Scenario Proposal 1

From IdCommons


A proposal for community based interactive scenario planning

by Kaliya Hamlin, Identity Woman and John Kelly

Front Page Framing Quotes

The exchange of identity credentials and profile traits in return for the provision of services is the essence of the new digital deal. That deal often isn't a very good one, in part because it's not just one, but many, the subsidiary components of which are accountable only to their own frames of reference, but the sum of which produces a total digital profile with exposure out of all proportion to  those expressed within any subsidiary implicit or explicit "identity rights agreement" whatever that agreement may actually be called. This fact isn't readily admitted by industries or individuals on the more profitable sides of that digital deal, in which user-generated and related data is variously monetized without concrete understanding on the part of the person as to the terms of the relationship and its actual costs and rewards. 

  • Nicholas Givotovsky, in the Identity Gang

The problem is the translation of the complex social and legal issues around identity into these protocols. How to come up with a reference list of identity tokens for age, location, contacts and all kinds of other issues? How to organize the management of relationship data? Which contractual relationships are implicitly or explicitly involved that need to be sorted out? The idea of having Creative Commons-like licenses for your personal data, which then can be described in a lawyer-readable, a human-readable, and a machine-readable form met quite some interest. But this is mainly a usability issue. The different use cases you want for this are much more complex and diverse than the few standard types of re-using text or music  This leads to the conclusion by many participants: An interdisciplinary perspective is really needed on the issue of identity.

The Digital Deal raises many Questions:

Who are these people who now show up on-line? Can we be sure? What can we find out about them? Where have they clicked? What do others say about them? Do they have substantive rights as humans, irrespective of their status as citizens or consumers? Do any of those rights control the treatment of data linked to them? Should they have privileges based on their achievements, connections, endorsements or purchases? What about vulnerabilities? Do they have health insurance? Any genetic predispositions?

What did they have to give up to be identified as who they are? What was their Digital Deal? Was that exchange based on informed consent? A law or principle? Or was it the accidental result of a seemingly technical fix that, once in place, was too expensive to reengineer? Will the Digital Deal gain momentum after a preemptive move by an aggressive vendor or government that will be poorly understood at the time? Or will it be a series of incremental private negotiations among government agencies and their corporate constituents?

How can we as a business or institution manage information about individuals with whom we may or may not have transactions that they are aware of? Should we have a dialogue with them about our intentions, their aspirations, how our products work or don’t work for them, and how they could be improved? Does one of our competitors or a government agency have a claim on how individuals represent who they are? Do the rest of us have to go through their database, vetting and license agreement? Can’t we just talk?

And what is the appropriate role for government in supporting citizens representing themselves to other institutions? How can governments provide effective law enforcement, combat digital criminals, and not substitute blanket surveillance for disciplined, appropriately focused investigations?


The questions multiply. It may seem that we are mixing issues of civil rights with business strategy and government policy. We are, because they are becoming increasingly intertwined. All of them hinge on the question of digital identity.

Digital identity, how it's constituted, represented and understood, will itself establish the practical basis of human rights, because, for good or ill, the enforcement of those very rights will depend upon the recognition of humans by information systems. How digital identity is managed will also profoundly affect the basis for competition between businesses as they use of shared communication resources. Everyone from global corporations and NGO’s to local charities and neighborhood farmers or service providers will be seeking the scarce attention and loyalty of individual consumers, producers, and citizens. And access to these citizens will, again, be primarily by means of their digital identity.

Current Trends

We are now facing an increasingly dangerous online environment - fraud with phishing and pharming is rampant. Corporations are tracking people’s behavior online and targeting them through massive linked database systems. Government regulation and surveillance of the online space is increasing - disregarding norms of how similar issues are dealt with in physical space. 

At the same time, Live Web, Web 2.0 Social media and networking tools are flowering online.  Some of these are closed proprietary efforts while others are pushing towards openness. Many diverse efforts have the potential to have long lasting impact. Virtual worlds are allowing some to transcend the limits of their real world identities as minorities, people with disabilities, or non-citizens. Virtual identities (avatars) instead allow individuals to emphasize the parts of an identity they choose to assert or reveal while hiding other characteristics. At the same time, the anonymity of virtual identities exposes well intentioned on-line education and collaboration efforts to involuntary interruptions and harassment from anonymous spammers and griefers.

Who Understands these Issues?

The community that has formed over the last four years around the development of user-centric digital identity (1) has developed a rich understanding of this problem space, some key principles and some understanding of what would be good design and best practice within digital identity systems. 

This diverse community has grown in a steady but significant way from a small group of idealistic technologists to a cluster of major enterprise vendors developing and testing the interoperability of potential components of open standards based end-user identity management tools - the basis of an identity-meta system or an identity and relationship layer of the web.  

The Identity Community has a several rich repositories of exchange that have been developed.  The Identity Gang mailing list founded in 2004 has over 2500 messages posted. There are over 50 community members blogging about the subject many of whom are aggregated on the blog. 

The ID Media Review group has formed to collect the range of relevant books, white papers, academic papers, podcasts, government and think tank reports, online videos and movies that cover identity topics.  This is led by Bob Blakley and Kaliya Hamlin.

