Some notes on Identity and Identification

Here are some excerpts from the identity article that I mentioned yesterday, in case you find it useful for your work. For context, I should say that, at the time, I was working on my PhD investigating money laundering detection systems, and that I wrote an opinion piece about identify fraud detection systems.


The term ‘identity’ refers to a set of attributes that define a person.


A distinction is made between the ‘I’ (the perspective accessible only by the individual self) and the ‘Me’ (referring to the social attributes). The ‘Me’ can be further divided into an implicit and an explicit component, the former referring to how a person perceives herself and the later referring to how this same person is perceived and represented by others. That is, identity is composed of a living person (the ‘I’) and her relation to the external environment (the ‘explicit me’), the two being modulated by the (un)conscious perceptions a person has of herself (the ‘implicit me’).


So, we can say that identify has a private and a public layer, and that it is context dependent.



The term identification refers to the process of representing someone’s identity. It is limited to the ‘explicit me’.


There are many possible sources of identity information. Some are permanent such as one’s DNA, and some temporary, such as one’s employment status. Additionally, the attributes used to identify someone in a given context, say someone’s legal identity, may be utterly irrelevant in another context, such as someone’s biological identity. Someone’s financial transactions are irrelevant for the purpose of establishing the biological identity of a person, but may be critical in establishing that same person’s criminal identity.



Identification plays a crucial role in social life. It mediates access – to a building, to a social benefit, to privileged information… And it allows the monitoring of access to, and use of, resources. As a result, failures in identification carry risks for the person being identified, as well as the person or entity that seeks the identification.


Reliable identification must possess the following characteristics:

  • Refer to attributes that are relevant for the context – e.g., psychometric tests may be a better predictor of a person’s ability to cope under pressure than, for instance, that person’s self-assessment
  • Acknowledge that the attributes will not represent the whole of the person’s identity – the identification will only represent a subset of the person’s explicit ‘me’
  • Rely on explicit attributes – Implicit identification processes are charged with social and technical biases
  • Use artefacts that are difficult to falsify – e.g., someone’s professional skills are more reliably assessed by a test or that person’s known past professional successes (if in a relevant area) than by an entry in the person’s CV.


For a more elaborate distinction between the terms identity and identification see the report “Identity management systems: identification and comparison study” available at

Of tea and serendipity

FullSizeRenderToday, over tea, I was talking with someone about how the way that others see us can be so different from how we see ourselves. The focus of the conversation was national identity, and what place we call ‘home’.
That conversation reminded me of an article that I wrote nearly 10 years ago, where I discussed the concept of identity, and reviewed mechanisms of identification. Out of curiosity, I decided to re-read that article. First, I cringed at the writing style – so elaborate and, yet, so clumsy. But when I got over the style issues I, actually, saw that what I was talking about in that paper is extremely relevant (and helpful) for something that I have been working on for some time now… and that I have been struggling with.

There you go. I have been struggling with this particular piece of work for about a year. And, eventually, the clue to the answer came in the form of a conversation, over tea, about anything but work.

It was a delightful stroke of serendipity.

And it was a delightful reminder of the value of slowing down and connecting with other human beings.

October round-up

This month I did not manage to finish (and submit) a journal article; I learned that I was not shortlisted for a fellowship that I had applied for, and my inbox has practically exploded. But, it wasn’t all bad news. These are some of the highlights from October.


I may have failed to be shortlisted for the fellowship, but I managed to secure a travel grant to present a paper at a conference in the US, next year. So, October brought some good news on this front.

The other good news is that Sarah Quinton, Thom Oliver and I concluded stage one of data collection for our Digital Citizenship project, and the recordings from the interviews are now being transcribed.

At the start of the month, I also spent some time analysing student performance data, for a small project I am working on.


As mentioned, I failed to finish and submit a journal article, but… I am nearly there. I have also been reviewing and editing chapters for a book that I am working on.

I am very happy about the writing group, and chuffed with the publication of the book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’.


I have been busy teaching a market insight and consumer behaviour module to our MScIMG_6144 Marketing students. It’s hard word but great fun because there are so many interesting things to go over, and great examples to refer to. Plus, we have been having some amazing guest speakers, both in the class and via skype.

