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  • May 5, 2009

Fiction as Analogy of Identity vs Persona

Guest Author

I'm on a bit of a Star Trek kick here on the blog. Though to be clear - I'm pan-sci-fi fan. Meaning I dig Star Trek, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica (both the original and updated) pretty much equally.


I'm also a big fan of classic NASA.

(That's the Saturn V which was used to go to the moon. I cannot describe my thoughts on the Space Shuttle in a family friendly manner - having one explode over your house (Columbia) leaves a sour taste)

But the point I wanted to make in this post was about expectations with the new Star Trek movie coming out this week (May 8). And to see how the core fan base will react.

The element is that beyond simply the origin story (which is going to both anger and enlighten the core fan base) but can Trek move forward with new actors playing the original characters. This is something Gene Roddenberry always hoped for - after all nobody knows (or cares) who first played Macbeth.

And we've had several people play similar mythological characters (from Batman to Superman to James Bond).

But for many people the personal of Captain James T. Kirk is personified by the identity of William Shatner. Of course Shatner is still working (though hasn't played Kirk in almost a decade) which keeps him in our public mind's eye. However, he's one of the few actors to be successful in multiple character roles - we may mock him, but it's quite amazing to look at the array of personalities he's played - Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane. He's also had a number of smaller hits  - Rescue 911 (the first successful reality show) and Tek Wars (based on a successful series of books he co-wrote). And Priceline.com would not be as successful without him as their pitchman.

And I think this does tie into some discussions around identity vs persona on the net.

The single identity - William Shatner is known as different personas depending upon context. But unlike the net, TV/Movies help you know what context he's in (Kirk's starfleet uniform is much different than his suit & tie as Denny Crane). That shifting of context and the ability to completely separate them will be a key to future evolution of the net because even in real life we have our "work persona", our "family persona" and our various "friend persona". We need to be able to better separate these contexts to improve the social-aspects of the net.

I don't believe there are any magic bullets here - I think it's going to take a deployment of new technologies (like IGF) and updates of laws & social norms (I strongly suspect a rise of the importance of the self over the collective that is the foundation of most notions of privacy will happen).

Finally for what it's worth - I'm anxious to see the new Trek. I think they are smart to do an origin movie and a new set of adventures. Hopefully the movie will aim to please an older audience instead of the kids the way Lucas went with the recent Star Wars. I don't need as dark as the new Battlestar but I don't want 9-year olds flying the Enterprise either.

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