Online presence and the need to know

Ian Delaney’s post, 25/M/S or Maybe Not, introduced me to the Lift conference (and its website, which offers recorded talks in a TED-like fashion).

The post focused on a talk by Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist working for Intel. She discusses lying online, starting with her frustration when she couldn’t remember what date of birth she’d given to Flickr — meaning that she was locked out of her own account.

That remark alone hooked me, because I often manufacture dates of birth or ZIP codes. I realize that the Washington Post online site wants to have demographics; I just don’t see why they need to have mine. (For speedy retrieval, when a store asks my phone number, I give one from a job I left seven years ago.)

Here’s Bell’s talk:

I especially enjoyed Ian Delaney’s musing about transparency and online connection:

On Twitter, you are allegedly telling the world ‘what are you doing right now?’. But I did a little search on Twitter for ‘having a wank’ (sorry, mum) and the lack of any direct matches would seem to support Bell’s contention.

Bell points out (sensibly, I think) that technology changes far faster than people do. I read lots of opinions about technology transforming how we live and work; Bell reminds us that internal transformation can take a bit longer. As she says, deception and self-deception may be necessary parts of human survival.