User profiles are very common new media objects and can be found in operating systems and in online services and websites, chatrooms and forums . Their existence and growth has been in parallel with the transition from earlier web to the cloud. Social networking, Web2.0 and personalisation of information and services are based upon user profiles.
A User profile is supposed to digitaly represent one s identity , but it is forming and constructing the individual, particularly in the online world. As a media object it talks about identity curation and construction, power and control, and social hierarchies.As a collection of settings and structured metadata it documents the users identity while forming it through the selection from a list of choices and an algorythmic approach to the person. Moreover it provides a template for exercise of control between corporation and their user and among users themselves.
According to Microsoft," your user profile is a collection of settings that make the computer look and work the way you want it to. It contains your settings for desktop backgrounds, screen savers, pointer preferences, sound settings, and other features. User profiles ensure that your personal preferences are used whenever you log on to Windows. A user profile is different from a user account, which you use to log on to Windows. Each user account has at least one user profile associated with it."
According to Facebook, "Your profile, is your collection of the photos, stories and experiences that tell your story. Your profile also includes your Timeline". This definition can be found in their Glossary of Terms, where other interesting approaches can be found (what is a friend? Friends are people you connect and share with on Facebook and what is a list?Lists are an optional way to organize your friends on Facebook. )
Outside the corporate definition framework one can see that user profiles are attached to the concepts of customisation, authentication, identification and engage the individual in a process of terms and rules accepting. They are collections of settings and metadata associated with a specific user. And they differ from user accounts as a more public expression of them. However, to create a profile one must create an account, either in operating systems or in social networking services. Both accounts and profiles are subject to archiving from the providers and offer a great documentation of the individual which happens silmutaneously with the profile construction. As Facebooks puts its, the user profile is the collection that tells our story.
This process of building ones user profile beginns indeed with an account creation(registration ),accepting terms of services, and verification (via personal email),and later on moves to public profile construction, adjusting personalised settings and filling personal information in existing categories.
The design model of the user profile is the one of the database. Moreover this database driven formation of the online profile is happening within online structures that are themselves databases. For example, when I create an online profile in Facebook, what I do is filling in a database(my profile), my action is happening in a database (Facebook) which happens to exist in "another databse", the Internet. This documents simply the multiplicity of layers of databases that construct online space and its interfaces. Even the layers from user accounts to user profiles consist from different databases.
It seems that identity and database have a structural relationship in the world of user profiles. According to Mark Poster, because of its structure constitutes individuals by manipulating bits of information (quoted in Rushton, 2012) . This illustrates how an identity is formed within a user profile: through language , data entries and the relationships formed among data within the database. Manovich(1990), who talks about the antinarative nature of the web, refers to the database as a new way to structure our experience of ourselves and the world . He talks also about the projection of the ontology of computers to culture; the world is reduced to data structures and algorithms. Applying this idea to the self, we see the current state of production of the self dominated by data structures and algorithms. Sociologist Giddens(1991) has written about the reflexive project of the self, where the subject, within information overload and fragmentation has to be able create a coherent personal narrative, in order to reflect and understand itself. If we appropriate Manovich's thinking as a response to Giddens, we would encounter the antinarrative web and the databases as enemies of any self-reflection. Morevoer we could easily see that the story facebook claims that tells about us is problematic by definition. Morozov(2011)in his book Net delusion reffers to the movie The Lives of the others to result that the Internet police was able to just " see the subjects of surveillance reduced to one-dimensional, boring database entries". Still, to see these identities as abstract or one -dimensional implies maybe that you would consider this database profiles as means of representation. But are user profiles about representation?
User Profile is a linguistic construction that mediates a social construction: one;s identity/ies. But what identity is it mediating? By providing a very controled space and using controled vocabulary puts the individual in the position to enter data in the database that will regenerate the persons identity in the context of that system. This linguistic construction mediates at the same time the choices of the individual alltough they are template choices. The use of these choices, from food preferences to the choices that affect what kind of data we contribute, show that our user profiles mediate a controled curation of identity. It is this controlled curation that illustrates the technolibertarian utopias related to identity exploration and alternative identities. The internet as a tool for personal freedom, the multiple identities, Cheungs (2004) personal webpage as emancipatory the early work of Turkle, all these ideas collapsed particularly within the social networking era.
