Discussion papers

CPM-00-64 - 2 May 2000

Having a Sense of Ourselves: Technology and Personal Identity

Leslie Henrickson

A Paper at: The “Starting from Society” symposium at ASIB’2000 convention, Birmingham University, 16th-19th April 2000.

Also published as: Leslie Henrickson (2000), “Having a Sense of Ourselves: TEchnology and Personal Identity”, in the Proceedings of the AISB’00 Symposium on Starting from Society – the Application of Social Analogies to Computational Systems, Birmingham, UK: AISB, 61-66. (ISBN 1 902956 13 8)


The rapidity of technological advancement staggers the imagination and catches many people off-guard as they try to absorb the impact of learning new technologies, new tools, new ways of knowing. Reactions toward new technologies can elicit resistance and adoption. This paper explores the character of resistance and adoption of technology from the theoretical perspectives of instrumentalism and critical theory. Key to this analysis is the interplay between human senses and technology as it alters notions of personal identity and of social world views. The implications of identity alteration affect both computational modeling researchers and educators. In particular, computational modeling researchers who wish to incorporate socially constructed identity into their models learn that personal identity is not fixed in time or space, and that the use of electronic technology plays a role in such changes. More broadly, for educators the implications are explicitly focused on developing multiple literacies in anticipation of the changing role that human senses play in communications technologies.