The Real Michael Coffey

I made an injoke the other day. Feministeartle was an ifttt-bot designed to repeat what my friend Michael Coffey tweeted, just adding the word “Ladies” as an intro. A crude kanyejordan.

(Why ‘feminist’? I don’t know. This was an injoke started about six months ago based on something Coffey said on IRC. I can’t remember the details, sorry!)

Anyway, for its weekend-long lifespan I was gripped; every tweet could give the game away. It was very funny and, in retrospect, potentially very cruel. How might Coffey feel when he saw his family weekend was being lampooned?

He took it in good humour, which is probably why I felt okay doing it. But it reminds me of the time that James Bridle stole my face.

A while back he nicked my Twitter avatar, and it was a little while before I noticed. I really didn’t take it in good humour; it totally freaked me out. For context, it had been the first time I’d used my face in such a thing for a long time. I felt like he’d not just taken it, but my right to use it. I suddenly lost ownership of a part of how I wanted to represent myself.

Typing it – even thinking about it – I can’t help but feel that’s an immature reaction. But it’s a fair description of how I felt, and probably not a million miles from how I’d feel if a similar thing happened now (with a real photo that is). It’s also similar to how I felt when an old LiveJournal was being mirrored by a bot; I wanted myself back.

And yet… the technology to take someone’s avatar and mirror everything he does is within even my reach now. That’s new, the dark side of programming-tools-as-Lego.

(Subtle identity theft, in the sense of Russel’s SUBTLE FAIL. Something that’s perhaps right on the cusp of being as insidious as riffling through someone’s rubbish bins, but an awful lot more hygienic?)