User profile assigns also that identity with specific regulations , duties and rights predetermined, therefore mediates power relations and control. These relationships are formed not only between the institution/corporation and the user but even among users themself. A feature of facebook, the report of a user, is examplary of that. Again this relationships can be traced as well within one's self: one of one;s identities controling another. Furthermore, power and control are based on the practise of one documenting him/herself while creating all this accounts and profiles. From a preselected range of choices, understandable from computers, one is documenting in a written record him self by self-classification and data entering.This process affects not only self-presentation but self-understanding as well.
It also mediates certain hierarchies, within society and within one 's self. In order to create a profile in a social network for example one has to be present through ones account in an operating system, lets say Windows. And reversed, ones online profiles lead back to ones profile in the operating system. Maintaining profiles in operating systems involves again hierachies, by distinguishing administrators by user and assigining specific regulations or rights to them. In the online context, the administrator of our profiles becomes the webservice providor, the corporation.
During her lectures What was the user, Olga Goriunova(2013) has spoken about the user as producer of himself. While this user is producing himself, the ecology of the medium is also produced she claims. Applying this thinking on user profiles online we find users constructing themselves by filling databases, while contributing to the never ending economy of online media, which is based on user's online performance. While we fill databases, they get bigger and bigger and new ways to analyse their data emerge. Giorgio Agamben, writes also : a subject is that which results from the relation and – so to speak- from the relentless fight between living beings and apparatuses(quoted in Dragona, 2014)
U Σ Ε Ρ Π Ρ Ο Φ Ι Λ Ε Σ IN SOCIAL NETWORKING
from nickname to name:
The history of chatrooms, forums and social networking sites proves that the "real" name of a user was and is not always needed in the formation of ones profile. Chatrooms for example have been requiring users to create profiles under nicknames asking for their email of course for "verification" reasons. There are plenty "web2.0" websites that require one to create a profile in order to construct his/her collections. A good example would be Pinterest. In their majority these webservices allow user to use a fictional name in their profile. Lately, Facebook and Google+ have been doing strategic movements related to user "real" names. Facebook and its strict policy which is under ongoing acceleration, with the latest to exclude drag-queens using stage names. Their alternative for all these users is to create a Fun page. The feedback of the users is an interesting point, while facebook provided an opportunity for users to report other users due to fake names. Tim Carmody(2011) writes about the "great Google+ profile purge", explaining how Google+ changed its "real name" policy, promise for more transparency and after some time lots of profiles that didnt obey just dissapeared. He calls it" Social media as a means to establishing identity". He continues that Google wants your real name because simply it has much more value in advertising, to cross relate your account to your buying behaviour.
portraits and profile pictures:
portrait is a very visual but also psychological concept that can be found in any kind of art and includes normally a face and its charakteristics. In modern society , portrait relates with photography as a means to understand , monitor and document the world and the individual. Gallison and Daston(2007) in their book Objectivity comment on the relation of the lense(from microscopes to cameras) with scientific objectivity, which they see a the suppression of some aspect of the self 7. Moreover, Evi Sambanikoy (2008) writes about the photographer as the reporter of the objectified subject. John Tagg(1988) in his book The Burden of Representation writes about thevery complex indexical nature of photography, opposes to the approach towars realism of Barthes and exposes instumental photography as a means of classification and control. He also talks about portrait as signs with purpose "both the description of an individual and the inscription of social identity", while it "is also a commodity". Our portraits in our user profiles are our profile pics. The selfie corresponds to the "democratisation" of the use of the camera by individuals and appears succesfull in motivating people document themselves online.Ludovico and Cirio(2013), in their article "facetofacebook:smiling in the eternal party" refer to the face as a major point of reference in the world, stronger even than names .They argue that facebook profiles are so effecting in representing real people through a a specifi element:the profile picture.9 They also connect profiles pictures with the technology of facial recognition and its possible use by authorities.
