More on social identities, search, and recommender systems
When I posted earlier
about social identity theory, I didn’t really have the opportunity to explain more about what I meant or where I was trying to go. It’s one of those nailing-the-jello-to-the-wall things, though, so I think multiple feeble but well-meant attempts might work better than waiting and trying for one perfect effort. (BTW- any sociologists or psychologists in the house?) I browsed some online ref books and found that there are three major types of identity: personal, social, and collective. I am really talking about social – this is identifying as a mother or as a doctor or as an African-American… Also from (Snow, Oselin, and Corrigall-Brown 2005)
Identity salience refers to the relative importance or prominence of any single identity (e.g., mother, teacher, pastor, student) in relation to other identities, which have been conceptualized as being ordered in a salience hierarchy (Stryker 1980). The higher the placement of the identity within the hierarchy, the greater its prominence and the more likely it will be invoked. The relative salience or prominence of an identity is the result of a number of factors. These factors include the extent to which the individual's own view of self supports the identity, how much the individual's view is supported by relevant others, and the degree to which individuals have committed themselves to the particular content of the identity.
Individual identities also differ in their level of pervasiveness or comprehensiveness. Pervasiveness or comprehensiveness (Cornell and Hartman 1998) are parallel terms for the observation that any particular identity may vary considerably in terms of its situational relevance or reach and the corresponding degree to which it contributes to the flow of interaction in various domains of social life.
The Rogers and Lea article I mentioned last time basically says that there are two kinds of presence: social and physical. Physical is actually being there in corporeal terms. Social presence is more touchy-feely. It has to do with the interpersonal connections (and here I get hung up on the definition so will leave incomplete). Over time, online communities have been designed more and more to simulate physical presence by adding avatars that can move around, etc. Facts about your personal identity and social identity are known by your interactions and your choice of avatar online – especially if your picture is posted with your actual name. So the article has a little study that says that all this information causes personal identity to be salient and when you want good team work, team
identity needs to be salient. IOW – you don’t want people working together to necessarily be identifying as individuals but as members of a team or group. The suggestion is that less informative online communities work better, at least at first, to foster team identity.
Anyway this is all very intriguing but an aside. When people go into an online store they might go with any of their social identities salient. Last time they might have bought books for an MBA class, but this time they need to know how to train their puppy. Later they’ll want some recipes for dinner and more information on a medical condition. Then they buy a gift for their cousin who does car repair… So what kind of recommendations can that system make? In online searching you can (somewhat) select the domain of inquiry by adding terms. For example, in engineering, you can put flutter in… but you’ll need to put in bridges so you don’t get butterflies or airplanes. You’re looking for flutter, but you add the term to specify domain – even if “bridge” doesn’t necessarily need to appear. You might, in fact, miss some good stuff on the internet this way. If you have a very specific set of documents your searching through, you may not have to add the extra term because everything in the database is in that domain (not flutter in an engineering database, though, because there are at least two important meanings). This is one of the reasons that verticals and paid A&I databases are useful. See for example Compendex via EV2 (not affiliated) – that’s how I learned about flutter, but I was able to pick either CV or a class code and get to the domain I wanted with like 2 clicks.
What if Amazon recommendations were like macro recordings in Office products… turn them on, give them names, invoke them… I imagine there’s some categorization that happens in the recommendations, but what if the user could select which identity today. It’s not really a great idea to do multiple logins. I would also have a stealth mode where it didn’t do any recommendations or remember your searches. So if you’re a selector in a library for math and computer science… sometimes the same words are used, but different books will be appropriate… just hit the button for CS mode and away you go.
Updated for format only, 9/10, but there's a your instead of a you're in here somewhere that I can't find now!
Rogers, P and M Lea. 2005. Social presence in distributed group environments: the role of social identity. Behaviour and Information Technology
24, no. 2 (March-April) : 151-158.
Snow, David, Sharon Oselin, and Catherine Corrigall-Brown. 1 January 2005. A-M: Identity. Encyclopedia of Social Theory