The Presentation of Self in the Information Age
Executive Summary — In the past, we knew a lot about the seller of a product (through ads, marketing, or reputation) but little about the individual buyer. Times have changed. From the Internet to store loyalty cards, technology has made the marketplace into an interactive exchange where the buyer is no longer anonymous. The future market will likely be one in which personal information is shared and leveraged. Consumers who are willing to share their information will be more attractive to sellers and more sought-after than those who have bad reputations or refuse to participate. Key concepts include:
- Consumers will play an increasingly leveraged role in the marketplace by "branding" themselves and sharing personal information with sellers.
- Technology is making the idea of consumer branding a reality, but it is unclear how personal information will be used in the marketplace, or which uses will be the most beneficial to both buyers and sellers.
- Look deeper into loyalty programs for the societal and commercial, and positive and negative effects of sharing personal information in the marketplace.
The paper analyzes what it means to be personally identified in markets in an age of ubiquitous database technology, digital monitoring and unobtrusive surveillance, as a basis for conjectures about strategies for identity management by consumers and by firms. Identity is defined. Four levels of customer identification are distinguished, transitory, persistent, role-specific and self-expressive identification. We discuss implications of each for consumer behavior and the operation of markets.