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The Ring

Michael Schwartz June 10, 2012

 

So far no one likes the “Matrix” except for me. My next idea–The Ring–is inspired from multiple sources: (1) John Swanger’s series of circles (see image); (2) Singly’s logo; (3) Google Plus “Circles”.

Swanger is one of the more cerebral painters I spoke with on the East tour. He is pushing the boundaries of both technique and ideas – trying to do more with less, using found materials, exploring the texture of paint as an aesthetic. Some of his paintings are not immediately accessible without understanding the goals and constraints of the project. The series of circles, which are large works on 5-6 foot square-ish canvases, are all powerful images, painted with the world’s most comfortable paintbrush – Swanger’s flat bottomed sneakers.

The imperfection of these circles, made literally from one man’s footprints, provide perhaps as good a metaphor for the Internet’s fourth dimension as we may find. Like Swanger’s footprint-rings, our digital lives are the footprints of the people, places, and organizations in one or more of our networks. Some of these footprints are front and center, some obscured by older connections, and others are almost completely hidden.

The Ring, as an Internet scale trust model, is perhaps the widest circle possible. If information had mass, The Ring, connecting billions of people with terabytes of data, might attain unimaginable vastness–a “Ring World”, reminiscent of Larry Niven’s 1970 science fiction novel.

In addition to portraying the idea of community, rings advertise long term commitments, for example marriage rings or class rings. OX infrastructure, which enables people to link together different contexts, can serve a similar purpose. For example, enabling me to maintain my own personal data in one IDP (for example Gmail), but also to link up my work identifier mike@gluu.org, or even the my university data michael.schwartz_AB1991@wustl.edu.

By assembling points into a circle, we have created a polygon with infinite “sides” or potential interfaces. At the same time, the overlapping rings of a Venn diagram form an easy way to identify the intersection of data, enabling us to appreciate the things about us that are the same.

Webs are complicated structures. Its incredible that a spider with a pin-head sized brain can create these complex but efficient lattices many times their size. Rings are exactly the opposite: they provide an easy path to follow, and imply curatorship. For example the “Ring of Fire,” is a linked list of chile websites. By clicking on the “Ring of Fire” icon, you are navigated to the next site in the Ring. Social Networking extends this capability by enabling you to create a personal “circle of trust.” The Ring is user-centric, where you are the curator of your online world.

Finally, the Ring is re-assuring in that it provides a sustainable cycle. Its important to be able to break down networks, not just to create them. Believe it or not, I don’t need every file I’ve produced in the last 20 years. Why waste the energy carrying it with me. If we are going to organize our data, we also need to purge from time to time. OX graphs have rich support for metadata, so we can store information like : delete after 10 years if I never look at it.

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Mike Schwartz

Mike has been an entrepreneur and identity specialist for more than two decades. He is the technical and business visionary behind Gluu. Mike is an application security expert and has been a featured speaker at RSA Conference, Gartner Catalyst, Cloud Identity Summity (now "Identiverse") and many other security conferences around the world.

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