Blogging and academic identity

I gave a talk recently about blogging (twittering, etc) and how we create online identities for ourselves. The slidecast is above. I wanted to explore some ideas, the main ones being:

  • It is about identity, not technology X
  • Your identity will be constituted from several different tools/services
  • Your configuration and emphasis of those tools is part of what makes the identity (as well as what you put in them)
  • An online identity is becoming default for academics now
  • All this is driven by really easy and diverse ways of sharing
  • There are numerous benefits to you as an academic

I concluded with two propositions, which you might like to disagree with:

  1. Soon, your online identity will be your academic identity
  2. There is an online identity of some form out there for everyone

I hope you find the presentation useful – I have to say I've come to loathe the sound of my own voice and my incoherent rambling so much, I think I may desist from doing slidecasts. Whatever my online identity is, it's not as a raconteur.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Martin,
    Re: “your online identity will be your academic identity”
    I just wondered whether you think there are facets of your “online identity” which you don’t consider part of your “academic identity”? And/or whether you see a role for other “online identities” distinct from your “academic identity”?
    Fo examples of the sort of things I’m thinking about, see e.g. http://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/socialweb/wiki/UserStories#Multiple_Identities

  2. Martin,
    You’ve now written at least two posts that I am dying to respond to at length now, but I have yet to find the time. And the “Death of should” post in conjunction with this discussion of identity has some very interesting resonances for things I have been both thinking about and struggling with lately. In short, although I hope I’ll develop this more fully in a post sometime soon, how does the idea of the vernacular identity emerge in this equation.
    In other words, the post on “the demise of should” frames a very specific and fascinating notion of the idea of engaging culture should focus around certain classic texts, films, etc. The idea that we all can talk about anything and find a suitable, albeit dysfunctional, echo chamber is very interesting issue to me. Match that with a professional, or “suitable” identity online that in many ways will also be framed by the idea of should, you should present yourself, it should be along a certain logic, etc. makes me wonder how much of the questions surrounding identity online are quickly becoming framed by very limited ideas of who we are.
    Now, I know there is a place and service for all one’s identities, but I also wonder if the idea of rolling your various identities, professional, crass, personal, and otherwise might actually mark the death of the “should” and the rise of a kind of vernacular culture that will more and more be the standard. Maybe increasingly employers, colleagues, and friends have very similar interests in all these areas of your life and who you are. And the transformation we have been working through is in many ways a transformation of how we imagine and perform our identity. But in this lies the trap and danger of a persona, a kind of hollow sense of the person versus an at times not so flattering, yet somehow “real” portrait, even if only through the convulsions of different identities all in one place.
    I am increasingly convinced the transition into the online space is one marked by social and spatial schizophrenia, and your two posts recently—this and the demise of should—have for some odd reason keep me coming back to the idea of vernacular culture. But in this there is also a whole different strand on the emergence of theme parks like Coney Island in the early 20th century, so i will stop now and consider this mindless scribbling in your comments on the way to a post. Sorry to take up so much space.

  3. @Pete and @Jim – both of your comments focus on having multiple identities, so I”ll wrap up my response.
    Re. the should aspect – I don’t want to overplay this. I think we’d all agree that the FR Leavis notion of the great tradition, where only a very few select works were deemed worthy. In general the opening up of the artistic sphere has been a good thing. I was just pondering whether the complete loss of any sense of compulsion to engage with ‘high culture’ (or whatever) doesn’t have some detriment.
    On to identity – I think both of you are right – my final equation is overly simplistic. What I was trying to suggest was that, just as with publications, if Google can’t find you then people will find alternatives. So as an academic, my academic online identity will be my academic identity. BUT, as you argue, that may only be a subset of your different online identities. I tend to only have one, but increasingly as kids get older I think it will be essential that they have at least two – one with a pseudonym where they can make mistakes and fool around, and one more closely linked to their real id. (Pete – we both know people who are trying to have ‘professional’ and personal twitter ids for instance, although with limited success).
    All this is part of the ‘it’s evolving’ argument – I really think we’re just at the beginning of this and have a long way to go in our understanding of it. Even if technology stopped today, we’d have years of research to do in this.
    Jim – I’m not sure I’ve addressed your points, so please come back if not.

  4. Martin,
    I really don’t know how you could address my points because I am not sure I made any, but ti’s interesting that I feel you are closely tracing stuff I am struggling with these days, and like you said all the questions around identity are really nascent, and I think this is where the real focus and power of teaching and learning with technology lies for the future.

  5. “Soon, your online identity will be your academic identity.”
    Just wondering about the difference between the UK and Australia. Here I find many University academics are reluctant to blog etc and it is common for Universities here to want private blogs due to concerns over intellectual property.
    IMHO online identity is becoming increasingly important as a means of others knowing about your work. Downside is others can confuse expertise with size of online presence. For example, minimal online presence might imply you aren’t that knowledgeable.

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