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Re: Principles of Identity in Web Architecture

From: Patrick J. Hayes <phayes@ihmc.org>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2021 16:08:15 +0000
To: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
CC: "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <4037AFE5-AE65-4030-8771-02B053CA8334@ihmc.org>

David, I was going to send this in response, but remembered by vow to bow out of the debate. But I thought you might find it amusing, so here it is.



> On Jun 15, 2021, at 9:50 AM, David Booth <david@dbooth.org> wrote:
> This is a fight between two bald men over a comb, to quote Borges.
>  "identity" != "identity"
> It is obvious that Pat is using the word "identity" in a different sense than others.  Is there a better word that could be used instead?  Pat suggested "information", but that's clearly not specific enough.

Just for the record, I did not mean to say that "information" was a replacement term for "identity". A better alternative might be "role" or "social identity" (though that is potentially misleading as one's SS number identifies a person rather than an, um, identity) or maybe the sociologists have a term of art that could be co-opted? And a few clear examples would be handy. 

> If we don't find a better term, we may have to live with the fact that "identity" has different meanings in different contexts, and this difference should be acknowledged in any write-up about it.

Fine, provided that y'all come up with a crisp and reasonably tight – I won't say definition, but – an account, an explanation, of what y'all mean by it, to allow readers to immediately intuit the answers to simple questions. 

For example, one person may have several identities, I gather. Can a person use (have? display? enact?) more than one of them at once? Who or what controls which one is in use at any given moment? Does the person always know which one of them is in use? (Is this talk of "use" even appropriate?) Can a person engage in a transaction without an identity, just being the person that they are? (Or is this impossible by definition, because interactions always involve identities rather than people? Or because the person /is/ one of their identities, as when we say, "Speaking for myself,…") Can more than one person have the same identity? Can things other than people have them? Can an identity exist without a person, free-floating as it were? If information is given to one of them (does this even make sense?) then can the others now also access that information, or might there be things that one of them knows but the others don't? (Or is it wrong to even talk of identities knowing anything?) 

And so on. I genuinely have no idea what the proper answers are to questions like this. 


PS. I would gently remind the TAG that it has in the past gotten rather gnomic over the meaning of "identity" by declaring that a "resource" is "anything with an identity", a remarkably opaque declaration which led to a lot of discussion. Is that sense of "identity" the same as one of those being discussed here?

> David Booth
> On 6/14/21 11:22 PM, Patrick J. Hayes wrote:
>> Congratulations on mis-stating the textbook example.
>> Clark Kent = Superman
>> but
>> Lois Lane believes ( Clark Kent != Superman )
>> And, of course, she is /wrong/.
>> You see the problems you get into by not keeping a secure hold on the real notion of identity?
>> OK, I swear, no more from me on this topic.
>> Pat
>>> On Jun 14, 2021, at 4:58 PM, Roy T. Fielding <fielding@gbiv.com> wrote:
>>> Clark Kent != Superman
>>> ....Roy
>>> p.s. There are no principles higher than an art form can dispel.

Received on Tuesday, 15 June 2021 16:09:02 UTC

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