Habitele: wearable digital identities
The Habitele Project is funded by the ANR, in the category “innovating societies”. The project is led by the Centre d’Etudes Européennes, Sciences Po (Paris), with Dominique Boullier as project leader. It is conducted in partnership with Telecom Paris Tech (Artur Hecker’s team) and 9 teams or researchers around the world.
The project aims to test a theoretical framework labelled “Habitele” by Dominique Boullier. This neologism seeks to account for the anthropological transformation we are experiencing, as two thirds of human beings have become equipped with a mobile phone (5.2 billion subscriptions, i.e. approximately 4.5 billion individual users, as of December 2010). The “connected being” status changes our mood, owing to an alert state of mind; our everyday interactions in everyday life, based on awareness more than physical presence; and our coordination skills, because of traceability. But it also offers the opportunity to switch between social worlds we are affiliated to.
We inhabit a new “personal data ecosystem”, which we call “Habitele”. Habitele is used to label the various distant connections with various social worlds, which we are able to handle by carrying devices (phone, credit cards, IDs, keys, and access cards) and creating traces (social networks and other online activities) that keep us in touch with these worlds. The mobile phone is now rapidly merging all these affiliations, traces, and accesses into one device, which is carried close to the body.
IDs in the cloud and permanent physical access are what make the mobile phone a universal terminal (and not the PC): our digital identities become wearable, as a new envelope. This general framework will be assessed through a carefully designed empirical investigation: in-depth interviews (500 x 2), 45 case studies of typical use, data collection of personal behaviour (through automated extraction from the device), and mapping of connected social worlds. The international comparison is an important ambition of the project, and it will involve France, UK, USA, Canada, Brazil, Tunisia, Nigeria, India, and Korea.
A publicly accessible blog has already collected some relevant information about these issues: http://habitele.blogspot.com/