Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blog Assignment #2: Digital Identity through Social Software

Boon, Stuart, and Christine Sinclair. "A World I Don't Inhabit: Disquiet and Identity in Second Life and Facebook." Educational Media International 46.2 (2009): 99-110. Print.

I have been wondering about social media. I can be uncomfortable using it, and I notice this in classmates as we use social tools to mediate class. The nature of written chats was even a topic of our written chat – true group metacognition indeed.

Consequently, Stuart Boon and Christine Sinclair’s experiences with digital identity intrigue me. They offer personal reflection founded in psychology and technology studies, providing a glimpse into social software’s effects on users. Boon and Sinclair make clear their article “raises more questions than it answers and suggests that there is an urgent need to theorise online identity, the roles of academics and students, and the codes of practice in such environments” (99). As teachers and professionals who may choose to integrate social software into classrooms and work, exploring how technology affects users is important.

Boon and Sinclair’s goal is “to discover how the act of … ‘inhabiting’ digital selves … affects not only what a student learns in these new spaces but also what a student may become in the process” (101). The authors were in courses using Facebook and Second Life, and they support using technology for education. Thus their discomfort as users is notable.

They focus their analysis on in-common reactions and how theory grounds them. They identify a major concern: “[d]igital selves invariably lack the … verifiability of the real … [T]his might seem like stating the obvious, but what might not be obvious is the emotional effect that this realisation can have on the entire virtual experience. It can result in dissonance … between real-world experiences and experiences within a digital world or environment (e.g. see Land & Bayne, 2006). Facebook does little to overcome this problem and … Second Life does even less. In both …, the onus is on the individual to break down or correct this dissonance” (104). I found this particularly interesting, as my student, reflecting on our Ning, wrote, “When I [do] my journals, I just sort of write what came to mind, so a lot of ideas aren’t fully explained ... Then, someone will … comment and it’s just sort of startling. It’s not bad, maybe good that I’m getting used to it.” It is clearly up to her to reconcile her writing and the digital experience that comes with it. As teachers, we risk assuming our students, raised in this technological world, do not struggle with social software.

Boon and Sinclair do not say to avoid these tools. They see benefits far beyond course content: the discomfort draws attention to unexamined aspects of presentation of self …, academic and social assumptions …, and even our moral stances” (109). Reconciling the dissonance with the benefits becomes our task as professionals, as Boon and Sinclair intentionally leave us poised to do our own research of social software.

1 comment:

  1. I find it interesting that an academic comment is "startling" for a student. I think it may be a shift in perceived audience. Do students expect teachers to be their audience and not their peers? (In juxtaposition with Facebook, for example, when "friends" are the audience?) So much to think about! How can we challenge our students to be intellectually provocative so that they aren't startled by a continuing conversation?