online academic identity

Blogs are fast moving and transient worlds. I didn’t agree with Martin Weller’s  post about online academic identity – but by the time I’d reflected on a response he had also agreed it was too simplistic a definition – although for different reasons to mine. “Rather than suggesting your online and academic identities were one and the same” Martin writes, (here) “Your online academic identity will be a subset of your online identities.” Now the ways in which virtual environments allow us to play with and explore alternative identities have fascinated me since the days of MUDS and MOOS. If I were on Mastermind my specialist subject would be gender – a fundamental identity characteristic yet possibly the one we think about the least. So multiple online identities – along with awareness of danger and good management of risk – is where I’m at and I wondered if the risk of linking academic and online identity is that it both privileges and marginalises. Also when related to education it comes close to Fischer’s suggestion  that the technologically illiterate teacher should be equated with a failure to read and write.  Technology is only that simple to the technologists themselves.

The danger with conflating academic and digital identities is the assumption that one size fits all. We are currently awash with reports that promote digital environments; Digital Britain , the Edgeless University, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age and assumptions that connection is the way forward. None acknowledge the difficulties of digital universalism. Sometimes I feel that in 10 years time I will still be saying ‘don’t forget diversity!’ I support virtual environments for the opportunities to widen participation across all aspects of life but many people need additional time, inclination, resources and assistance in access. In conclusion:

* I’m less concerned about the kudos attached to having an online presence.
* I’m slightly more concerned about negativity being attached to those who chose not to have one.
* I’m concerned most of all about those who are unable to participate in the first place.

3 Replies to “online academic identity”

  1. Coincidentally I have just read an extremely interesting paper on this topic which argues that the way we percieve our on line identities has significant implications for our participation in on-line communities. I think I can see some evidence of that in the reluctance of many of my real life friends to participate in social networks because they don’t think they belong to the group they believe those things belong to. (If you see what I mean!) I’ll leave you to reflect on the implications for on line learning.

    Anyway, the full reference is:-

    HUGHES, G., 2007. Diversity, identity and belonging in e-learning communities: some theories and paradoxes. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(5), pp. 709-720.
    (Isn’t Refworks brilliant?)

  2. Interesting article Paul, thanks. I found myself considering my own transition from MySpace to Facebook which was triggered by interest in opportunities for pre-university networking and how – although I still miss the customisation of MySpace – I seem to have stayed. While the Mac v PC debate continues I wonder of cultural/political difference is limited to social networking or can be identified in any other software divides such as IE and Firefox or MS and Open Office.
    The key issue that rang bells was about access being the answer to unequal participation – replicated in most governmental documents such as the Bescta Harnessing Technology reports and the HEFCE Elearning strategies. Provision of the technology is not the answer – in the same way as embedding VLEs in the wake of the Dearing Report has failed to make any fundamental difference to teaching and learning in HE. The issue is not the tool but how it is used and if Digital Britain is anything to go by this is something that is still passing the technology enthusiasts by.

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