I share….. therefore I am….

The title of this post is a quote from Sherry Turkle’s presentation on YouTube – Alone Together – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtLVCpZIiNs

But I could equally have given this post the title – People lose their identities in cybermush – which is an idea expressed (if not in those exact words) by Jaron Lanier in a conversation that he has with Aleks Krotoski about the failure of Web 2.0 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIwikI7IVYs .

Turkle and Lanier’s work has come into focus for me this week for two reasons.

First – they both focus on the same concerns that I have been discussing with Carmen Tschofen for quite a few months now – i.e. what is the impact of connectivity on the individual. The paper we are writing is almost ready for submission now.

Second – they were pointed to by Martin Weller as part of his work in Week 3 of ChangeMooc – http://change.mooc.ca/week03.htm

Martin Weller has been sharing his work on Digital Scholarship and in particular  ‘open scholarship’. In the changemooc website he writes…..

Although I have tried to avoid some of the more rabid evangelism one often encounters with new technology, it is fair to say that in general I regard digital scholarship as an improving force in scholarly practice, and that it provides ways of working that are often an improvement on existing methods. But it is not without its drawbacks and areas of concerns. In this section we will look at some of these, and consider which ones have the greatest significance and validity.

…. and asks

  • It is worth considering the nature and tone of some of these criticisms (criticism of Digital Scholarship), often based on anecdotes and lacking in evidence. Is this simply a case of the evidence not existing yet, or does it reveal something about the nature of the discussion?
  • Of the criticisms listed which ones do you feel are most significant?
  • Beyond the ones I’ve listed do you think there are other areas of serious concern which should give us pause to reflect in the adoption of digital scholarship approaches?

Weller – in Chapter 13 of his book – summarises these criticisms as follows:

  • Moving beyond the superficial – many successful Web 2.0 services essentially allow a very simple function, for example, sharing a photograph. Can we use the same techniques for deeper, more difficult tasks?
  • Understanding quality – this is not just about maintaining current quality, as this may not be appropriate in many forms, but appreciating when different levels of quality can be used.
  • Managing online identity – there is a tension for scholars and their students in gaining the benefits of a social network, which thrives on personal interactions, while not compromising professional identity.
  • Ownership of scholarly functions – there is also a dilemma regarding how much of scholarly discourse and activity we give over to cloud computing services and whether the benefits in terms of widespread use and (often) superior tools outweigh the potential risks.

In the work that I am doing with Carmen, we focus on issues relating to identity, but identity in relation to the learning of individuals rather than professional identity  – although there is clearly some overlap.  What concerns us is that connectivity, as Sherry Turkle states, can become addictive, can make us too busy to think and can lead to simply sharing what is easy to share (superficiality), rather than ideas that are more deeply considered.  Turkle tells us that ‘solitude energises and restores’ and that ‘alone’ is OK and is not the same thing as lonely. These are some of the ideas that Carmen and I have been discussing in more depth and have included in our paper.

I can’t speak for Carmen, but in terms of Digital Scholarship – I have been having difficulties in relation to this work I have been doing with Carmen. I work really slowly. It takes me a long time to read, digest ideas and sort out my thinking. None of it ever comes easily. So, I have been working on these ideas since February of this year.  Originally our discussions were about autonomy, but gradually our thinking shifted to a deeper levels of enquiry and understanding and after one submission of the paper which was returned, our focus shifted again. Clarifying and articulating the essence of our ideas and concerns has been a lengthy process. In the meantime, because we both follow conversations on the Web, we know that if we don’t get a move on our ideas will be out of date before we can publish – the conversation will have moved on. So there is this tension between seeking depth and understanding, and keeping up. Of course I appreciate that some (maybe many) people are clever enough to get to depth and understanding quickly, but I am not one of them 🙂

And then there has been the whole question of whether we should go down the publication/peer review route. Both of us work independently so we are not subject to the pressures to publish research exacted by many institutions, but having spent quite a few months on this work, it seems like a lot of effort if it is not going to be read by anyone. We could publish on our blogs, but I know that I don’t get what I would consider enough visitors to my blog (certainly not the daily hundreds that Martin Weller talked about), and blogs are not cited as much as papers. So the best option for me is an open peer reviewed journal – but even with these there is a delay between submission and publication. Whilst this might not be as great as for traditional journals it might still be too slow to keep up with current web conversations.

So for me there is a great tension between avoiding the superficial, seeking quality and depth, and the demands of open digital scholarship.

And of course I am aware that even after all this our paper may not be accepted 🙂

10 thoughts on “I share….. therefore I am….

