W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-credentials@w3.org > June 2017

Re: "Identity"

From: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2017 10:48:24 +0200
Message-Id: <2F5295F4-6042-44D7-8285-66A9C83C0F85@bblfish.net>
Cc: Credentials Community Group <public-credentials@w3.org>
To: Joe Andrieu <joe@joeandrieu.com>
What about just moving to logic, and using terms defined there.
There are actually a number of them:
  - sense/reference
  - definite description
  - reference de re/de dicto

These have now very well established formalizations.

One could then start by distinguishing direct and indirect identifiers, 
i.e. identifiers that refer to the entity via a definite description such
as the WebID one defined here https://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/webid/spec/identity/ <https://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/webid/spec/identity/>
or an indirect identifier such as the pubic keys. A Public Key is a direct identifier of 
course of a public key, but an indirect identifier of a person, via a relation such 
as cert:key for which there is an image here:
   https://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/webid/spec/tls/#the-webid-profile-document <https://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/webid/spec/tls/#the-webid-profile-document>

That image shows how a public key is tied directly to a global name (The WebID URL in this case), 
but it need not.

These concepts of definite description, sense and reference are applicable to all objects,
so at that level there can not really be any controversy particular to identifying agents,
rather than numbers, trees, or concepts.

As one does this one sees that there are any number of ways of creating definite descriptions
to identify an object, and that any object can have any number of names. 

My guess is that a lot of the tension is coming from the notion of there being one true identity,
whatever that means, whereas it is just a relation of a name to a thing.


> On 30 May 2017, at 19:40, Joe Andrieu <joe@joeandrieu.com> wrote:
> I started this note to send to Manu in particular, but realized it would be useful to share with the larger community. I chose not to cc the workgroup because cross-posting rarely leads to coherent conversations. Hopefully the community group is the right audience.
> This is a personal request.
> I appreciate the rathole we are trying to avoid by separating "Identity" with a capital "I" from technical conversations. I get it. A big part of my own contribution to the user-centric identity conversation and at RWoT is to shift how we talk about "Identity" because we usually do it so poorly. 
> The fact is, "identity" is the sexy hot button that leads the introduction and context at workshops like IIW and ID2020 and with topics like self-sovereign identity and SDG 16.9. In other words, "Identity" is exactly what so many conversations need to be about, especially so people like regulators, CEOs, bankers, and ambassadors can make better decisions about how identity is managed--whether online or off.  
> That's why I'm trying to fix how we talk about it. Because we can't have the disabling ratholes suck up attention and inflame unnecessary passions.  We got a lovely rant by Frederic Engel in the RWoT session I led on "functional identity". It was great. The French accent and his passion and the whole gestalt was truly endearing and compelling. It was perhaps the most appropriate response to my attempt to limit exactly those types of rants. The irony was not lost on me. Instead, it taught me that there is still a lot of work to do to somehow both avoid the distraction while assimilating the passion and perspective.
> Unfortunately, establishing "Identity" as something we can't talk about undermines the effort to shift that conversation. It's the Overton window. When we make Identity off-topic for conversation, we can't fix how we talk about it. When we dismiss "Identity" as a viable element of conversation, we deny an entire region of relevant discussion. I am betting that it isn't the actuality of identity that frustrates us, it is the rathole those conversations can become. 
> I argue the best way to avoid the rathole is to find the right way to talk about it. The right context. The right definitions. The right boundaries of scope.  Especially because whether we embrace it or fight it, verifiable claims are going to be used for identity. I'd like to face that head on rather than pretend it isn't going to happen.
> One thing that became clearer in the community call today is the motivation to avoid W3C hot buttons. Ok. I get that. It actually makes my point. When an organization like W3C is unable to have meaningful conversations about Identity, it is even more vital that we shift how those conversations unfold. I support minimizing "Identity" as a term where it doesn't clarify. There's a lot of that in the current docs. But I don't see wholesale exorcism as the right way to move the conversation forward either.
> In fact, I see *this* email as an important part of the conversation. We need to find a way to talk about Identity without the ratholes, rather than shut down all conversation about identity.
> So, my request is to please work with me to find a way to avoid the rathole without demonizing the term itself, for example, by putting it in "quotes" and adding caveats every time it is used. 
> My current focus is on framing the conversation it terms of how identity functions rather than what it means culturally, psychologically, politically, or metaphysically. I also distinguish "Identity" and "Digital Identity", the latter being a tool to facilitate the former. That may or may not work for the groups in this conversation, but I believe it is a promising direction.
> Thanks,
> -j
> --
> Joe Andrieu, PMP
> joe@joeandrieu.com <mailto:joe@joeandrieu.com>
> +1(805)705-8651
> http://blog.joeandrieu.com
Received on Thursday, 1 June 2017 08:49:01 UTC

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