Identity in the network

George’s presentation this week is very timely, as I have been trying to sort out in my own mind the role of identity in a network. I have trawled the Moodle forums for references to identity and there has only been limited discussion of this. There has been some discussion of how you can create your identity or multiple identities online – see Pat Parslow’s post . But I don’t think this is in question. I haven’t yet looked through the blogs. I don’t think I know a quick and easy way to do this.

How do you establish your identity in an online network?  Etienne Wenger (Sept 28th 2008, forum post) in discussing identity, learning and meaningfulness writes:

“The question of identity is central to learning both because learning changes our ability to participate in the world, and therefore our identity. And conversely a central principle to social learning theory is that knowledge has to be “lived” in a space of meaningfulness by the person, and therefore knowledge cannot be separated in practice from the identity that can live this knowledge as an experience of engaging in the world and making meaning.

George has said in his presentation that the ‘need for individual recognition’ cannot be ignored and that the basis of collective intelligence is a recognition of the self.  George also has a slide where he says that the ‘self’ (a word which he sometimes appears to be using interchangeably with ‘identity’) is shaped and expressed by socialisation, and says elsewhere in his presentation that people seek to retain their identity in network and group situations.

So is identity fixed, i.e. something we can bring to the network or group, or is it always changing, being shaped by the group or network and in turn shaping the group or network? The latter makes more sense to me, i.e. that it is not fixed and if so it is not something that can be retained. 

It seems to me that a lot of what we are observing in this course is people trying to establish an identity. Some appear to be finding this easier than others. Would it be fair to say that the better connected you are the easier it is to establish an identity? Would it also be fair to say that the group offers more opportunities for this than the network and that the group is instrumental is assisting people to find their identity?

This should be an interesting week.

3 thoughts on “Identity in the network

  1. Keith Lyons October 7, 2008 / 8:41 am


    I wonder if a person’s (self) centredness gives their identity a confidence to engage (connect)? I wonder too if a person’s (other) centredness opens them to group affirmation? As you indicated elsewhere a network may be a different kind of identity and value space?


  2. jennymackness October 8, 2008 / 8:02 am

    Hi Keith – this is an interesting comment. If you have time could you say a little more about what you mean?

  3. Maru October 8, 2008 / 7:12 pm

    Hi Jenny!

    Thanks for your kind reply in my blog. I have not seen the blog post you suggest, thanks for pointing that out.

    What you suggest here intrigues me. I do not have, consciuosly, a different identity. But as my ability to participate increases, that identity changes. Each group I belong to may view me different from the other but I am usually me. A groupr or network I joined a year ago may have a different idea about my identity than a recent one.

    What I want to say is that maybe I don’t notice the changes that learning produces in me, my core is the same but the others do. So identity can be viewed from two perspectives, from self perspective and from viewers perspective. Does this ring a bell in you?

    I agree, this week will be an intreresting one. I am really sorry I won’t participate as much because my modem got burned and I cannot afford the luxury of leaving the office or house to go to cyber places.

    See you next week.
    Love: Maru

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