Body, soul and identity in a new ambience


My current research is split up in two directions:
1. The development of virtual worlds and societies.
2. The development of virtual identities in the information technology, specially in the online environment.

First, I am supervising the research of the Dutch Electronic Platform, focussed to the public use of Second Life. In the first report (October, 2005) Second Life appears to be a large social experiment. Visitors form societies and make their own rules. They find their own ways to maintain their standards and values. There are, just as there are in real life, visitors who enjoy harassing others. Products are sold. Some objects can be copied at will; others are subject to copyright rules. All sorts of social and economic problems which manifest themselves in real life do so in Second Life as well.
Now a second research started, focussed to the upcoming participation of business companies in Second Life.

Secondly, as Adjunct Professor I support the mixed reality research at KAIST in bleeding edge multimedia country South Korea.

At last, but not least my research to the legal aspects of virtual identities.
This research at the Strathclyde University Lawschool is focused to the thesis "identity, law and behaviour in cyber world", a kind of integration of e-health and cyberbehavior. Are we still the same identity when chips are in our body? when our mind is living in the ambience of the cyberworld? in this case: unique identity and rights in the physical world versus multiple identity in the cyber world. The battle between human body oriented entity and multiple cyber oriented identities. More and more, people are using different identities in their transactions. For instance: when "sleepwalking" in cyber world and doing a weapon transaction as "James Bond"... what's happening when the company takes this serious and delivers the ordered weapons? When spending your last money in a virtual Libyan project? Or when using ... who is responsible when something goes wrong, e.g. a virus is spread out or an e-mail-receiver gets an fatal cardiac attack after reading that mail of a dead friend? What will happening when an implanted chip changes the individual's behavior, perhaps adapts the human's soul?

Multiple Identities

The youngest generations mostly know the lacks in the electronic systems, used for the digital communication, and use those hints and kinks for automatically ignoring the sender, or at least his/hers messages.
Now space and time have fallen away all traditional connections and identities are suppressed on the Internet, both the individual and the collective ones. New forms of anonymity, gender and identity switches are cultivated on the World Wide Web, thus superseding the idea of a global village. It was an adequate vision for the TV era, but is no longer suitable for the new network systems. The younger generation makes customised SIM cities. They mix the virtual and physical realities into a hybrid total experience.
Time determines your boundaries, opportunities, cost, and communication and is therefore a message, just like the medium. A message that is on time, too early or too late is a message in itself. In effect it means an essential expansion of Mc Luhan’s theory ‘the medium is the message ’. More and more human’s individual identity is copied to, sometimes replaced by micro-PC’s, like safeword-tools, smartcards, handsets, ande other micro-PC’s. De next generation micro-PC is your universal remote control, but also your individual identity card, driver's licence, cash card, credit card, smartcard, music player, mini-TV, library card, notebook and Internet-pc.

Apparently we find ourselves at the edge of science with a theme into which broader and more in-depth research should be carried out to gain more insight into the area of tension between (the behaviour of) man, technology and society, en the effects of communication technology, which has been changing at top speed in the past decades. The knowledge related to this technology is spread among specific interscientific communities, such as Human-Computer Interaction, Tele and Data communications, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Embedded chips in bodies, Ambience Technology and Artificial Intelligence.
And furthermore among cognitive studies, (information) ergonomics, industrial psychology, group dynamics, communication studies, anthropology, philosophy, health, social psychology, organisational psychology, sociology and law (on account of matters such as copyright, identity, privacy and digital government: in this case private law, public law and international law, including tax law, information law and right to vote). Optimum use of this knowledge is hampered by the considerable fragmentation between the various sciences which – in my experience – do not have much contact with one another.

Identity in Interreality

The actual topic of my next research will be ‘Identity in Interreality’, with all necessary and desirable perspectives, in the context of the architecture of a cyber culture. Interreality is the hybrid total experience of the physical and virtual reality. The aim of this dissertation is an exploration, a quest into developments in society that are decisive for the place of new communication technologies, into questions and suppositions that have arisen along the way, as well as into research that is being conducted worldwide for years, leading to recommendations, if any. These issues, the relationship with technology, society, health and innovation is further worked out in my book Hum@n: chapter ‘Technology and quality of life’ (page 46).
In my explorations I have looked at the phenomenon of 'the virtual world' from different sides, taking into account the various scientific perspectives, such as social psychology, communication studies, economics, philosophy, and ergonomics as well as the legal and technological knowledge areas, with some emphasis on the electro technical (information and telecommunication) and social-psychological sciences.

Manipulation of information takes more and more often place in the mainframes than in the brainflames. It fits into the makeable world: you are made, you make yourself, your time and your identity. But what is your identity in interreality? Is it one of your digital ID’s in cyberworld? Is it the SIM of your handy? Is it your safeword plus login? Or is it the irisscan of your eyes? Is it your fingerprints? Your voice-characteristics? Or the DNA of your body? How will change the human's soul when chips are implanted in someone's body? Do we have than a new embedded identity?
The virtual world, that has meanwhile come into being, can give a new impetus to the telecommunication sector with wireless means of access, as long as we now who the real customer is. But what to do when the customer dies and his or hers programmed digital actions still continues …. Who is responsible for these actions, summitted by a specific digital ID? And how to manage virtual employees, like in Japan, living and working somewhere in a room with internet connection, who accept all orders by email and deliver by EDS, waiting afterwards for electronic payment of their fee... Future? It still happens!