#OpenBadges for Holographic Identities

What is the definition of identity? There is the self-identity as narrative (Giddens), the identity-through-others (Ronald D. Laing). For Gilbert Simondon it is the result of the process of individuation, while for Edgar Morin our identity is holographic:

Moreover, in human beings as in other living creatures, the whole is present within the parts; every cell of a multicellular organism contains the totality of its genetic patrimony, and society inasmuch as a whole, is present within every individual in his language, knowledge, obligations, and standards. Just as each singular point of a hologram contains the totality of information of that which it represents, each singular cell, each singular individual contains hologrammatically the whole of which part and which is at the same time part of him.
Edgar Morin, Seven complex lessons in education for the future.

So, our identity is not just what makes us unique or identifiable, it also comprises what connects us to all other human beings, living creatures and the whole universe. Our identities are singular points in a continuum of identities. The interweaving of our identities is what makes the social fabric. Our identities are the threads of the social fabric. Like the elementary particles of the universe that are both waves and particles, our identities are both singular points and threads, localised and distributed, sovereign and interwoven. Another characteristic of identities is their ability to keep their integrity while being metastable in a milieu where they grow (c.f. individuation). 

This leads to the issue of collective identities and their relationship with individual identities. For example, what defines us as citizens? Danny Wildemeersch and Joke Vandenabeele in Issues of citizenship: coming-into-presence and preserving the difference, elicit two approaches to the definition of citizenship: 

  • citizenship-as-outcome, where “democratic citizenship is regarded as a status that is only reached after one has completed a particular developmental and educational trajectory. This places the young person in the awkward position of not yet being a citizen’ (Biesta 2006).” (ibid.)
  • citizenship-as-practice, “young people learn just as much about democracy and citizenship from the democratic and undemocratic experiences encountered in their day-to-day lives as from the official citizenship curriculum […] If young people’s everyday lifeworld does not present opportunities for real participation, then it doesn’t make much sense to organise citizenship classes designed to transform young people into active responsible citizens’ (Biesta 2006).”

From these two definitions it is easy to imagine two very different approaches to using Open Badges: one would be the creation of a pathway at the end of which one could eventually gain a citizen badge, while the other could be the unconditional attribution of citizen badge that could be nurtured through endorsement, the connection to other people, initiatives, achievements, etc. One is about collection, the other, connection, one conditional, the other unconditional, one is static the other dynamic, one is standardised, the other inventive and creative, one is defined for the citizens, the other with and by them.

These two definitions also have consequences on the type of digital infrastructure we need. The first definition, citizenship-as-outcome, is fully compatible with addressing identity as a set of attributes, like a series of Open Badges collected in a silo. The second definition needs more than a safe to hoard collections of attributes, something more holographic where by looking at one citizen one could see a whole society and its democracy in action . 

How does this concept of holographic identities, localised and distributed translate into the digital world?

Limits of identity models in the digital world Continue reading