…And so we begin.
It is a strange thing, after almost five years of blogging, to open up this second door for ideas and conversation. Same blog, different floor. Or something like that. Another facet to living online, out in the open. It’s a conceit, maybe, but one that keeps me honest, keeps me pushing myself to explore.
For five years, almost, I have written myself, in a way, into being through the lens of the personal: my stories of childhood, motherhood, grief, community. My words have been received and reflected back and I’ve become both enmeshed in a rich community and identified with a particular form of expression. All of which, for me, has been positive, extraordinary, even.
But this past fall I began a doctoral journey that is, in a sense, a meta-exploration: I am studying the world of social media and the concept of digital identities – or really, digital subjectivities, how selves are constructed and performed and shaped by this environment. And suddenly, I want to write about that which cribchronicles.com cannot contain.
This will be my “thinking out loud” space, another window into my own digital identity.
A place from which to build another – perhaps overlapping intertwined – community, I hope. Because it is community and connections that keep me living and writing out here in the open. But not everybody wants to read about my torturous slogs through the bowels of Foucault all the time, I realize. Even if I can’t imagine why.
If you do, hey, welcome. ;)
The irreverently Reverend Jim Groom is leading a free open online course on digital storytelling right now: #ds106. I am, as usual, a bit late to the rapture. But I’m along for the ride, because digital storytelling seems to be what I do, and I’m curious about what else it can do.
#ds106 is good timing for me: a MOOC is always an opportunity to connect with people who share similar interests. This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course – essentially, a free and open program of professional development wherein you decide how much you want to put in and get out of the participatory experience) focuses on establishing and exploring one’s own personal cyberinfrastructure. Or, um, sites and networks and places online in which you can, y’know, express yourself. Which seems particularly handy when one is at a crossroads in terms of one’s personal cyberinfrastructure and looking to, erm, franchise. Or just grow. With capital letters.
There’s an assumption in here that I’m struggling with, though.
For all I’m an educator and deeply interested in examing what online spaces make possible in terms of learning and being, my cyberinfrastructure and my digital identity have been highly personal from the get-go. I have only just gone back to school, but neither school nor my longterm professional career in higher ed were my entry point into the creation of a valuable learning network. That link on the sidebar that says “my other site is a story”? That’s where I began building a digital identity: a personal, uncapitalized, only semi-edited War & Peace of digital storytelling and exploration. I have a cyberinfrastructure, one I’m splitting into two this week.
Both Jim and Gardner Campbell – whose work on cyberinfrastructure is the focus of this particular week in #ds106 – are big advocates of having a domain of one’s own. I don’t disagree, in general principle, though D’Arcy Norman and others have raised some very worthwhile counterpoints.
But the big issue I want to take up – especially with Gardner’s suggestion that universities provide servers as a base for frosh, thus enabling them to build their personal empires throughout their higher education experience and then carry them on into, um, life – is that the assumption that a digital identity or a personal cyberinfrastructure or a footprint or whatEVER starts and ends with the educational cum professional experience is…limiting, no matter how well-intentioned.
People’s experience of the digital world doesn’t start and end with education. And to think of it as doing so, particularly in a time when students old and young increasingly enter higher ed with Facebook profiles and other existing cyberinfrastructures of value to them, is to force the educational potential of the digital back into the same kind of circumscribing box that the classroom has served as for years. Over here: education. Over there: your life, whatever you brung to the dance. And never the twain shall truly meet.
The potential I see in being a digital subject who lives and learns online is in the MIX. Helping people build and cultivate the networks and infrastructures they have or desire or know how to value can be just as important to helping them achieve some kind of digital agency as is the possession of their own personal domain.
Maybe I’m doing the exact opposite, here, by opening up this new door into the blog, specifically for my education work. But people form community and come to conversations with particular expectations, and I don’t think that every Facebook contact a university student went to high school with is going to be a contributing member of his or her learning cyberinfrastructure. I do think, though, that part of visioning what those infrastructures look like needs to value what people bring to the conversation at the beginning: the digital identities they come in with, no matter what form these take.