Two cultural icons came to my attention this week, and the juxtaposition for me is vivid.  I think the two icons dramatically represent two cultures at odds with each other, and two different ways to deal with innovation and evolution.

The first is Google software engineer, Andrew Bunner , the other is musician/inventor/visionary, Onyx Ashanti.

This past week there has been much press about the launch of Google’s new social media site, Google+ and the removal of some accounts deemed to not be “real” people. Those accounts were removed on the basis that the name used on the account was a Pseudonym Identity. Avril Korman has an excellent discussion on the what and why of Pseudonym Identities.

If you’re wondering how a company as big as Google would have the time to track down the many pseudo name accounts even with all those servers, well apparently they can’t. But Andrew Bunner, seems up to the task. In a recent blog post he apparently said, “If you see a person with an obviously fake name, go to their profile and find the “Report Profile” link in the bottom of the left column. Report it as a “Fake Profile”. We want Google+ to be place for real people to connect with other real people.”

Some pseudo’s have already been lost in the battle, such as Opensource Secure, who brought this issue to the light; some such as Summer Seale  who remain Google+ account holders, offer themselves as sacrifice if necessary to speak out about the subject. If you scroll down on this Flickr photo by Opensource you will see a long list of links to articles and blog posts about this hot topic.

A Google search (no irony here) for a definition of “Pseudo Indentity” brought up topics in math and psychology, but not much from a cultural perspective or even a Wiki definition. But it did bring up this article from iKeepSafe on the subject of keeping kids safe using pseudo names.  This seems like reason enough to say pseudo identities are at least an okay thing, and good to have in some situations.

I think the two camps in this discussion will quickly become polarized and entrenched as has happened in Gender studies , and those two camps, the Privileged, in this case those with “real” identities who will fit themselves into the global info structure of a company like Google and conform a little bit more if necessary, and the rest of us who will find open source methods of creating more egalitarian social networks.

Now I want to introduce you to Onyx Ashanti and how he sees life. Watch this amazing video of Onyx performing for TED and read the text on the video towards the end to see why Onyx does what he does. As amazing as the music is, and how he does it, and that he conceived and created the tools to accomplish it, the reasons why he did it are even more important. This is why people like Onyx matter, and whatever name they feel best represent their essence matters too. Onyx’s name would also seem to qualify as a false persona not worthy of space at Google+. I doubt he loses much sleep over such things.

I want to live in a world where people like Onyx are seen, heard, embraced, loved, thanked, and supported. Our global culture seems to be moving away from this attitude toward artists and the arts, as witnessed by the recent news from Holland about the 25% budget cuts to funding for the arts that was supposed to have been set up to be sacred to their culture and immune from cuts.

I say that those on the pro-pseudo side of the discussion can, and should, start their own social networks that represent their own values. Others must feel the same way as has just launched, “Social Networking Anonymously”.  There are also a multitude of tools available on the web to help us interact with each other in ways that work for us. My friends on Facebook, the few I actually know, feel the same. Sharing info is good, having to do it someone else’s way is not. One of my friends on Facebook, one that I don’t know, found a romantic interest through Google Maps recently. Think outside the Facebook box.

We also need to tell each other about such things in more traditional ways as well. If a Facebook post works for you, super. I found it interesting this morning to discover that Onyx is on Facebook and has a mere 300+ fans. I think I was surprised to find he was there at all. None of my amazing friends knew of him or had posted about him there.

In the busy, info-loaded world we live in, I almost missed him too even though this is what I seek out. How long until I would have found Onyx if not for happening to see his video at my friend Zola’s salon on Sunday. Thank you Zola!

I am so taken with what Onyx is doing and the music he is making! But on top of it, I think he is showing us and telling us that we need to be evolving the spaces and methods we use for learning itself. Open everything. So I want to tell the world about Onyx, and I want you to help me. I’m talking viral here.

I almost feel like sending this beautiful man into viral space would be a cruel blow. But someone with his Light and Magic knows why they’re here, and he’s ready. Now that he’s hooked up with TED, that opens that door anyway. So let’s do it up for one of our own! Repost this in every random place you can think of, tell people on the street, lead the next person you find on a computer to him; Onyx Ashanti

See you soon,