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"Identity"

From: Joe Andrieu <joe@joeandrieu.com>
Date: Tue, 30 May 2017 10:40:02 -0700
Message-Id: <1496166002.14331.993132088.31B72282@webmail.messagingengine.com>
To: Credentials Community Group <public-credentials@w3.org>
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
+1(805)705-8651
http://blog.joeandrieu.com
Received on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 17:40:32 UTC

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