Volume 1, Issue 4
4th Quarter, 2006

Strategies for Personality Transfer

William Sims Bainbridge

page 8 of 15

The word identity is used either as a generic term for self-conception, or as a specific self-concept as a member of a particular group or category of persons. Naturally, a person can have multiple, overlapping group identities in such areas as nationality, religion, or political affiliation. Many people identify Bainbridgewith their employer, or with a sports team of which they are fans, or with a particular neighborhood in town. Others identify with a pseudocommunity that includes celebrities, fictional characters, and deceased persons. People vary in terms of whether they possess a clear self-image as a member of a racial or ethnic group, and a well-established tradition of questionnaire research offers a number of items to measure this.[1] Gender identity means not merely conceptualizing oneself as male or female, but also the ideology one uses to decide what characteristics a member of that gender should have.[2,3]

More elaborate and idiosyncratic than group identity is a life story, a narrative of one’s own life that assigns meaning to its major themes, perhaps even mythic in scope. The concept of personal myth is important in psychoanalysis, especially the Jungian branch where it blends with ideas about universal archetypes. Although everyone possess a personal myth having some degree of coherence, one might want to perfect it at the same time as recording it, which can be done through the aid of an analytical diary or dream journal.[4] The next section will consider a more pedestrian conception of autobiography, emphasizing cold fact rather than warm meanings.

Objective Biography and External Influences
While these areas are worth considering, they largely concern processes, variables, and facts external to the individual.  Objective biography contains much information about the actions and reactions of an individual, whereas external influences represent what the person reacts to. Professional biographers are generally not scientists, but humanists who lack formal theories about cause and effect, or about the structure of personality. External influences are important in the psychology of personality, because in many theories they are the independent variables (causes) that determine the dependent variables (effects) that constitute those portions of an individual’s character than have been shaped by learning.

Arguably, everybody should write a personal autobiography, keep a diary, or collect documentation of major life events and actions.  Many professionals update their CV (curriculum vitae) or résumé regularly, and it could be treated computationally as a kind of home page, linking to much more detailed information about each item listed. The best-known project to develop the technology for documenting individual biography is Microsoft’s MyLifeBits project, headed by Gordon Bell.[5,6]

Image 6: MyLifeBits (click on image to enlarge in new window)

If one is gathering documents, photographs, and other material retrospectively, the main challenges for information technology are how to scan and organize everything. The MyLifeBits team, Howard Wactlar’s team at Carnegie-Mellon University, and Steve Mann’s EyeTap group at the University of Toronto have all been developing passive capture systems to record everything a person sees or hears, along with methods to give the data meaningful structure.[7,8,9] In a sense, this work is too ambitious, because a human remembers only a small portion of what the machines record, and we will need methods for focusing just on those portions of life experiences that become parts of the person.

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1. Oyserman, Daphna, Markus Kemmelmeier, Stephanie Fryberg, Hezi Brosh, and Tamera Hart-Johnson. 2003. “Racial-Ethnic Self-Schemas,” Social Psychology Quarterly, 66(4): 333-347. (back to top)

2. Bainbridge, William Sims, and Robert D. Crutchfield. 1983. “Sex Role Ideology and Delinquency,” Sociological Perspectives 26: 253-274. (back to top)

3. Burke, Peter J. 1989. “Gender Identity, Sex, and School Performance,” Social Psychology Quarterly, 52: 159-169. (back to top)

4. Rancour-Laferriere, Daniel. 1999. “Self-Analysis Enhances Other-Analysis,” PsyArt. (back to top)

5. Bell, Gordon, and Jim Gray. 2001. “Digital Immortality,” Communications of the ACM, 44(3): 29-31. (back to top)

6. Gemmell, Jim, Gordon Bell, and Roger Lueder. 2006. “MyLifeBits: a Personal Database for Everything,” Communications of the ACM, 49: 88-95. (back to top)

7. Ibid. (back to top)

8. Wactlar, Howard D., Michael G. Christel, Alexander G. Hauptmann, and Yihong Gong. 1999. “Informedia Experience-on-Demand: Capturing, Integrating and Communicating Experiences Across People, Time and Space,” ACM Computing Surveys, 31(9). (back to top)

9. Mann, Steve. 2003. “Continuous Lifelong Capture of Personal Experience with EyeTap.” Pp. 1-21 in Proceedings of the 1st ACM Workshop on Continuous Archival and Retrieval of Personal Experiences (CARPE 2004). New York: ACM Press.
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