It's only me
Several people have asked why I use the name Timbuckteeth on Twitter, Flickr, Plurk and Slideshare. Others wonder about my use of the blue astronaut picture as my buddy pic. I haven't really answered in full until now, so here it is - my response about my own digital identity. In the light of this, and the excellent Wordle map which Marga Perez created from her analysis of all the tweets at this year's Online Educa Berlin conference, here is my considered response. I hope it resonates with you.
Timbuckteeth is a play on Timbuktu - a city in the African nation of Mali. In ancient times Timbuktu was both an intellectual and spiritual centre and a meeting place for many nomadic tribes and was located at the intersection of two great trade routes. It was quite simply the place to be. For me, writing blogs and tweets, academic papers, poems or fiction, or indeed anything that other people are likely to read (and I have done them all), requires that you are either intellectual or thougthful in your approach, or spiritually aware (and hopefully both). I strive in some way to bring both of these attributes to my writing, whether it is an 8,000 word book chapter, or a 140 character tweet. And like Timbuktu, I want my blogs, tweets and other writings to be places people want to come and visit. Actually, most of this paragraph could be seen as pretentious claptrap - If I'm really honest, I simply want my blogs and tweets to have some 'bite'
That I hope explains the name, but how do I explain the blue astronaut? Blue has always been my favourite colour, and when the buddy pic comes up, it is easily recognisable because it stands out. But that is mere trivia. The image itself is a little more esoteric, yet still holds significance for me - it's all about dates. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke is involved (the astronaut image is lifted directly from the Kubrick film '2001: A Space Odyssey' - an adaptation from one of Clarke's novels - it's the actor Keir Dullea). So is the concept of satellites. (See the connection yet?) In 1945 Clarke proposed the idea of geosynchronous satellites.
His vision was not long in realisation because just over a decade later on 4th October, 1957 the first artificial satellite - Sputnik - was successfully launched, ushering in the global communication revolution. The day, the month and the year of Sputnik are all significant to me. You see, I was born in 1957 (I'm the same age as Sputnik, but we didn't go to school together), and I was married on 4th October (1986). When Arthur C. Clarke died on 19th of March this year, it was a sad day for me, but it was also the day Timbuckteeth was born, and from that moment on my tweeting and flickring and plurking have been done under this identity. Note: On Facebook it's down as 1 January (because he hates birthday cards and wants to put people off the scent).
A lot was discussed around the idea of digital identity at Online Educa Berlin this past week. The important ideas that came from these discussions for me was that digital identity - they way you represent yourself in digital environments, is an extension of some essence of your persona. You digital identity is your vicarious presence in that place where you are unable to be physically embodied, but where your emotional bandwidth can still be fully exploited. Digital identity has elements of your personal life and memories invested in it, and is the way other people online view you, so it should bear some personal significance for you.
To borrow from Erving Goffman, digital identity becomes the channel through which you manage your impression and present yourself in everyday (online) life. So Timbuckteeth is a growing part of my digital identity and will be with me for a while yet, because after all.... it's only me.
It's only me by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.