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Doppelgangers and Searchability
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Last time I posted, I was considering other people who share your name. We all know they are out there; we google ourselves. Most of us are intrigued by the existence of our googlegangers, defined on as, “similar to that of a doppelganger, it is another individual with the same name as you whose records and/or stories are mixed in with your own when you google yourself.” Although my one googleganger, that other Lisa Radding, comes up first when you google me, I too show up on the first page of results. But what if your name is Jonathan Smith?

If I type “Jonathan Smith” in the search box on facebook, I get over 500 results. Quickly scanning the first few pages of results, I notice that “Jonathan Smith” is as likely to be Caucasian (with descent from practically anywhere) as African American, but could also be Hispanic or even Asian. Also, he is male. Shelving the ethnicity (and gender) issue for now, however, I’m thinking about how a search on a name like “Jonathan Smith” doesn’t return an individual. In this increasingly electronic world, where many of us want a unique, searchable identity with which to leave our electronic footprint, what can you do if your parents lacked creativity when naming you?

I know a Jonathan Smith who, in some instances, purposely misspells his name so as to differentiate himself. His name on facebook looks something like Jonatthan Smiith or Jonnathan Smithh… you get the idea (and I’m withholding his exact spelling to protect his privacy.) When you search his spelling, he is the only one who turns up in the results page.

Just as companies try to optimize the searchability of their websites by inserting key words into headers and first paragraphs, individuals manipulate their own names. While our googlegangers may pique our curiosity, we also want to possess a unique online identity. Thus as the Internet proliferates society, names evolve without officially changing.

Are these misspellings, such as Jonathhan Smmith, legitimate names? That depends how you understand “legitimate.” My friend Jonathan Smith didn’t officially change his name. Since he still gets mailings addressed to “Jonathan Smith,” for the purposes of our software, the “Jonathan Smith” spelling we have in the database will suffice. (And we will say he is male and English speaking, though beyond that, this name doesn’t give us much to go on.) As I ponder the future of multicultural marketing in an electronic age, however, I anticipate lists from Internet databases. On the Internet we are free to create unofficial names, infinite variations, in order to optimize our individual searchability. If in the future we want our software to correctly identify everyone, we must keep up with the creation of new names and spellings, the human drive to be unique.

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