email= identification or identity:
E mail is used here in order to offer the company a "verification" that we are humans and that we consiously create our profile. It is also used in order to extract data about our emailing list and to force connectivity from the beginning of our profile life. Alltough there are different systems of verification, creating online profiles without email must beextremely rare and doesnt happen in the big online media.¨
a PASSword makes it perfektly clear that the access to the online self is through language codes. Is serves as the greatest application of personalisation with regards to privacy and security. Still, creating passwords online can always be surveilled by corporations which offer the whole environment of password creation. Passwords are also subject to computer viruses. So the privacy of the user can be hacked. If the password technology is not safe enough then what is in the end the reason of using it? Sam Williams (2002) , an author that wrote a book about the life of Richard Stallman, reffers to Stallmans "aversion to passwords and secrecy" from 1982 , which became so popular that "users outside the AI Laboratory were using his account as a stepping stone to the ARPAnet". His practise consequently broke MIT system's privacy and exposed it to individuals outside of it. The story continues with the administrators demanding him to stop his open practise while Stallman's response was to stop using the system due to his personal ethics. Stallmans views against privacy and password was rooted to his belief that the security regime shouldnt be supported.
The way we contribute in the production of ourselves within our user profiles is dominated by the two basic elements of computational society as Manovich sees them: data structures and algorithms. Both they are the key factors of how we structure ourselves online but also of how we receive information.
Facebook registration process is documented in the screenshots above, where we can observe that a technology of constructing the user is the data entry. This practise,as a librarianship of the self, clearly organisational and cybernetic, puts the user in the position to tag himself, his likes or his content, to allready existing lists. This lists are created together with the development of each page. For example, a University is creating its Facebook profile, and when I am filling information about my studies, through the tag of the Univeristy I am becoming an item in this specific collection of user profiles in the same university. Moreover, the university itself exists in a list of other universities and so on. The list as structuring of data redefines the relationship of my data/collections within other data/collections in the system. After completing my profile data entry I have provided sufficient information to the facebook algorithms that will provide me from now on with content and connections that suit me.
Moreover, there is a sort of loop between data entering and connectivity, that is importing conkats from mails, getting suggestions for friends, tagging etc. This steps of connectivity in the registration and profile creation process extend in the process of using the medium in every day life and are documented in the Timeline.
In the back end, Facebook is programmed and developed to dominate on every relationship among data. The list appears here again in the form of lists of attributes that are essential part of the user profile design. The facebook Graph API is a great example of linguistic structures that construct individuals as objects, part of lists and lists themelves. It seems that it is there were all the forces of forming individuals as mass objects occur. All this structures are of course the same for everyone and obviously limit even personal representation as Ben Grosser(2014) writes. His is supporting the idea that facebook is homogenising our identities with its design choices (for example the colour format cannot be change, neither the position of the elements) and limitations.
Evelyn Rupert (?) in her article "Not just another database;the transcations that enact yourg offenders" , writse about databases and management information systems in UK and Wales that want to identity how likely it is a young offender to reoffend. To her, first of all, governments have a great experience in working with databases but its the digital format that made them even usefull for authorities. She claims that these databases not only represent but enact a young offender as a multiple subject. Individuals are enacted in different identitieand made of multiple contexts. As childs, as mental patients, as student, employee and so on. The digital context is what can assemble and visualise all these identities to the core of a young offender.
Facebook and the systems Rupert is reffering to have a lot in common (images 1 and 2, comparing Ruperts diagramm with mine) in the way they deal with users: they (re)construct them, render them as objects that exist out of data and lists. As she writes about study, "the formatting and performative work of infrastructural and software coding systems is typically not addressed". This observation is present in social networking and Facebook clearly.The work beeing done is not discussed, the way we are constructed is hidden in a language iceberg where we deal only with what is over surface and get materialised by our actions. The decisions made in social networking platforms design reflect the ideology of the corporate capital and their methods. These decision are crucial for the production of the subject in the context of each system and define the re-construction of it.
User profiles are supposed to represent one in the digital and networked context. But they construct the person and not just represent it. As linguistic structures they produce a self that can be organised, remotely accessed and controlled. They algorithmicaly render subjects as objects by reconstructing them field by field through data entering in databases and manipulating the collections created. Moreover, by providing homogenised content to homogenised identities.
