Twitter is the ultimate in contagious self-promotion. With over 2500 delegates at #Bbworld14 it was a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Social media is one of the few ways to achieve a permanent ‘presence’. In every session I attended the majority were heads down working on a mobile device. I understand this. Apart from the ease of making digital notes, the tweeting motivation was strong. You don’t travel all that distance to be invisible.
There are multiple layers to social media as well as a multitude of options and #BBworld14 made good use of them, as you would expect. Even the Twitter Wall was huge!
In the world of social media your audience is often singular and cen be seen in the mirror. My Twitter stats from the event might be derisable to some, but for me they’re now a challenge to emulate!
This tweet was picked up by one of the Storify collections which inspired me to make my own very first Storify Story using tweets and photos from the event. I was impressed with the ease of the software. It does all the work for you and easily brings together any content with your name on across a whole range of social media. I linked it to Twitter and Fickr to produce a useful reminder of the event.
Lastly, I became 4130th person to be followed by @Blackboard! 🙂
Our digital identity is integral to digital literacies. Social media platforms make it easy for mistakes and the permanent nature of digital footprints mean errors made in haste can truly be repented at leisure. Whether Google will agree to taking down something you later regret is another issue but for the majority of people ‘think before you link‘ is essential. Sometimes it’s less about your own actions and more about the social media actions of others. Storify listed everyone who appeared in my #BbWorld14 story with an option to contact them and it was surprising how many faces showed up which I’d forgotten I’d included in tweets. Not all social media does this. Maybe they should.
The best conversations about online discussions happen face to face. Those with the most interesting things to say don’t say them online. They don’t want to. I’ve said it before but it needs saying again. We can’t assume everyone has the confidence to put themselves out there digitally or – dare I say – even wants to. Which leads to the question ‘is the choice to be digitally inactive a valid one?’ At a time when the university is implementing a digital education plan and its VLE procurement has resulted in enhanced Blackboard provision, how long can resistance to digital ways of working be condoned?
There may be trouble ahead. The causes of resistance are complex. Instinctual, intellectual, personal, political – there’s much to be learned from self-chosen digital divides. While one side forms cliques of tweets and blog posts the other relies on email and face to face meetings with coffee and biscuits. East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
Resistance is mostly invisible. In the online world of RSS and social media-ness, like clings to like. Resistance through choice is interesting. Often it’s about being human in the age in the machine or in Lee Siegel’s words being Against the Machine; Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob (2008). Siegel continues the anti-internet diatribe of Andrew Keen in the Cult of the Amateur (2007). Both writers follow Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985 revised 2005) and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1993). Throw in Nicholas Carr with his 2008 question Is Google Making us Stupid? Add the JISC and British Library CIBER report into the research behaviour of young people and put all this alongside Jaron Lanier’s manifesto You Are Not a Gadget (2010) to be afraid, very afraid, of ever logging onto a virtual environment again – although of course we will continue to hook ourselves up, cyborg-like, for as long as the connections make it possible. It’s more than an addiction, it’s become a way of life, but within our mass of digitally enabled lifestyles there remain those who resist, who don’t have internet-enabled mobile technology through choice, who wouldn’t consider enrolling on TELEDA and who value their self-chosen non-internet lives.
Perhaps we’ve all been fooled by google. Persuaded by easy access to information and the duplicity of google+ hangouts. We’re all living in the negative utopia of Huxley’s Brave New World. The internet has become a digital Soma-like alternative where we communicate via a machine which monitors and records every interaction for ever. Unless of course we don’t have a digital identity in the first place. Sometimes I feel like Kassandra – tell truths but don’t be believed. Once you’ve sold your soul to google it’s too late to do anything about it. You can’t delete a virtual self. Even after death it lives on. Sometimes I’m afraid resistance may prove to be the wisest choice. But only time – and a google database – will tell.
Every year I revise my sessions on digital identity. There is always something new to say. Last week two students from Chester misjudged their choice of fancy dress. Without social media this one night in their lives might have gone unnoticed. Now potential employers putting their names into google will see information not included on any CV. The incident has gone viral. All around the world. While some media commentators blamed the DJ for awarding them first prize, thereby increasing the chances of publicity, others have been scathing about the young women themselves. It looks like poor judgement rather than any in depth intention to offend but the damage is done.
