. These staggered profiles create a type of _Socialphrenic_ functioning that eclipses solo-persona extensions. For example, a Facebook user may create a profile that constructs a user’s identity according to variables such as their name, age, education, employment and interests. However, a user is not restricted in terms of manipulating these answers to evoke an identity structure vastly removed from their primary geophysical housing. An illustration of this is a current ARG narrative strand that situates itself in two active “false” user profiles on _Twitter_ and _Facebook_. The fictionalised Identity associated with each profile encourages other traditional identity-defined users to interact and engage with it. Some of those users defined as reflecting a _true_ identity may be unaware of the fictionalised profiling involved.
Other identity intonations can be creatively interpreted via the employment of Gravatars or Profile picture selections. This selective presentation of visual Identity stamps are mirrored in channel adoptions appropriate to specific Synthaptic identities. Connected users display the slipperiness of identity markers when engaged within a synthetic environment; users may reference a fellow Synthetic by their character/avatar name even when interacting in phenomenologically-defined reality.
According to traditional psychological theory, these type of identity ecologies would represent a subtle splintering of a primary identity akin to Schizophrenia. In synthetic realities, they represent a user’s ability for comprehensive immersion and allow for seamless and aggregational engagement. There is room for an overlap of these constructions including the potentiality to learn extensively from these synthetic Identity formulations.
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