Exploring Digital Identities

…and Twitter chat with Bonnie Stewart @bonstewart

Brilliant class today — thanks, everyone! We delved deeper into our exploration of digital identities, beginning by clarifying the terms social media, social networks and networked publics. We drew on danah boyd‘s definition of networked publics from Social Network Sites as Networked Publics (one of several papers on digital identities from our growing course Reading List above).

Networked publics are publics that are restructured by networked technologies. As such, they are simultaneously (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice. Networked publics serve many of the same functions as other types of publics – they allow people to gather for social, cultural, and civic purposes and they help people connect with a world beyond their close friends and family. While networked publics share much in common with other types of publics, the ways in which technology structures them introduces distinct affordances that shape how people engage with these environments. The properties of bits – as distinct from atoms – introduce new possibilities for interaction. As a result, new dynamics emerge that shape participation.

We discussed our perceptions of a few social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, sharing ideas on how and why we use (or don’t use) them: We then discussed how to get more out of Twitter, particularly in the context of research (and CT231 research projects) — for example, how the Search feature can be used to find up-to-date resources, how to connect with authors on Twitter, and the strategic use of hashtags. We analysed a few recent @CT231 and #ct231 tweets, examining the “anatomy of a tweet”. During the second half of our session, we discussed and analysed Bonnie Stewart‘s Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics. We divided into small groups, each analysing and reflecting on one of the six key selves. Before the class session I tweeted our plans to explore this article. Wonderfully, Bonnie responded and we enjoyed — and tweeted from — lively discussions about identities, both embodied (atoms) and digital (bits). Following are just a few sample tweets; see more at hashtag #ct231.

Thanks again to all for your enthusiasm and participation today — lots of engaging discussion, both inside our sunny room and in networked public space… Please continue to share your thoughts, questions and resources of interest on Twitter, using #ct231. See you there!


4 thoughts on “Exploring Digital Identities

  1. “We discussed our perceptions of a few social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, sharing ideas on how and why we use (or don’t use) them”

    You got me thinking about my use (our lack of) social networks so here’s a few thoughts if they help. By the way, I usually jump on to these services when they 1st appear, which is when there’s less “social glue” to keep me there – less people using it that I would know or know of. Could be why some are not as important to me as part of my digital identity.

    Don’t really use it. Think it was originally because of the constantly changing rules you had to keep up with, but honestly, although friends & family are on it someone needs to actually tell me there’s a post there for me to respond to it. I don’t think I ever let Facebook become a big part of my own digital identity.

    I use this too much. Regarding my digital identity, I think Twitter works in much the same way I do (quick, short & sharp jabs of info – apart from this reply obviously). It forces me to be concise & on topic. Facebook doesn’t. I don’t ramble in comments on Facebook, but I don’t think they are about what I’m about to suit my approach.

    Again, adopted early on this but it’s not something I really use. LinkedIn has added groups on this service + discussions. I feel this is a good move & through these jobs do get advertised/mentioned. I have joined groups on e-Learning but follow the chats they hold very irregularly.

    The jury is still out on this one for me. A lot of my day is spent checking my Gmail, searching with Google, using Google Drive and sometimes I’ll be in a hangout or watching one. I don’t frequent G+ all that much & only go back to it when I see a relevant message. I have forgotten how to manage my Circles and so it now seems like too much hard work.

    So, what’s my digital identity. I use a goldfish as the image on my blog ( fboss.edublogs.org – where I’ll add this as a post too) because I feel I jump from one new thing to another but never wait to see if it’s worth maintaining. I think this gives me a lot of surface knowledge about things but I don’t get into them too deeply.

    I’m still reticent to tie my Twitter feed into G+ and Facebook & other available services, so my digital identity is still fragmented.

    I think it’s important to look after your identity online & to take control of it as soon as you’re able to understand that you are now “public”. That way the stuff you create & put online is managed & shows you in the best light & so it will be the stuff you want to be seen. You will have, over time, cultivated your online digital identity. Guess it’s a bit like tending a garden.

    I really liked the use of the post-it notes in your blog post. The one that stood out for me had “LOL” written on it (I had to look up #LAWL). I think it’s important that you enjoy creating your digital identity. It’s a work in progress and one you’ll be constantly building.

    Maybe, though, it’s like a passport and only required sometimes to be presented. However, unlike a passport that only gets checked when you use it, your digital identity is more permanent & can be checked on even if you’re unaware of it.

    One last thing not to forget is that all of the companies listed above offer you the use of their “service” for free. When there’s no cost involved remember the now classic quote “if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product”.

    If your digital identity is really your digital identity then do you own it? What if one or all if the companies listed above closed their service down tonight. Where’s your identity then? There are moves now to completely own your own digital identity, to move it into a space/server you are physically in control of.

    Just a final thought there on digital identity and the management issues around it.

    • Many thanks, Fred — really appreciate your thoughtful input to the discussion. In our class we have explored digital identity as part of our overall study of social media and more specifically networked publics as spaces for expression and interaction — socially, academically, professionally, etc. The students in CT231, an IT Professional Skills module, have been willing to reflect on their own social media practices, engage with the ideas of others (e.g. @zephoria, @bonstewart and more) and explore these ideas in discussion, both inside class and online (and yes, there were lots of LOLS :)). We are, naturally, using networked public spaces to explore these ideas as well as our classroom at NUI Galway. Our “classroom” is open, through this blog, our Twitter interactions, and, soon, student blogs. Our aim is reflective practice.

      Love your comments about privacy and ownership — these are intimately connected with the concept of digital identities. One of the key selves Bonnie Stewart defines and explores is the Branded Self, i.e. “Me, Inc” — something many CT231 students said they could relate to. We also had wonderful discussions about the performative aspect of online interactions (to what extent do we perform online? in RL?) and the notion of augmented reality… how interrelated are our embodied and digital identities?

      If you haven’t had a chance yet, I very much recommend reading Bonnie’s post… I believe she is developing the ideas further as we speak!
      Ref: http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2012/05/06/digital-identities-six-key-selves/

  2. Pingback: Exploring digital identities « catherinecronin

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