User profiles mediate the human becoming in expanded information societies. Restricted from protocolls, archived, strategically connected, unified even through multiplicity. Creating a coherent identity through fragments.
Current computational mode exists in a language iceberg form: users stay in touch with the over the surface content, while their self is procuded mainly under the surface (or more precisely with the interactions of both parts)
Databases recreate individuals not necessarily boring but easy to visualise and monitor, manipulate, archive and document.
Customisation, authentication, identification engage individuals with restrictions limitations and obligations to an ulimited template culture.
Geert Lovink wrote that there is not true self, luckily. But databases and profiles create a self where a self doesnt exist. A self out of information
Σ Ο Υ Ρ Ψ Ε Σ
-Tagg, John. The burden of representation. Univ. of Minesotta press , 1988
-Williams, Sam.Free as in Freedom: R. Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. O' Reilly, 2002
-Gallison and Daston. Objectivity. Zone books, 2007
-Sambanikou, Evi. Fotography, identity and the fragmented body. Aspects of representation, University of the Aegean, 2008
-Cirio and Ludowico, Face to facebook. Unlike us reader: social media monopolies and their alternatives. INC, 2013
-Charles Cheung.Identity Construction and Self-Presentation on Personal Homepages: Emancipatory Potentials and Reality Constraints. The Cybercultures Reader (2nd ed.).Routledge, 2007 .
-Giddens, Antony, Modernity and Self-Identity . Stanford University Press, 1991
-Rushton, Steve. Masters of reality. Sternberg press, 2012
-Morozov, Evgeny. Net delusion. Public affairs, 2011
-Dragona, Daphe. The endless game of the self with the mechanism. In Gkoutziouli K., Christofi M., Varela M. (Eds). Heath Bunting. How to build a New legal identity. A close look at Heath Bunting’s work and the workshop in Athens. Athens: Frown Publishing, 2014
-Carmody, Tim.Google+ Identity Crisis: What’s at Stake With Real Names and Privacy, Wired, 7/2011, available here: http://www.wired.com/2011/07/google-plus-user-names/
-Grosser, Ben.How the Technological Design of Facebook Homogenizes identity and limits personal representation.(2014) accesible here: http://bengrosser.com/wp-content/themes/grosser/files/GROSSER-facebook-identity.pdf
-Lovink, Geert.Eva Illouz, Facebook and the Crisis of the Multiple Self
-Manovich, Lev. Database as symbolic form, 1999, available here: http://www.mfj-online.org/journalPages/MFJ34/Manovich_Database_FrameSet.html
-User Profile, wikipedia, available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_profile
- What is your user profile, Microsoft, available here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/what-are-user-profiles
-User Profile, Facebook glossary of terms , available here: https://www.facebook.com/help/219443701509174/
-Goriunova, Olga. Keynote What was a user, 2013, available here: http://www.transmediale.de/content/bwpwap-users-keynote-with-olga-goriunova
-Evelyn Roopert. Not just another database:the transactions that enact young offender. Computational culture
facebook registration process: first we identify you and verify your existence
please also provide us your bday for a customized experience for your age
then decide if u are a man or a woman and decide this now
and what else- u cant become without agreeing with our terms
this bondage starts hardcore (gmail notification sound!)
we have established a cross platform collaboration for your convenience
connectivity rules you are not alone
while we categorise your geolocatιοn we also want to start building your cultural profile
pls beggin with the educational and academic aspects of you
connectivity didnt go away, dont worry
find your friends, they might feel lonely without u here
is connectivity obvious?
if not obvious enough we are offering you a change to see it by connecting to the world through your face in the world
history of cameras has always been a strong fight against surcveillance and face recognition for state purposes
the building of your profile is through tagging and assigning yourself to particular categories
foucaults places of enclosure become more open and more accesible , eh?
we all deserve one more coherent layer in our face recognition and connectivity within the network
and here we are u just have to classify yourself under these interest categories while our algorithm will provide you with what u like what u wanna see and what u are
in case of unstable identities this is the place to understand who u really are dont rely to yourself, its meaningless
what makes you what u are is your endless fight with our apparatus