[Dave Birch] The future trends consultancy Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve has predicted the formation of a whole new type of consumer identity over the next few years: the ‘New Networked Self’, based on technological advances that connect people in an unlimited, yet potentially intimate, way.  As a result of technologies such as internet-based social networks and consumer generated content, the company believes that consumers are increasingly turning away from the ego-driven self-aggrandizement that characterised the old era of hyper-consumption.  Instead, the New Networked Self is far more ecologically aware than its predecessor, with the consumer seeing himself or herself as a tiny-but-instrumental part of a much larger picture that’s constantly changing.  Personally, I think that the digital identity world should be listening to people from the brand world, because brand is one of the key missing ingredients in the digital identity mix.

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The report talks about how consumers are creating fully fleshed out virtual existences, dressing up their avatars, making friends and buying property in virtual worlds.  What caught my eye was when it goes on to ask that since people now have "multiple lives", why shouldn’t some of them live forever? While some people let their avatars fall into "online purgatory", many more leave behind specific instructions on how their virtual selves should proceed.  Services offering avatar surrogates flourish, and we will undoubtedly begin to distribute avatars to friends and family in our wills (your WoW gold hoard will naturally form part of your estate!).  I wrote a piece about this for The Guardian a couple of years ago, but at that time I was thinking about the practicalities of inheriting the BA Miles rather than the Level 57 Gnome Rogue.

I think we should also recognise that it is the technologies of disconnection that are crucial in realising these kind of dreams.  For a virtual self to live forever it has to be protected in some way, by hardware tokens or something.  Otherwise it will eventually degrade, as the password is phished, cracked, guessed or forgotten.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public.
[posted with ecto]

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