"Augmentable, Believable, Improvable and Invisible": exploring identity management services

Augmentable, Believable, Improvable and Invisible is a project by Ina Xi (Art Center College of Design) that aims at reinventing social media and identity management services. What attracted my attention is that the project is based on the research of social media users' misleading behaviors online. It basically "speculates how we can design the social network if it were to afford human conditions such as lying and hiding, even when it's offline".

Ina's research was informed by an on-going discourse about social media users' virtual identity and its security resulted from the increasingly publicized personal data, and is greatly inspired by anecdotes and stories of using technologies to selectively hide from and lie to members in one's virtual network for varied social purposes, which also has an impact on one's real-world relationships", which had led to the summary of four main typographies of dishonest behaviors and their outcomes: "The 'Augmentable Me' is driven by the motivation of a better self-image in front of the chosen audience, and based on what one wants to gain out of being the way they choose.

The 'Believable Me' is a virtual identity associated with credible, authentic informations of a real person, regardless of whether what has been said or done is exactly what has happened. The 'Believable Me' is motivated by the intention of preserving privacy through actively spreading their private information to the world.

The 'Improvable Me' is the result of a built-up online reputation on top of a bad, or a damaged one.

The 'Invisible Me' is an anonymous identity due to a missing link or a mismatch between the virtual identity and the real person. The value of the Invisible Me is rewarding especially when the identity used to be more public, exposed or discussed."

These personas were then used to translates the observational research into a series of user experiences and scenarios described on her website. See for instance this design fiction which is very compelling:

"Peter always saw Lisa on the metro train home. He wanted to approach her but, instead of coming up and say hi, he tried to find her online. Putting together the observed characteristics of Lisa and pretending to be the guy Robert who said hi to her once on the train, Peter had Lisa accept him as a friend in the virtual network.

Carefully he created a desirable picture of himself through a falsified identity seen by Lisa alone, based on the algorithmic analysis of her online profile, activity history, group discussions and contact list. A discussion between her network friends has shown Peter an opportunity to meet Lisa in real life, making her reach out naturally to him.

With everything planned out and the handy tips of talking ready, Peter went to the bookstore where Lisa works part-timely as a store assistant. Everything happened as expected, except, however, the fact that Lisa was not there to talk to him, and neither does she work at the store.."

Why do I blog this? This project is close to what a student of mine is doing at the design school in Geneva (creating bots that interact on social networking sites). The idea of using this kind of research , material and narrative to explore the complexity of identity management services is interesting. I particularly like the emphasis on various sorts of interfaces in the video.