Identity Map

Over the past few months, I have been pondering about how to describe Identity in a way that encompasses how we think about ourselves in the "natural world" as well as how we represent ourselves in the "digital world." I asked myself, "How would I describe my own Identity? How would I categorize the many attributes that uniquely describe my own existence? Out of those ponderings have emerged the "Identity Map." I offer an introduction today and will describe the various elements of the Identity Map more completely in days to come.

I welcome any and all comments.

Core Identity. A fundamental premise undergirding the Identity Map is that each person is unique. This unique "Core Identity" can be identified or described by attributes categorized into Names, Characteristics, Relationships, Roles, Location, Experience, Knowledge and Reputation. Each attribute adds to the fundamental uniqueness of each individual. Brief descriptions and examples of each include:

  1. Names. I am known by many names. My given name is Mark. My surname is Dixon. My i-name is MarkDixon.My social security number is [wouldn't you like to know?]. My kids call me Dad.
  2. Characteristics. I have some measureable characteristics that don't change - my DNA signature, my fingerprints. Others change over time - height, weight, hair color. Does IQ change? I don't know.
  3. Relationships. I have relationships with people, institutions and things. I am father to my children, brother to my siblings, husband to my wife. I am an employee of Sun Microsystems and an alumnus of Brigham Young University. I own a Nikon camera. I love Chinese food. I can't stand professional wrestling.
  4. Roles. The functions I perform in life are roles: Father, husband, Sun Identity Practice Lead, Identity blogger, Church volunteer, registered voter.
  5. Location. When I used to travel every week, I'd tell people I claimed home addresses in Mesa, Arizona and United seat 2B. These are descriptors of physical locations, relative to different known reference points. However, my current location (latitude, longitude, elevation) will vary, depending on where I am physically located at any moment in time.
  6. Experience. I have experienced many things in the 52+ years of my earthly existence. I have been stabbed by a pitchfork, run for a touchdown, flown around the world and milked a cow (many times). Each experience adds uniqueness to my core identity.
  7. Knowledge. During my existence, I have amassed much knowledge, some of it shared by many, some of it unique. Both you and I probably know the Pythagorean Theorem. You probably don't know the names of my kids. I hope you don't know my blog password.
  8. Reputation. Other people and institutions say things about me, some of it good, some of it bad. The credit bureaus say I have a good credit rating. The DMV say I'm a so-so insurance risk because I've had a couple of tickets in the past three years - but they also say I hold a valid drivers license. BYU says I hold a BSEE degree. My wife likes me (and that is what really counts).

Physical Identity refers to tangible items that represent identity attributes. Common physical identity items include birth certificates, drivers licenses, graduations certificates, etc. Each of these symbolically represents one or more attributes from the categories listed above. Creation or destruction of a Physical Identity doesn't alter the core identity attributes it represents. If my drivers license gets trashed, I still exist. For 4 bucks, I can get a new one.

Digital Identity refers to symbolic digital representation of identity attributes. These are normally very small subsets of the entire Identity. Common digitally-represented items include user ID, password, name, address, telephone number. Digital identities can be stored, transferred, used for access system, or stolen (ouch!).

Blended Identity refers to physical items that contain identity attributes. Smart cards or credit cards with magnetic stripes are examples of physical identities that contain digital identities.

So, there it is - the Identity Map. I hope this framework proves to be valuable for discussing the various facets of Identity. Stay tuned for more.



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Discovering Identity was founded on in May 2005 as a means of documenting my exploration of the field of Identity and Access Management. In February, 2010, I switched to hosting the blog at In March 2012, I began posting Oracle-related information in both places.

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