When I first wrote about names, identities and signatures in online communication (here), I knew that there was very little work in the area. Turkle’s seminal work Life on the Screen (1995) was already a bit dated and David Crystal’s Language and the Internet (2001) had not yet been published. However, I wasn’t fully aware of the enormity of the topic at the time.
Not only are we seeing wide spread use of personalised screen signatures (in email, i-m and message board environments) but our access to geographical and informational spaces is increasingly policed by individual codes, passwords and pin numbers. In the UK, the introduction of ‘chip-and-pin’ payment methods effectively banishes traditional signatures from most financial transactions. Our mark becomes a sequence of digits.
New methods of identification are accompanied by new possibilities for identity theft. Now it seems that with iris recognition (patented in 1994) and the more recent vein identification, technology may deliver more reliable systems of tagging individuals. Will signatures eventually become obsolete, I wonder?