What do you Call a “Data Self?”

On page 2 of his book, The Digital Person, Professor Daniel Solove posits that each individual is comprised of “an electronic collage of bits of information, a digital person composed in the collective computer networks of the world.” In other words, a person may now be defined as just a few pieces of data.

A few months ago I argued that each this electronic collage of information comprises a “Data Self”. It was my rather ungraceful attempt to articulate: “Hey! You know all that stuff’ out there? That’s not ‘stuff’ out ‘there:’ That’s you.” Me? “Yeah, YOU.”

Thanks to an enlightening discussion with my very astute friend, Greg Ceton, we were able to identify other possibilities, each of which has its own set of problems.

  • Data Self: Nobody thinks of themselves as a “Self.”
  • Digital Identity: Although most people now understand “Identity Theft,” nobody thinks of themselves as an “Identity.”
  • Digital Self: Same problem, and information doesn’t have to be digital
  • Information Self: Even more abstract than “Data Self.”
  • Digital Clone: Better, because Clone connotes both “me” and “other” simultaneously. However, it’s pretty sci-fi.
  • Digital Me/You: “You/Me” is better than “Self,” but the concept is still too abstract to immediately grasp.
  • Digital/Data Double: Although slightly easier to grasp, the “Double,” as in “stunt double” distances a person from their Data Double. After all, the whole purpose of having a stunt double is so that you don’t get hurt.
  • Digital Twin: Same strengths and weaknesses as above. A “twin” is not “you.”
  • Digital Alter-Ego: A subtle improvement, but still suffers from the problem of detachment.
  • Your Digital Copy: Ditto.
  • Shadow Self: The strength of this phrase is that you can never get rid of your shadow. But the analogy breaks down because 1. You always know exactly where your shadow is. 2. Your shadow can’t act on its own, and 3. Your shadow can’t harm or be harmed.
  • Identity Hostage: I think this hits both points- a data alter-ego whose actions affect you. But as @caparsons put it, the term is loaded and implies that the only thing a digital identity is good for is stealing.
  • I’ll add more as I think of them. I’d appreciate your thoughts here, or on Twitter.

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