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Vocalprints and Retinal Scans

Vocalprints and Retinal Scans

Considering the voice as a part of our identity

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         They say that no two people are created equal. Anatomically and physiologically this is especially true: our bodies are unique to us. This fact has even inspired the creation of technologies such as optical/fingerprint/vocal recognition security software.

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         But think about this: for the most part, as you change and grow, the eyes you were born with and the fingerprints you have from 6 months after your conception are the eyes and fingerprints you will have when you die (this of course is referring to structural attributes not necessarily functional ones). So while these are both tools to “identify” an individual, they are not part of our identity.

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         Our identity is much more plastic. How we identify ourselves and others changes with us as we grow and develop (and for most people… mature). Things like gender, sexual orientation, and personality, are some of the ways in which we find ourselves having to socially identify. For some people this takes intense introspection and it isn’t always on par with how we appear to others. That’s okay. In my opinion, identity is a personal and categorical classification that is dependent on how we view ourselves, not on how others view us.

         But what about something that is unique to each individual that we don’t have any control over? Could that potentially be part of our identity?  This is where I will humbly (and potentially controversially) suggest that the voice is one such component of our identity. Not only is it a way in which we communicate with others in social environments, but it is a way in which we unknowingly express our individuality. Beyond things like what and how we speak, the actual quality of our voices is a mark of who we are. It is anatomically and physiologically pre-determined, and while it is possible to alter our voices, a vocal signature is ever-present. Because our voices are so dependent on our anatomy and physiology, they are also susceptible to the changes that occur as we grow and develop.

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         From the perspective of a singer, I can also say that my voice is a key component of who I am because it allows me to connect with others and myself. Beyond communication of language, it allows for communication of emotions and more complexly nuanced states (i.e. my favourite: sarcastic). My voice allows me to express who I am in a way that many other things about me can’t do (even components of my identity). The voice is an actively influential component of a person’s identity, whereas things like gender or sexual orientation are much more passive; while they are part of who a person is at their core, they are not necessarily a component of their identity that influences or defines them to the extent that their own voice does.

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         One other thing to think about is that whether we like it or not, our voices are a way in which others also identify us as individuals. How many times have you been sitting in a room and heard a laugh or phrase uttered from an adjacent room and without any further cues known who it was? Or listened to a new song on the radio and knew who the singer was before they were announced?

         Our voices are our mark on ourselves and the world around us. No other aspect of our identity is so transcendent. This of course makes it important to protect it. To share it with others is to share a part of who you are. It at once identifies and connects you to the world around you. Love it. Nurture it. Respect it. And you’ll find that you unknowingly end up more wholly loving, nurturing, and respecting yourself.

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