My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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The Fakester Manifesto

[from a Friendster Bulletin Board]

Date: July 30, 2003 9:48 PM

Subject: The Fakester Manifesto

Message:
In light of recent developments, and in defense of our right to exist in the form we choose or assume, I hereby scribe this credo.

I. Identity is Provisional

Who we are is whom we choose to be at any given moment, depending on personality, whim, temperament, or subjective need. No other person or organization can abridge that right, as shape-shifting is inherent to human consciousness, and allows us to thrive and survive under greatly differing circumstances by becoming different people as need or desire arises. By assuming the mantle of the Other, it allows us, paradoxixcally, to complete ourselves. Every day is Halloween.

II. All Character is Archetypal, Thus Public

There is no aspect of every person�s personality that is not shared to some degree by all. Carl Jung called these archetypes, and recognized (and did Joseph Campbell and many others) that these traits are universal. Famous people and fictional characters merely magnify facets of our own personalities or fantasies, and these larger-than-life identities are created as much by society at large as by the famous individuals identified with them or the authors who utilized them. Such personalities are iconic and universal, and thus are created on a societal level by all of us. These public identities � very different and separate from private identities � belong to us all, and we are all free to use them and assume them as we wish. The price of fame or notoriety is that an identity, as a kind of public intellectual or emotional shorthand, becomes a form of public property and currency to be freely exchanged in our interactions and conversations. Art and media are forms of public discourse, and therefore are free and open forums for the unimpeded trading of these public identities.

III. Copyright is Irrelevant in the Digital Age

20th century notions of copyright are in reality bounded by 19th century upper-middle-class notions of property in which a thing that is �owned� cannot belong to more than one person at a time. Since this antiquated notion has often ruthlessly extended to human beings, such as slaves, women, and children, it�s only a short sideways step to imagine the ridiculous notion that identity is also property. This concept shortsightedly ignores the concept of community assets, and cannot easily wrap itself around non-material goods like ideas; how can one �own� the public perception of oneself? How the public perceives or internalizes the personality of a famous individual or fictional creation is not necessarily that person�s true character, it is instead a symbolic part of public cultural consciousness, and not �property� in the accepted sense of the word. It is important to note that ideas cannot be copyrighted � only manifestations of ideas � so even copyright law as originally envisioned takes into account the ephemerality and intangibility of concepts. The term �intellectual property� is a kind of logical dead-end, as ideas supposedly generated by individuals are in truth the result of the sum of their exposure to the total ideas of a civilization.

– “Roy Batty”


Followup: When i originally posted this, i sloppily titled it “Friendster Manifesto.” The author of this manifesto wrote me to request a correction, which i did happily. His reasoning is priceless, furthering my appreciation for his perspective on this issue:

“Using Friendster’s name in the title limits its scope, and is not what I had in mind at all. ‘Friendster’ refers to a specific website, ‘Fakester’ refers to an activity, an ideal, a creative esprit.”

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