Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

#Change11 :: Identities

with 2 comments

I enjoyed Bonnie Stewart’s post on Digital Identities and also the recording of her presentation (I missed the live version – physical identity with my dentist). I found the background chat often too interesting or entertaining for multitasking so I proceeded by ignoring the chat every few minutes then pausing Bonnie and returning to consume the last fragment of  chat. It was a fascinating presentation and I think one of the best in Change11.

I’ve yet to come to terms with my Quantified Self. When I joined my first MOOC (CCK11) I decided to be almost completely open about my identity and I have no regrets with that. I like to do my own thing, in my own way and I like to know the consequences. I resent attempts by commercial interests to quantify and covertly reshape my involvement. I sign up for anything going – facebook, Twitter, Quora, Udacity etc more often out of curiosity than anything else but I’m very wary about clicking on anything I don’t understand. In short, I try to use or adapt these sites for my own selfish purposes. (This can be wearing. For example, I try to keep facebook for family purposes only and then feel obliged to explain this to worthy but non-family digital friends who try to ‘friend’ me.)  I don’t consider the actual numbers of my ‘followers’, ‘friends’, Klout score etc to be of much importance.

With no background in psychology and a geeky disposition, I tend to see things more in terms of how people behave online using the technology of the present rather than through an identity lens. The idea of different identities in the non-digital world, the wearing of different ‘hats’ in different social situations, is very familiar of course. Everyone creates and projects multiple identities for home, work, families, friends etc and identity management seems just about hard-wired into our systems. I recall when I was about about 7, attending the primary school where my own father was a teacher and having no particular difficulty wearing my pupil hat for school and taking it off at home. (Though occasionally, when alone with my father in his teacher role, my pupil self worked hard to stay in character – the dichotomy was not lost on the young me!)

From about the same age that I first grappled with identities my grandchildren now effortlessly (or so it seems!) manage their own digital lives quite happily alongside their ‘real’ ones, or perhaps more accurately, as a part of their real lives. But in 2012, most of us don’t have the advantages of extreme youth. Many aspects of digital life are still relatively new and stable norms of behaviour have hardly had time to evolve before rapid technological changes upset things yet again. It may be that many of the current problems associated with digital identity – who we are seen to be – the frustrations of mass asychronous communication – the wide gap between virtual reality and the ‘real’ thing etc etc, will ease or even vanish with improving technology. The problems that resist technological fix may be the same human problems that have been with us since the beginning of time!

Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

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  1. The same but technologically “enhanced.” Did you see First Monday’s article/essay One, No One and One Hundred Thousand Profiles re-imagining Pirandello’s Uno, Nessuno, Centomila to social media and online networks?


    May 15, 2012 at 1:11 am

    • Yes – take MOOCs; current technological hiccups (dead links – clunky synchronous sessions – un-walled garden chaos & confusion etc) are probably transitory. People issues (leadership – trolls – motivation – altruism – for or not for profit etc) not so – plus ça change!

      Hadn’t seen the essay – looks interesting – printing it out for easy reading – thanks!


      May 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

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