Mapping the alternative futures of digital identity

The Identity Futures group at Identity Commons lead by John Kelly and Kaliya Hamlin is considering a comprehensive interactive future scenario planning exercise.  As presently envisioned, it would have four phases

Phase I: Refinement and Capture of Existing Knowledge

The initial phase will focus on capturing and learning from the most relevant existing online resources in the community - specifically the mailing list and blog archives.  This effort may employ textual analysis.  The mailing list archives are closed and must remain so because of the agreements under which the conversations where initiated. Key assumptions and implications of that discussion can, however, be summarized, cleared with those who wrote them (if quoted directly) and made available to the public.

The Id Media Review project contains a range of material that applies to questions surrounding digital identity. Many pointers to works in the life of the community have been collected. By organizing, contextualizing and summarizing these works, we will provide access to them for business leaders, government policy makers and technologists to better inform their choices as they continue to evolve digital identity systems.

Both of these projects create publicly accessible resources on identity issues so that significant discoveries don’t have to be “re-learned.” Both of these projects are valuable in and of themselves to make already developed raw information more accessible and useful. The value of this information will be amplified in Phase II below.

Past experience with other complex issues suggests that significant tacit knowledge remains buried in the unspoken intuitions and assumptions of professionals working on the frontiers between digital and real-world identity. Security experts fighting identity theft, publishers of digital content, social networking entrepreneurs, business strategists, and some government regulators have experience that could inform choices about digital identity, anticipating a range of desired and undesired outcomes.

Interviews will be conducted with 25-50 people selected from this community using a well established methods. These interviews will be combined with the earlier research to create 80 to 120 possible future milestones describing particular micro-outcomes in the evolution of digital identity.

Phase II: Developing Scenario Building Kits

Developing a rich set of scenarios that explore significant possible variations in outcomes and also inform and support decision makers who may have to cope with these variations is a challenging task. With a topic as unsettled as digital identity the best people to help create scenarios do not work for any single company or agency. It requires the wisdom, not of a “crowd,” but of a sufficiently diverse range of stakeholders with varying expertise and interests. The engagement needs to be concentrated to make use of the limited time available from people with the most in-depth expertise. To that end, the proposed interactive scenario planning process will develop scenario building kits. The kits will include 80-120 hypothetical future milestones, a framework for choosing and applying milestones to different outcomes, and a set of four distinct clusters of assumptions that could determine how digital identities will evolve. These kits will allow participants to select rather than compose most of the elements need to flesh out a scenario for the future of digital identity within the limited time frame (~ 2 days) of an interactive scenario planning workshop.

This method of converting in-depth research into scenario building kits was developed and refined at Northeast Consulting and Nervewire Inc. over a fifteen year period.

Phase III: Crowd-Sourcing the Experts in an Interactive Scenario Workshop

An interactive scenario planning workshop will bring together 25-35 “experts” – stakeholders who have been part of an identity exploration community and can contribute technical, business, social and professional knowledge about the risks and opportunities of evolving approaches to digital identity.

The activities during this two day workshop will provide a well structured, high intensity, data-rich platform for advocacy and refinement of competing views. Teams will select and advocate interpretations of the potential linkages between emerging technologies, social networking applications, civic engagement, protection of rights, law enforcement, intellectual property, business models, and the clash of cultures as they relate to the key alternatives available for the design and implementation of digital identity.

The output of this workshop will be a rich and refined data set of clarifications, ranking votes, and speculations that map out the possible futures for digital identity. It will support discussions among business competitors, activists and government agencies about the best principles, policies, investments and actions they should advocate or implement over the next 3-5 years.

Phase IV: Repurposing materials for participatory distribution

Even the best run meetings and workshops often cannot transcend the curse of ‘shelf-ware’ – generating well received reports that remain on shelves as their findings are overruled by apparently more urgent needs. To overcome this limitation, the output of the scenario workshop will be reconstituted into a mini-workshop kit that will support a two to eight hour interactive engagement with new audiences. The underwriter of this project will be able to use the mini-workshop kit to conduct participatory demonstrations of the process used by the main workshop and engage participants in voting on outcomes. The distributed workshops will achieve several purposes:

  • bring an understanding of the implications of digital identity to a wider audience
  • create a common language for cross functional teams to support ongoing interactions between their efforts and public developments in digital identity
  • validate existing data on the judgments of the expert group and monitor changes in the perceptions and preferences of new constituencies

Next Enabling Steps

We are looking for a commitment from a major player(s) committed to leadership in anticipating and advocating the best possible future of Digital Identity.

ABOUT JOHN KELLY John Kelly was part of a consulting and development team at Northeast Consulting Resources Inc (which later became Nervewire). He contributed to the refinement of an interactive scenario planning system which was then known as Future Mapping™. He helped provide strategic planning consulting using Future Mapping for high technology and telecom companies including Intel, Hewlett Packard, AT&T, Bell Canada Enterprises, and the British Post Office. While not on the British Telecom delivery team, he contributed research and suggestions to colleagues who conducted a Future Mapping workshop for BT in the late 90’s. Since 2002 John has worked as an independent consultant on projects for non-profits and government agencies. He is a contractor with Monitor/Global Business Network providing scenario-related workshops for its clients.