Erving Goffman’s 1959 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was one of the first to suggest social identity is a performance. Like actors on stage, we wear costumes, have fixed props and adopt roles. Through these roles we present ourselves as having a specific persona which in turn is recognised by others. From here it is a small step towards attribution and stereotyping whereby assumptions are made based on appearance.
Goffman was writing long before personal computers and the internet but I find his work useful for considering the presentation of self online. Digital identity is something we don’t take seriously enough. In an increasingly digital society, turning to the internet is one of the first steps taken to find out more about other people. What turns up can be a surprise. I advise students to google themselves. It isn’t being egocentric or narcissistic. It’s a 21st century necessity!
Problems are caused less by the information we put out there and more by what other people do with it. I take in horror stories from the Daily Mail. Not because I’m a DM fan but because it show students the reality of personal information going viral. The accidental email sent to all rather than one person, inappropriate comments forwarded on, a holiday photograph shared by a Facebook ‘friend’ or simply stupid behaviour which pokes fun at vulnerable people. Whether innocent or cruel, once online it’s permanent. Our digital footprints are impossible to erase. Dressing up as the twin towers might not have been the best career move but will always be a useful reminder of the perils of presenting the digital self online.
My last post title is an apt description regarding this blog though most of September – seen but not heard (but has anyone noticed? That remains the pertinent question). The season of mellow mists and Mabon is also time for reflection; I’ve enjoyed the challenge of blogging and the occasions when there have been responses. But overall I doubt its future.
If we blog for a reason other than pure self expression then it’s like any online discussion or new ‘web 2.0’ type tool; only adopted if it is a requirement or can be shown to do something better than it is done now.
I blogged because I could; because I work with a talented colleague who set up the facility and ensured technical support was readily available. I blogged because, as a subscription payer for my own domain name and host, I appreciate the value of free self publishing on the internet. The concept of a digital divide rising out of differing means and ability for virtual communication is a core area of interest as is the construction of online identity. So blogging for me was a gift. An opportunity to find my voice and write succinctly not just on my work, but also those areas on my life where the barriers between work and non-work get blurred, (although non-work life remains mostly invisible on these pages)
Keeping up with other people’s blogs is a separate issue. As if maintaining your own wasn’t time intensive enough then to follow fellow bloggers on a regular basis is well nigh impossible. I collect my rss feeds into Netvibes and set it as my home page but the numbers of unread posts continue to rise inexorably.
Throughout the year the question of why we write blogs has been of regular interest to me. Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Maybe it should be why do we read them? Voyeurism? Curiosity? Self promotion? Ambition? CPD? I haven’t thought about it this way round before. Or maybe we need to look at the reasons people have for not writing them; our office colleagues for example. Think about it laterally. There could be some interesting answers and new light to be shed on the mystique of the blogging phenonema.
Last night I posted a blog in which I reflected on my shock at how in less than 24 hours words like voluntary and compulsory redundancy, consultation procedures and union representation had become part of my working vocabulary. I felt that blogging might help make some sense of the craziness of a situation where colleagues are facing the potential prospect of competing with each other – regardless of contractual status (fixed or permanent) or source of funding (core or external) for a lesser number of posts. I asked questions about how the end of the TQEF and the lack of ring fencing of the TESS might impact on the provision of teaching and learning development and I reflected on the reality of a finance driven strategy.
Today I was advised by a colleague that being critical of the university’s senior management in a public forum and using a system supported by the university within the lincoln.ac.uk domain could easily be interpreted as a disciplinary offence. Not wanting to make my current situation any worse, and not having any real intention other than trying to make sense of it all, I took down the blog.
Since then I’ve tried to rewrite it but the moment has passed. It stood as it was or not at all. However, it has taken me back to the recurring theme in these posts – what is blogging all about? What do we risk by posting part of ourselves online? I was using this forum to work through my own thoughts and reactions. Clearly blogging needs to be more measured than this. I was using a ‘work’ area for ‘work’ reflections but obviously stepped beyond the boundaries of what is considered to be appropriate content. Like anything else, blogging clearly has rules and risks of its own and we all need to be aware of them.
