In his home in Los Angeles, Robert is surfing the Internet on a Friday morning. As a production assistant for Paramount, he has worked long hours during the week and finally has a chance to relax and browse the web for fun.
He stumbles across a blog posting about a website that allows users to learn about how other people experience the web and he decides to check it out. Upon arriving at www.IdentityShare.net, Robert selects "new user" and is intrigued by the profile he has to fill out.
Most online profiles will ask for a name, but he is provided with a set of interesting categories and many options for each. Under "Profession" he lists "Film Production Assistant." He is interested to see a "country of origin" box and can enter "Mexico," and the "Ethnicity" box will let him type in anything he wants, offering suggestions based upon what other users have entered. He selects "done" and is taken to the main site.
Choosing "Links That Define Others," she arrives at a page that gives some filtering options. As she selects "American," the number of people shown decreases and the "Top Defining Links" change to reflect the new demographic. Selecting "Southern," further narrows the top defining links. She selects "People with links in common with me" to see who shows up. Finally she clicks on a random user from the list of people displayed.
The selected user is a Male, age 21, Chinese American, in Birmingham, Alabama, working as a waiter. The links that define him are a Crunch Fitness site, the New York Times Website, and the same image feed from NASA that Jasmine has. It intrigues her to think that this 21 year old Chinese Southern American looks at the same images as her every day. She thinks about how it is different than watching the same television show, since they both sought out this one website among millions. She clicks "back" on her browser to search some more.
Matt, a teacher in Arizona, is showing his high school class a website, called www.IdentityShare.com. He explains that the website is about sharing your personal attributes with strangers and seeing how they use the Internet on an individual scale. He fills out the profile projected in front of the class, making them all laugh when he enters “25” for his age. Changing it back to the appropriate “52”, Matt shows how a new description can be added to the hair category; in his case "none". Again the class laughs.
He explains how the site is a good way to show diversity and even similarity between strangers in the world. He clicks on "Follow a User" and is brought to a filtering page. He filters by region to show only people who are choosing to share their browsing experience in the Southwestern United States. Seven users are listed, so he tells the class that he'd like to select someone in the movie industry. He clicks on a "Film Production Assistant" in Los Angeles.
A frame opens up below the header and they can see the person in Los Angeles type in “www.google.com” and then type, "gifts ideas for anniversary," in the search box. The class watches as he reads through a Yahoo answers forum giving suggestions for gifts. Matt explains to the class that it seems funny because he was just searching for gifts online yesterday. The window changes to a Los Angeles Humane Society website and the user that they are following clicks on "Adopt a puppy." The class goes "awwww."
Caroline, a freshman at Ohio State University, majoring in Management, just signed up for www.IdentityShare.net and is browsing user profiles in the computer lab at school. She has narrowed down a particular search and selected the "Institutional Identity" for a 37 year old female living in New York City. She is then presented with the woman's profile next to many classifications that the woman would fall into for marketing or census purposes. Her age is translated into "Baby Busters or Generation Xers born between 1965 and 1980," and her ethnicity is translated from "Turkish-American" to "Other" based on the census categories. Several of her other profile attributes were torqued in a similar fashion. Caroline had never thought about how many identities were institutionally thrust upon an individual regardless of their appropriateness. She found it interesting that ideas and misconceptions could be set in stone within the institutions of our culture.
After leaving work Simon, a waiter, takes a shower and goes online. He checks out his news reader, looking at the new Mars pictures posted on the NASA feed, and then decides to log in to www.IdentityShare.net. He chooses to follow a self labeled "Successful Real Estate Broker" to try and get a hint about what makes him tick. Real Estate has always been a passion of Simon's, although he hasn't yet received his license.
The frame on the website shows the man searching for Flash Games and then NASCAR. That's something Simon didn't expect. He thought that he could glean some sense of what successful people did or looked at, but he realizes a bit more that everybody is different and one aspect of their personality doesn't completely define them.
Susan opens her laptop on a Saturday morning while she drinks her coffee. Ever since retiring she has done crosswords at the table, but today she is trying out a website that her daughter mentioned, www.IdentityShare.net. She has chosen to play the "Identity Game" for to see what it entails.
She clicks to start the game and she is presented with a person who has www.garfield.com listed as a site that defines them. The site asks her to guess what this persons profile information might be. She thinks about it for a minute and sets the age to 18. aShe erases that, thinking that Garfield isn't that popular anymore. She puts 32 under age. She clicks to follow the user for a while and watches as they browse to the Wikipedia page on Calculus. She changes the age to 22 and selects "undergraduate" in the "education" field. She also enters "male" in the sex field. After the person searches for hurricane information she chooses Florida as their location. Continuing in this manner for a while, Susan thinks she finally has it right as she clicks "show" beside the person’s hidden profile. The profile appears, showing a 67 year old female professor in Texas. After a chuckle about how wrong she was, she tries again.