...in 70 140 character chunks.
This article outlines key features of online identity and details a personal experience creating an online identity of a different gender.
Considering the subject of this course, I'll experiment being cohesive & expressive within the 140 character constraints of a Tweet or SMS.
Account and password combinations are the cornerstone of identity in the read/write internet.
It's not long after starting to use the internet you will encounter a website requiring you to register an account with an email account.
Many websites lock down access to features which allow you to add/edit content without creating an account with them.
An email account is your online id card/passport. It provides a central identification point from which you can create other identities.
An email account is usually the only sure means a website can communicate with you external to their own communication systems, if any.
This is safe under the assumption: only you and people you authorise, have the account + password combination to access your emails.
Why do sites want users identity before you can participate?
● Statistics Gathering
Knowing more about their users allows websites to provide better service or to send them (un)solicited information.
● Prevent Internal Identity Fraud
One account per pseudonym & per email address. This only negates fraud within the system though.
Positive activities are encouraged if reputation or other rewards can be gained, as is explained here: 
A practical example is Q/A website http://stackoverflow.com which makes use of quantitative 'rep' to grant additional features to users.
Malicious activities may be deterred (not prevented) if users' actions are directly linked to a user's email accounts. 
There have been cases where this has been used to reprimand users: http://tinurl.com/2btnu See the entry below 'no more tears'. Warning NSFW.
● Barrier of Entry
User investment deters thoughtless participation. The negative effect is restricting use by some legitimate human users. 
Registration processes should prevent access by simple spambots. Adding additional measures such as captcha can thwart most spambots.
You DO create unique passwords for every site, right?
As users increasingly utilise more online accounts, either recall of usernames and passwords becomes an issue, or security becomes an issue.
Tools are becoming available to reduce barrier of entry and memory load issues by unifying online identity. Many sites, one login.
EG Blogger allows login with a Google account, flickr with your YahooID. Up-and-coming OpenID is similar, but not tied to a specific vendor.
Unified online identity is interesting: until now, a user's activities and identity couldn't be tracked reliably across websites.
Whether this ability will have an overall positive or negative effect for users will be seen when these services gain higher adoption rates.
On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.
This Peter Steiner cartoon was published in The New Yorker, June 5 1993: http://is.gd/qkqD
The inherent anonymity in technology-assisted communication allows us to invent identities to present to our peers, across many communities.
Unlike real life, online registration usually requires very little, if any, background or fact checking, unless of course, money is involved.
The internet gives every user absolute freedom to create identities that conflict with our 'in real life' (IRL) identity.
This could be likened to the manner in which comedian Barry Humphries plays the contrasting personae of 'Dame Edna' and 'Sir Les Patterson'.
The relative anonymity and ease of creation/destruction of online identities is one of the major draw cards of online communication. 
By creating a number of corresponding online accounts and media, I created a convincing alternative online identity for myself.
“You play video games, you make dance music and you're hot?”
“I also drink beer”
“Omg I love you”
(Paraphrased from a real online chat)
In the summer-break of 2004, I saw little of my flatmates or my friends, so I longed for social interaction and some competitive violence.
Enter Soldier of Fortune and Counter-Strike. These games provided much of the competitive violence, but too little social interaction.
I was quite talkative within games, trying to make conversation with my fellow male gamers but none were particularly receptive.
To encourage interaction I simply changed my name within the game to that of my current girlfriend Amanda, the beginning of my new identity.
I was simply me, but people perceived me as a girl. “Amanda” was a friendly, easygoing musician who drank beer and played video games.
This persona came quite naturally: aside for a few alterations to make me believable, I didn't pretend to change my gender, just my sex. 
Initially there was some doubt about my sex, but I negotiated to have real Amanda speak on my behalf on Ventrillo, a VOIP system for gamers.
Upon hearing that “Amanda” had a female voice, even the most sceptical were convinced. I wasn't the first player to make such false claims.
The effort I went to being convincing was extensive. I evolved the identity for over a year, actively using email & social network accounts.
This 'female gamer' identity opened many gaming doors for me. For the first time ever I was invited to join clans, play in tournaments, etc.
Relationship of False Pretense
Through “Amanda” I developed close friendships with many gamers. We exchanged original music, chatted and battled. Though it was not normal.
I just thought of them as friends, but the regular suggestive, rude comments about removing my garments and taking photos was disconcerting.
The rude comments got me pondering, how do women tolerate this onslaught of pickup lines and whether any self-respecting woman is convinced.
“Amanda” also made close female friends too. Chatting with them over MSN, I noticed: girls do not speak to girls the way they speak to guys.
This might be obvious to some, but it was real eye-opener, experiencing this from a female perspective. No judgement or defensive reactions.
If the conversation's premise is “trialling you as a potential partner”, conversation can be less like communication and more like a battle.
This experience is a good example of the uneasiness that uncertainty & sexual tension creates in many cross-gender relationships. 
Meeting new people occurs regularly online, so this tension is more prevalent, as there's the constant looming thought: “Is he/she the one?”
Eventually, playing as “Amanda” became a natural thing to do. I would forget I was not different, just a guy playing a game with other guys.
When another girl logged in, I would be relieved: “Great, another girl playing online.” only to realise “Hang on, what am I thinking?”
It became too strange one day when I unthinkingly gave my number to a guy so we could get beer someday. “Hang on, what if he calls?” He did.
Only after a confusing conversation to an unknown caller, I realised what happened. I was busted and “Amanda” disappeared completely.
Reflecting on the experience, the draw-card was having a reputation. Taking on a female identity instantly made me stand out from the crowd.
I stopped playing those games, it just wasn't the same experience starting anew under a fresh nickname, with no reputation.
This article demonstrates how simple it is to create and live a fairly complex social life, through a completely fabricated online identity.
It was an interesting social experiment, raising some questions which could be researched further:
How much do we take for granted that the people we meet online and in real life, really are who they say they are?
How much evidence do people need to provide before we believe, especially when we have no reason to doubt their claims.
In real life people can detect cues, like timbre of voice, to tell if you're lying, while creating a lie online is relatively unproblematic.
Immersing myself in an alternative identity allowed me to socialise from perspectives I would not normally be capable of experiencing.
I wonder if in the future, unifying services like OpenID will become more policed, forcing one to one relationships between user and person.
On communicating within the 140 character maximum: I feel I've been effective. It forced me to be concise with my ideas and avoid rambling.
It allows only for a regular sentence followed by a short sentence, or for one long sentence. Extraneous details had to be left out.
Working within these constraints has been a good exercise and I feel like my writing has improved because of it.
Tim Oxley 2009
 Grohol, J., “Anonymity and Online Community: Identity Matters”, A List Apart Apr. 4 2006
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/identitymatters/ (2 Apr. 2009)
 “Reputation Parent”- Yahoo! Design Pattern Library http://developer.yahoo.com/ypatterns/parent.php?pattern=reputation (2 Apr. 2009)
 Lessig, Lawrence “Code: Version 2.0” Basic Books, 35-36
 “What is the difference between sex and gender?” Monash University 11 Sept. 2006 http://www.med.monash.edu.au/gendermed/sexandgender.html (2 Apr. 2009)
 “On being 'Just Friends': The frequency and impact of sexual activity in cross-sex friendships” (2000) 226-227
Friday, April 3, 2009
...in 70 140 character chunks.