I’m Having a Virtual Identity Crisis!

Webstock ’13: Bruce Sterling – What a feeling! from Webstock on Vimeo.


Watching the Bruce Sterling vodcast (Webstock  ’13) was very entertaining. He said great things such as “the planet’s atmosphere is not a clickable, hacktavist, problem that you can solve at your desktop”. Sterling describes the web as it is now-“a cluster of pipes in the ground leading to big big data vaults” which have become known as ‘stacks’. According to Sterling these “vertically integrated software structures [are] used by millions of users” and he goes on to say that these stacks “are monetising you, you are their products”.  This is a cynical view from someone who couple of years ago was bursting with love for the Internet. At web stock 13 he sends us a warning, albeit a little over dramatised about the danger of having “big data spaces” that hold within their virtual walls everything constituting our lives on this planet.

Sterling says we have become mere ‘livestock’ and that all this extracted information is being vertically integrated or absorbed, reconstituted and then fed back to us. I believe that Sterling is trying to avert an identity crisis. We are absorbing huge volumes of information that we have not previously had access to and inevitably this will affect our cultural development. It is impossible to remain unchanged however, are these subsequent changes being hardwired by the mega corporations such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft who owns this information flow.

Currently these huge data pipes are being ‘good little’ data pipes however, what if all that content flowed back out and into a virtual trash can? On a smaller scale, hacktivists, such as Anonymous, have leaked sensitive political files and hacked into the files of some controversial organisations-I’m not saying that this is small however it is small in comparison to the data that is held globally. What if you woke up one morning, logged into Facebook and there was nothing there, you were completely deleted? How would that make you feel? Would the loss of your digital profile rattle your pipes? Perhaps it would be wise to make a hard copy of our identities before they become integrated, digitised and reissued.




Hacktivists Anonymous hack Ku Klux Klan Twitter – video, Video, 19 November 2014, The Guardian, viewed 19 November 2014.


Sterling, B 2013, What a Feeling, vodcast, 30 March 2013, Vimeo, viewed 17 November 2014,

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