Identity, profiling algorithms and a world of ambient intelligence

Ethics and Information Technology 12 (1):71-85 (2010)
The tendency towards an increasing integration of the informational web into our daily physical world (in particular in so-called Ambient Intelligent technologies which combine ideas derived from the field of Ubiquitous Computing, Intelligent User Interfaces and Ubiquitous Communication) is likely to make the development of successful profiling and personalization algorithms, like the ones currently used by internet companies such as Amazon , even more important than it is today. I argue that the way in which we experience ourselves necessarily goes through a moment of technical mediation. Because of this algorithmic profiling that thrives on continuous reconfiguration of identification should not be understood as a supplementary process which maps a pre-established identity that exists independently from the profiling practice. In order to clarify how the experience of one’s identity can become affected by such machine-profiling a theoretical exploration of identity is made (including Agamben’s understanding of an apparatus , Ricoeur’s distinction between idem - and ipse -identity, and Stiegler’s notion of a conjunctive–disjunctive relationship towards retentional apparatuses ). Although it is clear that no specific predictions about the impact of Ambient Intelligent technologies can be made without taking more particulars into account, the theoretical concepts are used to describe three general scenarios about the way wherein the experience of identity might become affected. To conclude, I argue that the experience of one’s identity may affect whether the cases of unwarranted discrimination resulting from ubiquitous differentiations and identifications within an Ambient Intelligent environment, will become a matter of societal concern.
Keywords Ambient Intelligence  Apparatus  Collaborative filtering  Discrimination   Idem- and ipse- identity  Personalization  Profiling algorithms  Recommender systems  Paul Ricoeur  Bernard Stiegler
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DOI 10.1007/s10676-009-9215-9
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Paul Ricoeur (1995). Oneself as Another. University of Chicago Press.
Gilles Deleuze (1988). Foucault. Univ of Minnesota Press.

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