(blogs let others gawk)

December 17, 2008

More on Personas

Filed under: General,Perspective — Tags: , , , — Bryan @ 9:40 pm

So… who did you pick? Why did you pick that person?

What assumptions did you make about these people based simply on appearances? Even if you elected to talk to neither and walked to the next bus stop, you have just stereotyped two people and modified your behavior based on those stereotypes.

If you spent any time thinking about this you may have come to realize that there is no good answer here.

My point here is that a persona may or may not have anything to do with who a person really is. In fact, who a person really is is a wholly subjective exercise even when conducted by internal reflection (eg, “finding yourself”).

When you interact with anyone, you are marketing your persona, or in other words your personal brand. You may want people to like you so you put on makeup. You may want to be ignored by people so you wear dingy clothes when you go shopping. All of this applies to the online world as well.

Almost every teenager at some point explores this in high school by adopting the fashion common among their peer group. You know… goth kids, preps, etc…

In the off-line world (or as cyberpunk fans call it, Meatspace), people are often limited to what personas they can adopt purely by their physical appearance. But, given enough guile, money, education and peer group affiliations (not necessarily in that order) people can sometimes transcend stereotypes.

So what does this mean in the on-line world? Oh my… You’ll have to come back to find out.

[read the other parts of this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

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December 11, 2008

Who are you… yesterday, today and tomorrow?

Filed under: General,Perspective — Tags: , , , — Bryan @ 2:08 pm

There are three distinct issues that should be addressed by anyone looking to engage in social media that are generally under appreciated or overlooked by people when they present themselves on the Internet.

The key words related to these elements are Privacy, Personas and Persistence.

Let’s start with probably the easiest of those to tackle, Personas.

What is a persona? A persona is the image of yourself that you project to the world and therefore is the image of you formed by your audience, be they your next door neighbor or a million TV viewers. It is who people think you are and there are many factors that prejudice your persona even in a real-world face to face engagement.

For the greater part of the 20th Century people in many cultures only had to worry about managing at most two to four personas in their day to day lives; their “at home and unguarded image”, their “work image”, in some cases their “out on the town/with friends” image and let’s not forget their internal voice. For people in the Entertainment industry or in visible leadership roles, some of these frequently blur.

Let’s take for example the actor Mel Gibson. For the greater part of the 1980’s and 1990’s he presented a public persona of a strong alpha male role through his performances. His personal beliefs and opinions mattered little or were unknowable to the general population. Some people aspired to be like him… or really more like the roles he played in movies (his work image). Then there came a point in his life where his perceived personal beliefs on religion and ethnicity became public (these were parts of his private at home persona). This eventually led to his public/work persona evolving into an image of someone who appeared to be a representative for religious extremism. For some people this enhanced his image, for others it was detrimental.

The human brain by design performs pattern recognition. In order to optimize day to day living, your brain collates patterns into trends which in some cases are the basis for stereotypes (from Greek: stereo + týpos = “solid impression”). While stereotypes have a bad reputation due to their common use as a derogatory, like it or not your brain actively develops and validates these profiles. They are a critical aspect of being human and impact how you live and who you interact with.

I will provide two examples to illustrate. Let’s take two males situated at a bus stop in a major U.S. city as our backdrop for this thought exercise. You walk up to the bus stop and see:

  • Individual #1 – this person is wearing work dungarees that covered with motor oil and dirt. The person is clean shaven but his hair is disheveled. He is holding a dirty box and smells slightly of sweat.
  • Individual #2 – this person is wearing a clean business suit. He is clean shaven and hair groomed. He smells of cologne and is carrying a briefcase.

Who would you engage into conversation with? Why?

[read the other parts of this series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

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