There is a lot to be said on the future of online reputation systems and additionally â€“ identity management. Howard Rheingold discusses these topics comprehensively in chapter five of Smart Mobs. Explaining, for example, eBayâ€™s public Feedback Forum, where buyers and sellers can comment on the quality of a transaction and contribute +1, 0, or -1 to the aggregate score of the reciprocating party. This system allows potential patrons to foreshadow the quality of a future transaction, and implies trust. The use of avatars or screen names to detach true-identity by a degree or more is what allows even the most privacy-conscious individuals to participate in this system.
This brought to my mind another interesting example: the reputation structure used by Prosper.com, a person-to-person micro-lending service. At Prosper individuals loan money to other individuals based on general institutional criteria, such as credit scores and homeownership, but also their profile and group affiliations. Here, it is advantageous to merge and share the details of your personal life with your identity on Prosper; including posting a picture, discussing past financial endeavors, and in some cases medical conditions, and the like.
What both of these examples have in common is the creation of trust based on identities and the narrative associated to that identity.
Similarly, most students have realized that their identities on Facebook and MySpace are subject to a comparable scrutiny by potential employers. Profiles and pictures give an inside look at the real life of a candidate. Now, how you fill-in the â€œabout meâ€ section is very important. I believe most millennials take it as healthy pressure to do the right thing, in general. After all, even if I don’t post those pictures of me acting belligerent, someone else might and they will probably tag my face to my name. This could be called transparency â€“ itâ€™s like everyone is running for political office.
Whatâ€™s the other side? The fear and pressure of being watched can lead people/kids to take on secondary identities; going by an alias, or many. Generally this is not bad. People do this indirectly in the real world all the time. However, I would theorize that being void of all pressure is not the best case. Especially for already repressed youth.
Conversely, applying the concept of transparency in the classroom, creating a social classroom, I believe, would be a move millennials could handle. If I knew my work could be seen by my peers I might want to do a better job; even if I don’t care what my teacher thinks, I probably care what my peers think.
Like our identity on eBay, we cultivate trust through our public dealings, through transparency, through a narrative. Some will choose to reveal all, good or bad, some will claim privacy, others may never catch on. I believe, like on Prosper, sharing, because it encourages responsibility and empathy, is the best option.