During an interview last year, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, stated that:
You have one identity. […] The days of you having a different image for your co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly. […] Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.
Luigi Pirandello, an Italian novelist and playwright of last century, would have had a different opinion. His 1925 classic novel Uno, Nessuno, Centomila (“One, No One and One Hundred Thousand”) recounts the tragedy of Vitangelo Moscarda, a man who struggles to reclaim a coherent and unitary identity for himself upon realizing that he inhabits one hundred thousand identities: one identity for each one of his 100,000 acquaintances. In order to “see clearly and be truly himself”, Moscarda embarks on a series of carefully crafted social experiments with his own identity.
What would Moscarda’s identity tragedy look like if he had a Facebook account?
This week I am presenting/performing an abridged version of a working paper I coauthored with Spencer Wolff and Karen Van Godtsenhoven titled One, None and One Hundred Thousand Proﬁles: Re-imagining the Pirandellian Identity Dilemma in the Era of Online Social Networks. In the article, we transplant Moscarda’s identity play from its ofﬂine setting (a small town in Northern Italy at the beginning of last century) to the contemporary arena of online social networks, imagining how Moscarda would go about defending the integrity of his selfhood in the face of the discountenancing inﬂuences of the online world.
The preprint of the article is available on arXiv and the published version on First Monday. The presentation/performance is part of a Symposium for the Dynamics of the Internet and Society hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford in September 2011.