21st century education
Facilitating Alternate Identities

Facilitating Alternate Identities

Robert Pratten's "radar diagram" of Transmedia Story Space

So there I was minding my own, royal, business, when that impertinent woman Ysidora Pico (who’s still bitter about losing her land [try losing your life]) says to me,

Izzy, why don’t you stop writing unsigned love letters to your boyfriend Troilo Orsini who will have his butt on a horse and be out of Florence and unable to help you in your final hours anyway, and spend a few minutes writing something that can help others facilitate ancestors & other alternate identities in cyberspace?

I’ll skip the wisdom Ysidora offered about how great an idea it wasn’t to have your boyfriend be your husband’s cousin. (honestly it was all babbo’s fault anyway! My father was indeed wise, but WTF!? Did he really have to betrothe me to the dumpy coward instead of the hot hero? Uggh! Everyone thinks a princess is so privileged and lucky, but honestly, it’s a shitty deal. IKR!)

The #1850charla project is:

  • 21st c peeps like Robert Pratten would call it Transmedia
  • 20th c peeps like Marshall McLuhan called it a Global Village
  • 19th c peeps like Richard Wagner called it a Gesamtkunstwerk
  • 17th c peeps like David Wilson created Kunstkammer or Wunderkammer
  • 16th c peeps like, well, me, orchestrated theater & technology and sacred & secular in a Theatrum Mundi

You will note that these are all complex, multifaceted forms of cultural production. And yet, complex as they can be, I find that at their core they share an idea penned in the early 17th century. An idea as simple and essential as it is today famous:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one woman in her time plays many parts.

Let me proceed from “philosophy” to how one woman, or man, in this century might facilitate playing many parts.

Tools to Facilitate your New Identity!

In the 21st century you may occasionally need a telephone number or a credit card number, but really, in this time, the coin of the realm is an email address. Most things in cyberspace flow from an email address. Most things are easy to get with one and impossible to get without one. And for a great many things like accounts on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress installs like .Re/act, and many others, you can have one account for one email address.

Fortunately, Google, Yahoo, and various others will gladly give you all the email addresses you like. In rare circumstances, a passport might do more for you than an email address. But passports are hard to come by. Email addresses are as free as mints in your lawyer’s lobby, and in 2014 there are a lot of places where an email address will provide you with far more entree than a passport. (if you really want a passport you might look at Heath Bunting’s work)


Step 1: Go get an email address for your “Character” or “New Identity”

Robert Pratten talking about "active creation of belief"

Step Everything-else: make as many accounts on other platforms as you like. The only real limitation is your own time. You don’t need a ton of accounts, but it’s nice to have a few. I’m sure you’re familiar with the term suspension of disbelief. Robert Pratten prefers the interesting term Active Creation of Belief.

People watching this experience, they know that it’s fictional, but they want to believe.

— Robert Pratten

I find that the simple act of giving a new identity a bio on a site like Facebook or About.me goes a long way toward making me feel immersed in that identity. The more sites I’m active on, the more alive I feel. It’s true! And even those stupid “security questions” are great because they can trigger so many fundamental ideas by invoking your mother’s maiden name, or your first pet’s name, et cetera.

Respect Your Character

Some people will refer to these new identities as pseudonymous identities or alts (alternate identities or alternate accounts) or more pejoratively as sock puppets. Personally however, I find it helpful to not be too forthcoming about linking different identities. If the goal is RL dating or something like that, then it’s entirely different. But for creative works in cyberspace, or Transmedia Storytelling, I find that outing a pseudonymous identity is, in a way, unfair to the autonomy of that identity. Sure that identity isn’t fully autonomous, but who is!?

If I say,

Yes, it’s true, I, Isabella Medici, am the “typist” for the Michael Masucci identity.

I’ve kind of just kicked that character in the teeth. If you think about it, when your kid hits a home run in softball, given all the food, clothing, and shelter, all the driving to practice, the lifetime of support, as a parent, an awful lot of that home run came from you. Still, very few parents run onto the field and take a bow. Most are satisfied to let their home run hitting child take the bow and the crowd’s applause while you simply sit in the stands and perhaps get a pat on the back from your next door neighbor who might say softly, “nice job, mom.”

vidcap of Robert Pratten explaining Transmedia Storytelling

kk, so Email and Twitter, and whatever else you like. And be sure to ask for your own account on .Re/act. And paste a photo on Gravatar so you’ll have a photo next to the stuff you say. One small, but also large thing, is logging in and out. If I have my “real” Facebook account for Isabella Medici and also a pseudonymous FB account for my character Michael Masucci, then do I have to keep logging in and out of these different accounts? For every different platform I want to use? What a pain!

