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What is in a name?

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Starting with the history of birth-registration an overview on the historical regimes of naming and identifying people from the 15th to the 20th century is given. the talk will show examples of the different identity media through time and their standardization with the rise of the Westphalian nation state and the subsequent developments after the French Revolution and during the 20th century. The goal of the talk is to show the complexity of the phenomenon of personal names and their media and the need for an informed debate on who and how naming and identification in the digital age is achieved. In July 2011 Google opened the social network named Google+, immediately spawning a fierce debate about its real-name policy barring users from opening accounts with pseudonyms. Just a few days later Facebooks Vice President Randi Zuckerberg echoed Google's sentiment, asserting: “(…) anonymity on the Internet has to go away.” Finally in early August Germanys minister of the interior demanded an end of anonymity on the Internet. My proposed talk is not concerned with the relation of anonymity and pseudonymity and free speech, discrimination and empowerment that dominated the ‘real-name’ “nymwars” on the internet. Instead it seeks to de-familiarize the notion of the ‘real name’ by exposing central aspects of the media-history of names, situating personal names in relation to the development of statehood and capitalism between the 1500 and the 2000s. I thus will outline the history and function of birth-registration as introduced in the wake of the reformation in 1543 and its subsequent secularization during the rise of the Westaphalian nation state. This includes an overview of the international standardization of both identity papers and personal naming regimes during the 19th century in the context of post-1789 development of statehood and colonization. Moving to the 2oth century I will provide examples of the development and standardization of the passport-system after WWI, and conclude my talk with a synopsis of administrative digital identity vision of the early nineties. The goal of the talk is first de-familiarize the notion of the personal-name by showing its complex historical and material background, secondly to contextualize the current developments of digital identity regimes (Neuer Personalausweis, Google+, NSTIC etc) within the larger and longer-term developments of statehood and capitalist societies. Thirdly my talk will show that a name never was ones own but always an intersection of administrative, media-technical and personal interventions and as such is currently becoming a contested phenomenon again, requiring an informed debate about what is in a name. Duration 40 mins, presentation style will be slides and accompanying talk, discussion afterwards.

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