What is an Ecosystem?
The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace paints a broad vision for an Identity Ecosystem. The strategy author’s choice to name the big picture vision an “ecosystem” is an opportunity not to be lost. An Identity Ecosystem construct will inform the choice of processes and structures appropriate to govern it.
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight.
This definition reminds us that the context of an Identity Ecosystem is broad and goes beyond just the identities of people and devices but extends to the contexts in which they operate and interact, the network and indeed the wider world. When we discuss a person’s digital identity it should not be forgotten that we are each fundamentally biological beings living in complex social systems composed of groups, organizations and businesses, all socially constructed and embedded in a larger context, the biosphere surrounding the planet earth.
An overall Identity Ecosystem is needed because small islands of identity management online are working, but they have not been successfully woven together in a system that manages the tensions inherent in doing so to ensure long term thrivability of the overall system.
Ecosystems have individual organisms within them, interacting in various ways and together, one could say collaborating. With the overall environment, there are emergent properties and services needed to make the whole system work. In human systems, we also communicate in many more ways than with language. An Identity Ecosystem must allow be flexible enough to allow for multiple use cases that allow for different kinds of communication and contexts.
Terms in the above with references in the end notes:
Thrivability: Thrivability: A Collaborative Sketch. I was a contributing author writing the essay on Creating Appropriate Containers
What is the appropriate container to govern the Identity Ecosystem? This is a key question the governance NOI is seeking answers for Jean Russell the curator of the Collaborative Sketch defines Thrivability it this way:
Thrivability is our path out of unsustainable practices toward a world where all people have a high quality of life, a voice, and a nurturing earth supporting them. Using whole systems approach, we evolve our way of being together, of collaborating, so that our collective wisdom and action bring forth a flourishing world and thriving life.
Social Construction: Individuals and groups participate in the construction of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, known, and made into tradition by humans. The social construction of reality is an ongoing, dynamic process that is (and must be) reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowldege of it. Because social constructs as facets of reality and objects of knowledge are not “given” by nature, they must be constantly maintained and re-affirmed in order to persist.
Ecosystem: The term was first coined in 1935 by ecologist, A. G. Tansley in a paper entitled “ The Use and Abuse of Vegitational Concepts and Terms” he described it as:
…the more fundamental conception is the whole system (in the sense of physics), including not only the organism complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors forming what we can call the environment of the biome–the habitat factors in the widest sense. Though the organisms may claim to be our primary interest, when we are trying to think fundamentally we cannot separate them from their special environment within which they form one physical system.
This post is from page 10 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.
This is the section after: Ecosystems Collaborate Using Shared Language