Identity and Web 2.0: Draft 1

The National Writing Project‘s Web Presence retreat will begin tonight in Denver.  I was asked to develop a resource, of any genre, that reflected my understandings of identity and Web 2.0.  This was no easy task.  I have previously blogged in this space about privacy issues and social media, as well as given a lot of thought to the ways I interact with social media.  I also facilitated a strand on Social Networking with Bud Hunt for the WIDE PATHS conference.  That being said, I toyed with many different representations of my understandings and ultimately ended up with this video.  I invite critiques and suggestions: I see this very much as a draft (I’ve already noticed the pronoun-antecedent issue in the first two sentences, but it was, of course, after it was uploaded and on it’s way.  The final version will fix it.)  I also recognize the audio issues and have begun to resolve them.  But overall: how does this work for you?  Any suggestions?

Identity and Web 2.0 from Andrea Zellner on Vimeo.

Here is the transcript:

Identity and Web 2.0 by@AndreaZellner

Watch a small child for an hour. Notice how they interact with something new. A toddler will approach a new thing with caution, and with curiosity. They will hold it up, look at it from every angle. They will experiment with various uses. They manipulate, they poke, they prod.

When it comes to our relationships with new media, our identities are still being formed. It is new: we can’t often apply what has worked for us in the analog world to the rapidly changing landscape of Web 2.0.

As a person who has curiously toddled into the social media landscape, I have come to recognize a cycle of the way in which my online identity forms, and how that identity both shapes and is shaped by the various spaces in which I engage.

I begin with EXPLORATION: what is this space? I hold it up to the light, examine it from different angles. What are other users doing? Who are the experts in the space? How are they interacting with it? I mimic the experts. I play around.

While exploring, I start to build my understanding of the space: how might I use this space? How does this enhance my time, my life, my learning?

At this point, I move towards EXPERIMENTATION: I try new ways of interaction, play with genre, assert my own understandings of the way the space should be. I also begin codify the ways I understand the space.

An example of this movement is Twitter: at first the question was “What are you doing?” In the beginning, Twitter was dismissed as people who were interested in navel-gazing, now it is used for myriad purposes, both creative and utilitarian. As users harnessed the space for their own purposes, from posting links and information to re-enacting Romeo and Juliet, Twitter responded by changing the central prompt to “What’s happening?” –a shift in language that reflects the way the space is informed by its users, even as the space is shaping the identity of its users.

In the end, as a user I have to define what is comfortable for me. It is like peeling an onion: perhaps I only engage on the surface level, exchanging professional links and conversation, while in another, I’ll reveal more, posting pictures of my children and family in addition to musings, links. As I move from exploration to experimentation and back again, I learn how to present myself as well as how to read the ways others present themselves.

It is important to recognize that these are social networks and they are informed by the ethics we learn in our earliest encounters with the social networks of our families and communities. For me those norms were to be polite, listen more than I talk (still a hard one for me…I admit: I’m a talker), make sure I give more than I take, care for people, don’t share too much.

I define and refine my identity for each of these spaces, and, in turn, these spaces are defined and refined by me and the countless other users. As educators and professionals, it is important for us to thoughtfully and critically explore and experiment in these spaces so that we may better guide our students in their own development of these different identities.

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