Kaliya Hamlin and Jean Russell share a dialogue, learning from each other about reputations and currency. (I write in third person because I want to attribute appropriately to each, and yet this is done together). We have a sense of the overall map of ideas, and we want to start with some core concepts that the work depends upon.

We begin with identifiers. We discuss below what identifiers are and how they work in meat-space. Our next post covers identifiers in the digital context.

Jean: SO….What is an identifier?

Kaliya: An identifier is a pointer to a person or an object

Jean: A pointer to a person or an object?

Kaliya: There are generic identifiers – rose, cup, chair…

Jean: So a word can be an identifier?

Eames chair arrivedKaliya: Yes. To have a more specific identifier “the green chair over in the corner” identifies it (the specific green chair) …relative to others in the same context – a room, for example.

Jean: Okay, I think I get what you mean by pointer. An identifier allows you to identify something to someone else in a shared context.

Kaliya: Yes. So people’s names identify them in our shared social spaces. They are identifiers too.

Jean: So in meat-space we are using identifiers all the time when we use language together.

Kaliya: However, I am not my name, I have a name – it points to me. You have a name – it points to you.

Jean: Okay, so the name and what it refers to are not the same thing. One is pointing at the other. And there are different kinds of identifiers, then? Like chair is vague and green chair in the corner is specific and my name is specific to me, pretty much.

Kaliya: Chair is a generic identifier, yes. Well, it is specific to you in a social context. Green chair in the corner is more specific. I might want to identify a very particular green chair. I would look on the chair to find the manufacture serial number for it, or I might want it in my company/personal inventory and “assign” it a number identifier for that specific chair.

Jean: Right, so there are degrees of specificity in identifiers.

Kaliya: So people’s name are specific in a social context. They might be more or less “specific” because there is more than one person named Jean in the world and even with my name there is more then one Kaliya. But in my social world – the people I know – I am the only Kaliya. I know several Mary’s though so I have to get more specific when talking about them using a last initial or a last name.

Jean: Okay, so there is an element of uniqueness that is important in an identifier? To successfully identify the object, the identifier needs to be unique?

Kaliya: Yes, unique within the context.

Jean: So we seem to navigate this pretty well in our everyday lives, and we ask for more specificity when we need it.

Kaliya: Yes.

Creative Commons License photo credit: juhansonin