ESRC Digital Good Network

Research

Good Digital Identity Futures

Mobile phone next to logos of different sites

This project explores futures of digital identities, aiming to provoke richer debate about what it would mean to have ‘good’ digital identities, what these would look like and how messy, fragmented, fluid humans might be able to express themselves through them.

What are digital identities?

Digital identities aim to create digitised versions of common physical documents (such as passports) to help represent and validate ‘who we are’ for businesses and service providers.

These have already been implemented in different countries (Masiero and Shakthi, 2020; Tammpuu and Masso, 2019; Shoemaker et al., 2019; Iazzolino, 2020) with varying degrees of success, and the UK government are now actively trying to create a “clear framework of rules which show what ‘good’ digital identities look like” (Department for Science Innovation and Technology, 2023). 

The challenge here is that personal informatics and social media literature indicates that notions of identity and the self are constantly changing, making digital identities difficult to portray in a quantified or static way (Winter et al., 2022; Koopman, 2019; Henschke, 2017). 

Aims of this research

This research aims to provoke meaningful transdisciplinary debate with members of the Digital Good Network around digital identities beyond digitised documents, which represent just one small part of the self. 

This project frames digital identity as a social construct, rather than a technical problem to be solved, aiming to do the following:

  • Understand what ‘good’ digital identities might look like in the future and the social implications of these identities.
  • Expand on theory around concepts of the self and identity, questioning who these digital identities are good for and whether and how we can continuously (re)construct our own identities in the context of digital identities.
  • Use long-form provotyping to show how design methods can help address complex questions around the digital good.

Research methods

As well as drawing on current literature on this topic, the project will also use design sprints, iterations, workshops and long-form provotyping. (Provotypes are non-functional designed artefacts such as sketches or fictional application screens, which will be created to to provoke discussion and debate about future digital identities and the challenges and opportunities digital identities might present for society).

Digital identities over time. Image of clock.

Digital Identities Over Time: online residency

As part of the Good Digital Identity Futures project, the researchers created a one-month, online residency for four creators to explore the theme of: Digital Identities Over Time.

The aim is to provide different perspectives and provoke debate about what future digital identities might be like, how they might unfold over time, and what we want from such digital identity system. You can visit the online residency page here.

Team

Kim Snooks

Kim Snooks

Postdoctoral Researcher, Digital Good Network; Senior Research Associate, Design for Digital Good

Dr Kim Snooks is a postdoctoral researcher in Design for Digital Good as part of the Digital Good Network. She works with Dr Dan Richards on research around ‘good’ future digital identities, drawing on concepts of the self and identity from personal informatics and social media research.

She studied for her PhD in Design at ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University, where she used speculative methods to critically examine future health-tracking technologies. Drawing on more-than human theory, she explored how different perspectives of contextualised personal informatics data might be included in system design.

Dan Richards

Dr Dan Richards

Digital Good Network Technology Translations Lead; Lecturer in Data Prototyping and Visualisation, Lancaster University

Dr Dan Richards is Lecturer in Data Prototyping and Visualisation at Lancaster University. His current research focuses on combining speculative design, unconventional computing and data visualisation to explore futures of emerging technologies.

He has been Co-I and Design lead on two EPSRC-funded projects that explored “Data-Driven Design”: “Qualified Selves: Co-Creating Meaning Post-Big Data” (2019-20), “Chatty Factories” (2018-21), and was co-organiser of the Digital Economy Network funded “Data Publics” conference (2016). His interdisciplinary research has been presented at various top design and scientific venues, whilst his creative works have been exhibited at art exhibitions and tradeshows across the UK, China and the US.

As Technology Translations Lead for the Digital Good Network, Dan is responsible for technology translation, overseeing our design and development sprints, and coordinating the provocative prototyping (or “provotyping”) activity of the network.

Read about our other projects