A Web Browser is the Key

The easy answer is simply to download another web browser! So if I, Izzy, use Firefox, I can just download Chrome and let “Michael” use that. This way we can both be logged into all of our accounts all the time. Nobody ever has to sign in our out. So easy! And there are a lot of web browsers out there. Besides Firefox and Chrome there are many others like Opera, Safari, and Sea Monkey. Some of the Open Source browsers like Chrome (Chromium) and Firefox also have flavors, like the Comodo Dragon flavor of Chrome or the Pale Moon flavor of Firefox. Also, some browsers like Chrome or Sea Monkey let you create multiple users, so if I really love Chrome or Sea Monkey I can create an “Izzy” instance of Chrome for myself and a “Michael” instance of Chrome for my character.

So technically it’s as easy as:

  1. Get your character an email
  2. Get your character a web browser
  3. Get your character a few accounts at places like .Re/act, Twitter, and wherever else you like

Then Add Life

Conceptually I think the 1850 guideline is very loose. I think the main idea is to find an identity, perhaps an ancestor of yours, perhaps an identity that you are inspired by or curious about, and give a modest try to bringing them to life. I think modest may be about right. Any research you can do will lend you a lot of information and ideas. But this isn’t non-fiction biography, nor is it a work of a single, over-arching author. As a group work of Co-Creation your backstory will be a part of your presence, but the interaction between you and whoever else shows up will also be significant. I had no idea how instantly I would detest that vile man Mr. Donnie. And even less that I would eventually offer him a faculty position at Medici University. But sometimes it goes that way.

Christa, if I got anything wrong or missed anything, please correct or elaborate!

So dive in. Don’t be afraid. You can’t make any mistakes. Because life is not a mistake.

See you in cyberspace!

Warmest Personal Regards,


Robert Pratten diagram explaining Franchise Transmedia vs Portmanteau Transmedia

Robert Pratten / Conducttr


Sea Monkey
Pale Moon
Comodo Dragon



  1. omg haha! So this is my very first encounter with “alternative identities for dummies” 😀 Very informative, well written. I had never considered having a browser for each “me” before! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve accidentally commented or posted as the wrong “me” lol

  2. Thanks, I’m starting to get it. But I’m still confused. Does this mean that Isabella only communctaes with ema and that you have created a nuber of other personas that only communicate with specific other people? Or am I really just a cybernetci lifeform, some digital Pinochio mistakedly thinking I’m a ‘real boy’? And I used to think I knew aht you meant by your term “typiist”, now I’ms not so sure.
    -Dazed and Confused

    1. Hello Michael. I’m so sorry for any confusion. Sometimes help and confusion are simply different sides of a dull knife blade. I must confess I am a little bit confused as to the precise nature of your question, but I’ll try to explain.

      In your century, an ever smaller % of activities require a physical body. I suppose people will go on having sex and playing basketball for a while still, but certainly, anything you can do in a physical office, you can do better online. Except for shooting lip dub videos of the office staff singing to some popular song, of course. But then you just get sued for copyright infringement on Vimeo or your YouTube video is taken down anyway, so really, I find it best to avoid making those videos in the first place.

      And for everything else: we live in a place called cyberspace. If you think about all the buzzwords of our time, “agile”, “just in time”, and so on, they’re all about the efficiency of speed. Don’t spend forever on something, just do a prototype and get feedback already. If you can get people to pay you money to be beta testers on a new product (iPhone launch)(Google Glass) great!

      Throw in a few Amazon / EZTV Drones, and I hope you’re starting to get the picture. NO LIMITS! Maximum Communication. Everyone to Everyone. Love forever always!

      NOTE: Obviously nothing I just said applies to the unfortunates living in the broadband impoverished United States of America where the cable oligarchy already created a non-neutral net that crushed both freedom and souls, and now with schoolyard bully Comcast acquiring Time/Warner, well, can the bully actually get worse after he’s already beat up every kid on the playground?

      Just last night I heard about a mom in Seoul scolding her young son for being listless and indifferent about uploading content, Use your bandwidth! There are starving Americans who would give anything for the capacity you don’t even care about.

    1. This is wonderful news Michael!

      The Learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar, guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life.
      — Charles Willson Peale

      Which reminds me! Did I mention I’m starting a Graduate University offering Alternative MFA programmes?

      Would you like to be a faculty member?
      Don’t worry, there’s no “additional” responsibility. You just do what you’re already doing!
      What department(s) might you like to be a professor of?

      Vanessa has kindly agreed to affiliate with THREE of our MU Departments! She will be Professor of Reproductive Freedom, Psycho-pharmacology, and New Music.
      I’ve appointed myself Provost, and I haven’t started looking for a President yet.

  3. Thanks. Yes, I’d be happy to be a faculty member. I’d probably be good at “The Clearing Out Old Closets Department”, since so many of my posts on PB Re/search involve just that.
    Notcing that Van will be (among other titles) Prof. of Psycho-pharmacology, I’ll be sure to write my essay with my experinces with Dr. Timothy Leary, and his shows at EZTV, very soon.

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  5. So, Isa bella… how many identities do U have in cyberspace? As one of your friend in cyberspace, I feel rather confused about the real “you” & the real “me”. Don’t all these alternate identities get you confused about the “real” you, too? Anyway, perhaps that would make the story more interesting!

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