The distinguishing characteristic of networks is that they contain no clear center and no clear outside boundaries. Within a network everything is potentially equidistant from everything else. Therefore the first thing the network economy reforms is our identity. The vital distinction between the self (us) and the nonself (them)–once exemplified by the fierce loyalty of the organization man in the industrial era–becomes less meaningful in a network economy. The only “inside” now is whether you are on the network or off.
I don’t like that it’s an all or nothing spectrum for identity – but to some extent, that’s what it is: you are either “of” a group, or you are “not”, there is no middle ground.
But with the ability in the digital era to self-identify with so many different social groups at the click of a button, I think it will be easy to belong to many networks, but not be deeply integrated or involved with many of them. What does that say about our identity, but that it may be shallow? or perhaps it’s that we shouldn’t really posit our understanding of ourselves and the portrayal of ourselves in the reflection of self via the networks but in other social groups. Just what those groups would be, I need to think more. But I think I’m moving towards the idea that only identifying who I am through online groups or texts or via the web is not a GOOD thing, that I want to exist in the “real” world, though increasingly, we are quantified and identified by our data and habits rather than by the individual WHO that we actually are.
Does that make any sense?
Shades of Gattaca in that paragraph.