The International Conference on Information Communication Technologies in Education (ICICTE) was held in Corfu 9-11 July and focused on the changing nature of higher education and the implications of this for students and staff. I was half expecting a ‘techie’ based conference but found presentations and workshops embedded in pedagogical frameworks and my paper on the design of learning for distance delivery was well aligned with the conference keynote and themes. The challenge of blogging a conference is to be succinct so here is my blog summary.
- the changing nature of the student – student as ‘consumer’ with increasing numbers entering H.E. students are the new drivers for change
- the changing role of staff from deliverers of ‘knowledge’ to guides for internet browsing and inquiry based learning
- the changing nature of the H.E. institution as validator and mediator of knowledge rather than the gate-keeper
- the ‘commodification’ of H.E. as academic capital; ivory towers changing into golden arches as university’s become service industries/providers
- international vision of senior management that ICT is a cost effective solution for delivering H.E. to a widening participation audience
- increased demand for H.E. is happening alongside mass reduction in funding
- costs associated with ICT are higher in terms of finance and resources than traditional face to face delivery but senior management still see ICT as quick fix solution.
- increased use of ICT raises digital literacy and digital competency issues for both students and staff
- changing location of knowledge – no longer esoteric and behind campus doors but increasingly freely available – raises issues of management of mass electronic library resources and critical digital literacy abilities
- Shift happens – higher education is changing and its future is online – the tide of education technology is unstoppable.
- Bridges must be built between the technology and pedagogy if traditional H.E. qualities of critical thinking by independent self-aware individuals is not to be lost
- The role of students in providing support digital confidence and competence should not be underestimated
- Staff have to engage with virtual learning – CPD through PDP could provide initial steps if senior management recognise the need for strategic direction
- Higher Education will continue to be an exciting, rewarding environment in which to work
I’ve come away with my head spinning as usual with the wider international picture; networking with educators from different countries reinforces how the UK is seen as exemplifying all that is relevant and important about higher education.
I’ve gained increased awareness of the potential role of eportfolios and the importance of digital identity for everyone and personally I like the idea of a virtual one-stop-shop, that can say more about you than a CV ever can. The question is one of choice – WordPress, FaceBook, Mahara – realistically one area is enough to maintain –which one you choose is becoming the question – not whether or not you do it in the first place. Like it or not, online identity is fast becoming non-negotiable.
The conference website is here and the organisers have a produced a CD-ROM containing all the peer reviewed presentation papers; light, portable, saves trees and is transferable from one environment to another – the future is indeed online!
My interest in online identity began in relation to gender and the ability to portray yourself textually as male or female. Second Life took this one step further with choices over visual appearance. For me, early assumptions were that online identity was something you played with; an opportunity for deliberate experimentation. Authenticity was rare. Contrast this with the situation today where across the sector those working in higher education use their online identity to network, share ideas and generally extend the working day. The assumption is now that this constitutes a reasonably accurate reflection of your working persona.
This is not without implications for the digital divide; the one that is less about technology and more about the ways in which it is used. If you maintain a digital absence between Friday 4.30pm and Monday 8.30am and (for whatever reason) don’t tweet, blog or have Facebook ‘friends’, then the chances are you will not have an interest in the construction and maintenance of an online identity, never mind any debate over the discursive nature of this identity.
The question here is at which point does the choice not to participate in a virtual extension of yourself begin to impact on your ‘real’ working world. Are we reaching a point where having an online presence is becoming seriously more advantageous than not – where online networking has greater benefits in terms of not just wider debate but off-line issues such as career progression? What does it say about us if we Google ourselves and find there’s nothing there? How do we feel when we work with colleagues who don’t ‘do all this online stuff’ – are we tolerant of their choice or increasingly frustrated?
I’ve visited this before and no doubt will do again. Earlier this year HEFCE released its revised elearning strategy; this clearly shows how education technology is becoming integral to the higher education experience not just for students but for those working across the sector. Yet levels of engagement remain diverse. I wonder if we are creating a new digital taxonomy and if so what would it look like? A topic for my next blog I think….