Discover more from Identity 2.5
1. Identity in Society
Identity is really important. I mean REALLY important. In this newsletter, I describe Identity in a ‘societal sense’ and analyse how identity processes exist within society. And the answer is, of course, that Identity exists all over the place, that it is really important, and that at first glance, Identity is not great.
A warning – this analysis appears simplistic, and it is absolutely simple. But the underlying ideas and concepts are not just simple; they have a degree of profundity that needs to be understood if Identity is to be approached at the right level and treated with appropriate concern.
My analysis has two dimensions, what we do and who we interact with, followed by a comparison of Identity with other processes.
What people do
My first dimension is simply to define a series of activities that people do.
I have simply gone through all the places I can image myself or others being, and listed all the gerunds that spring to mind.
Identity plays a big part in many of these activities. Out of the house there is a need or an opportunity to identify ourselves when travelling, working, shopping, learning, and playing. No matter where we are, we frequently need to identify ourselves when managing and conversing. Identity is a widespread phenomenon.
I speculate that Identity is becoming and will become more widespread. Covid has demonstrated, hopefully temporarily, the need for people to identify themselves when their activities are in a public space. We can also see a societal tendency to digitize more of our daily lives which gives us the opportunity to identify ourselves more often, and also for others to impose an identity requirement on us. Examples are age verification at a supermarket and ‘know your customer’ processes at a lawyer’s office.
Who we interact with
My second dimension, entities, is a diverse list and shows that Identity processes interact with a wide variety of parties:
Identity is more than accessing our bank – we use it with all sorts of entities.
So Identity is really important
Give yourself a moment to consider the above two dimensions.
There is nothing radical in these dimensions, but they illuminate that the scope and variations within Identity are huge. So, Identity, used in many activities and with many entities, is fundamental to society. Identity really is important, and Identity is really important.
And Identity does not perform well
So, how well does this very important Identity do? To make this judgement I compare Identity to other core societal processes:
Society has very efficient ordering, fulfilment, and payment processes, and an Identity process that is average at best (I’ll get into the detail in a later newsletter). To illustrate the failings of Identity, I compare it to Payments (I capitalize both Identity and Payments when I am using the terms to mean the structures, industry, processes, and behaviours that we see coming under these general terms).
Payments is clearly successful and Payments is developed! Payments has existed for millennia and has evolved significantly in the last 50 years with the advent of various technology-supported payments methods such as cards, EMV chips, Eftpos, and overnight banking. And Payments is a global phenomenon with global standards and is supported by a banking industry.
In comparison, Identity seems to have bred a mishmash of high-variety methods and implementations. While there are many wannabee standards, in practice there are only a few operational standards supporting federated identity (0Auth etc), and there is no established Identity industry. Whichever way you look at it, Identity is underdeveloped compared to Payments.
It is a risk starting a series of newsletters with such a high-level view, but I did it because I want to stress that Identity is important for society and I wanted to establish early on that Identity is not doing so well just now.
In the next few newsletters I’ll establish frameworks to be able to analyse Identity in more detail, that is, to go beyond the high level-statements made in this newsletter.
All the best and thanks for reading so far.
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