  1. Carmen Tschofen September 30, 2011 / 8:48 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I think this requires a longer response on my part—the “making of’ movie, maybe:-) The idea that we both have slightly different slants on our conversations reflects, I think, the complexity of what we are wrestling with. I do agree that the speed at which information flows and conversations shift has made keeping our considerations up to speed with current conversations even harder.

    I would be hesitant to characterize our conversations too much as a Turkle-Lanier redux. While the concerns about addiction and superficiality are indeed a legitimate part of our considerations, I think the reflections on the individual and his or her needs for and tendencies toward action and thought in and outside of connective environments– where we are more focused the inclination for “interaction with” rather than the “impact of” connective learning– moves us a bit away from worried cultural judgments. (And the “digital scholar” is a more focused identity than our broader discussion of “the individual”.) Nancy Baym (2010) notes about digitally mediated communication: “It’s a question of who’s communicating, for what purposes, in what contexts, and what their expectations are.” I think this is more reflective of the angles on individuals and connectivity we have been discussing, with an attempt to understand the complexity behind why people do what they do (or don’t do)… and hopefully with a perspective where we can use the inclination toward moral panic more as a useful reflective tool than a subtly pervasive narrative…
    Carmen

  2. jennymackness October 1, 2011 / 9:42 am

    Hi Carmen – thanks for your addition here. I hadn’t really intended ‘to characterize our conversations too much as a Turkle-Lanier redux’, nor to suggest that our discussions have been about digital scholarship. It was simply that when I was reading through Martin Weller’s materials and links I was struck by the fact that many people seem to be touching on the ideas we have been discussing, but in different ways. Nancy Baym’s quote is helpful.

  3. Glenyan October 1, 2011 / 1:56 pm

    Hi Jenny; I’m looking forward to reading such a paper as you describe it. The fact that your ideas have been shifting and deepening your ideas makes it appealing to me. I tend to work the same way as you describe, slowly and with time to read and digest, and can appreciate such a process and the outcome. Hopefully you can make the paper available in someway when it is ready.

    I wrote briefly on a similar topic recently, maybe you can get something from it: http://wp.me/pFtHN-6r

    Regarding your statement about the conversation moving on, do you think it’s too simple to assume that ideas worth thinking about deeply will always have a place in conversation? Or, are you talking in more of a publishing industry sense?

    Your commentary about where to put your paper is interesting. Maybe there’s room out there for some ideas that can fill in the cracks surrounding personal blogs, open or closed journals, peer review, and scoop-it.

  4. RoseQ (@RoseQ) October 1, 2011 / 6:44 pm

    HI Jenny
    Interesting post.
    This focus on the individual is where I am positioning my PhD work 🙂
    ..with the help of Wayne Hugo (UKZN) and Roy Williams (Portsmouth)
    regards
    Rose
    @Glenyan – tx for the link to your post too 🙂

  5. jennymackness October 2, 2011 / 5:28 pm

    Glen – many thanks for your comment and the link to your very interesting post.

    > do you think it’s too simple to assume that ideas worth thinking about deeply will always have a place in conversation? Or, are you talking in more of a publishing industry sense?

    I was talking more in the publishing sense – but it might be too simple to assume that deas worth thinking about deeply will always have a place in conversation – or at least in the general conversation.

    Like you the weekly change of topic in changemooc is too fast for me. It’s just enough time to raise awareness of what might be interesting to follow up – and I know from experience how difficult it is to come back to ideas, once things have moved on. Digital scholarship, for example, for me is a topic that could be discussed for a few weeks.

    That’s why from CCK08 on, I have tried to have a specific purpose attached to each MOOC I attend and then follow that through regardless of what is happening in the MOOC. This has helped to to follow up a bit of the ideas that I think are worth thinking about more deeply, but I suspect it can make me appear anti-social 🙂

  6. jennymackness October 2, 2011 / 5:29 pm

    Rose – many thanks for your comment. You probably know that I have been working with Roy on and off for three years now – so it’s a small world 🙂

    Do you blog about your PhD work. I’d love to hear more about it.

    Jenny

  7. brainysmurf1234 October 4, 2011 / 4:23 pm

    Thanks for this, Jenny. You have captured the struggle so succinctly with this phrase: “there is this tension between seeking depth and understanding, and keeping up”. I believe this is what people are getting at when they fret about information overload. There is a desire, in me at least, to keep up with the volume of links that I pull to my inbox but I still want to get beneath the surface, skimming until I find somewhere to dive (and I want to dive). Will keep pondering this as we go fwd in this week’s session.

  8. jennymackness October 4, 2011 / 7:54 pm

    @brainysmurf1234 – would really like to hear your further thoughts if and when you have them and have time to share.
    Jenny

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