[Dave Birch] Forum friend Ioannis Maghiros is one of the authors of a new report from the European Commission called “D1gital Territ0ries – Towards the protection of public and private space in a digital and Ambient Intelligence environment” [EUR 22765 EN]. It is definitely worth taking a look at. It has several resonances with our models for exploring identity management and other identity-based propositions: the technologies of disconnection meme and the digital equivalent of barbed wire, the central role of the real/virtual bridge, the use of technology to inform the technology/surveillance balance and so on.

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The digital territories concept is an interesting one. I like it because it has the right connotations and conjures the right mental images. It rests on four concepts: bubbles, borders, markers and bridges.

  • The authors call the bubble “a dynamic personal info-sphere, or better data-sphere, since it basically ‘holds’ the person’s personal data”, and is used to set the borders, which you can think of a permeable information membranes. In this definition, the bubble ocncept encompasses all the interfaces, formats, rights and agreements etc. needed for the management of personal data and informational interactions. The size of the bubble may vary as a result of its information content, the form of interaction the individual wants to perform and the overall ‘trust’ assigned to the environment of the interaction. Continuing with the cell membrane analogy, the bubble has a two-way exchange with the environment, sometimes from the inside of the cell out to the environment and sometimes from the environment into the cell.
  • The second component of the digital territory, the border, is a seamless membrane that implements the policies of the bubble. Therefore, these borders are always under negotiation and they adapt to different situations and the other bubbles they come into contact with. They are not autonomous because the policies are controlled by the bubble; they thus change, decrease or increase, according to the ‘will’ of the bubble, and the boundaries that it wishes or is obliged to set. The cell membrane analogy holds, but bear in mind that a bubble in infospace can border an effectively infinite number of other bubbles. With the echoes of Reed’s Law in the background, one might suspect that the more general-purpose the membrane technology (and the easier it is to set policies and permissions using it) the more bubbles might arise and the overall power of the system will climb, because bubbles are subgroups.
  • The way of expressing and making boundaries visible is by setting markers (like a “Private Property — No Trespassing” sign). In digital space, these could be the log-in screens for accessing one’s personal computer or a ‘private’ tag on some files.
  • The bridge, the fourth component of a digital terrority, is linked to our concept of digital identity, as it provide the link between the physical and the virtual worlds. As they point out, as the distinction between real and virtual gets ever more fractal, the concept of the bridge will become increasingly important in relation to the identification of data space and the drawing of digital territory boundaries.

I’m going to think about this model some more, because I think it provides a useful focus for bringing some business and technical thinking together. In fact, I think I’ll try it out at a workshop tomorrow.

These 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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