In addition to my regular teaching, I did a session for a colleagues’ class on Sentiment Analysis.

Simulation 2014At the end of the month, my colleague Neil Brooks and I took a team of students for lunch, as a reward for doing so well in the Marketing Simulation exercise. It was really nice to celebrate the students’ success and talk with them about something other than module content or course work.


It is not easy to get published in a top academic journal, in general, and it is particularly difficult to do so with qualitative research. One of the challenges is that it’s very difficult to present the findings from your study in a clear and convincing manner. So, this month, I spent some time studying the structure of successful qualitative papers – that is, studying how papers that got published in top academic journals even though they were based on qualitative research develop an argument, present the data, and communicate the key findings (e.g., how they use matrices to summarise the findings).

What were October’s highlights for you?

New book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’

Today is the day. It’s the launch of the book ‘Social Media in Social Research: Blogs on Blurring the Boundaries’, to which I contributed a chapter on using social media for qualitative research.

The book was curated by Kandy Woodfield and is original in that she invited a broad range of social research experts to contribute a blog post each on various methodological issues of using social media for research. What started with a tweet is now a book with 53 chapters, considering issues as broad as scoping your study, to the dark side of using social media in social research. The chapters are short and written in a conversational style… just like a blog post.

I contributed a chapter on ‘Issues to consider when using social media to collect qualitative data’. In this chapter, I identify how the characteristics of social media platforms impact on research design, the type and quality of the data collected, and the approach to data analysis and reporting.

Book of Blogs Canhoto


UPDATE: And on the same day that it was published, the book was #1 methodology book bestseller :-)

Post for my UCM students – the remaining slides

We had a fantastic session today, starting with Mark W Schaefer calling in from NY, and sharing fabulous insight with us about influence in the current business environment.


We also had a lively discussion about social networks (actual ones, as well as online ones) and how they influence our behaviour.

The downside is that we ran out of time and were unable to cover all materials. After the end of the session, I created a film for the class about the remaining topics. Unfortunately, the file is too big to post in our virtual learning environment and, so, I decided to share it here, instead. For those not associated with the UCM module, this will not make sense to you – apologies. For the UCM students: please leave your questions and comments here or on Moodle, including your summary of the session.

Advice for creating short video presentations?

I was searching for some materials for my lecture, and came across the video below, summarising an academic journal article that I use in my teaching, and which I blogged about here.

I really, really liked this video. The camera follows a woman walking in a busy high street, while a female voice-over talks about how bloggers influence her shopping decisions. Now and then, text appears on the screen to define a technical term (e.g., para-social interaction) or to capture the implication of what is being said (e.g., that the impact of a blogger’s message on the reader’s shopping behaviour is moderated by credibility).

It is a relatively simple video, but it is such an effective way of communicating research. On the one hand, they video is richer and more engaging than a slide presentation, or even videos based on slide presentations, which is all that I have managed to produce so far. On the other hand, it looks easier to create than an animated movie (like this one about Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion).

I wonder how difficult (and expensive!) it is to create a short video like this one. Do you have experience of creating short videos? What is your advice?

Counting the days until January

I am not one to wish away time but, boy, I am sooo looking forward to January!!!

The reason I am looking forward to 2015 is that I have some study leave scheduled for the first part of the year. A sabbatical.

According to this dictionary, sabbatical is an “extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.”

Contrary to what is suggested by this definition, however, for me (and others in academia) the sabbatical will not be a period of rest. On the contrary, it will be a period to focus on tasks that require a prolonged intellectual effort. Professor Les Back’s recent series of podcasts entitled “Postcards from a sabbatical”, available here, provide a really interesting insight into the practical and psychological aspects of the academic sabbatical.

In my case, I was granted the leave so that I can conclude a number of writing projects that I have been working on. In addition, during this period, I will work on bid for a research grant, I will get training in quantitative data analysis, and I will rethink the role of technology in (my) teaching. It’s very far from a rest, wouldn’t you agree?

And this is all T-66 days away, but who is counting?!

If you could take some time away from your daily routine, what would you work on? What skills would you develop?