Identity Online

This week has seen the last Networked Learning Conference Hotseat for this year – Managing your Online Learner Identity

Having followed the Hotseat discussions, the topic seems to have raised more questions than it has answered. It started with a discussion about what we mean by online learner identity, online identity, learner identity, or simply identity and is this different online to offline, and can we ever not be learning?  It seems that most of the Hotseats have started off by trying to pin down meanings for the terms being used by the Hotseat presenters.

Then came questions relating to whether we have one identity or multiple identities and whether working online fragments or disembodies our identities.

There was of course the discussion about how the internet might alter our identities by making them so publicly visible; we leave indelible traces on the internet. Do we have less control over how others perceive us online, or are we able to manipulate what others think of us?

Do we construct our online identities in association with others? What is the role of avatars in this?

Does the fact that we inhabit different online environments for different purposes mean that we have different identities?

Interestingly and coincidentally, questions about identity have also been raised this week by Alan Levine in a keynote video he gave for the Flat Classroom Project   His questions were:

  • Is there a clear demarcation between who you are online and elsewhere?
  • What parts of you are people missing out on if they do not interact with the online you?
  • Why (or why not) should you manage your own personal cyber infrastructure? What does this mean to you?
  • Who are we in this space where the online world is not something distinctly separate?

And then similarly – almost coincidentally I came across Lou McGill’s blog post about identity and through her Bon Stewarts blog post

There were a lot of references to literature posted in the Hotseat, which I have copied here below – but I was surprised that Etienne Wenger’s work on Learning, Meaning and Identity was not mentioned. A comment like ‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’, would seem to relate to this discussion.

I have signed up for the Academic Betreat  this year as an online participant and am hoping there will be more discussion about ‘identity’ during the week.

References and relevant links from the Hotseat

Koole, M. (2010). The web of identity: Selfhood and belonging in online learning networks. The 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (May 3-4). Aalbourg, Denmark.

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2012). A Model of Digital Identity Formation in Online Learning Networks. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital identity and social media. London, UK: Information Science Reference, an imprint of IGI Global.,+capability+

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20(1), 43-63.

Harré, R. (2010). Social sources of mental content and order. In L. Van Langenhove (Ed.), People and societies: Rom Harré and designing the social sciences (pp. 121-149). New York, NY: Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).

Latour, B. (2007, April 6). Beware, your imagination leaves digital traces. Times Higher Literary Supplement. Retrieved February 27, 2012 Retrieved from

Ricoeur, P. (1992). Oneself as another. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.

Rajagopal, K., Verjans, S., Van Bruggen, J., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). Stimulating reflection through engagement in social relationships. In W. Reinhardt, T. D. Ullmann, P. Scott, V. Pammer, O. Conlan, & A. J. Berlanga (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st European Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Learning Networks (ARNets11). In conjunction with the 6th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL 2011): Towards Ubiquitous Learning 2011 (pp. 80-89). September, 21, 2011, Palermo, Italy: CEUR Workshop Proceedings. Available at

Madge, C, Meek, J, Wellens, J & Hooley, T 2009, “Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 141–155.

Selwyn, N 2009, “Faceworking: exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook.” Learning, Media and Technology, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 157–174.

Perrotta 2009 The construction of a common identity through online discourse

Van Doorn 2009 The ties that bind: the networked performance of gender, sexuality and friendship on MySpace

9 thoughts on “Identity Online

  1. serenaturri March 25, 2012 / 5:47 pm

    My master’s thesis has the same subject:

    (But) I used the italian language 🙂

  2. jennymackness March 26, 2012 / 6:50 am

    Thankyou Serena for sharing the link to you Master’s Thesis on Identity here. Unfortunately I do not speak Italian but there will be others who do 🙂


  3. VanessaVaile March 26, 2012 / 11:24 pm

    By coincidence or serendipity, I opened this to read just as I was finishing / starting (depending on which end you looked at/from) an identity adjustment, transitioning from being the lone tweeter for a national organization (highered adjunct faculty advocacy) to renaming that account designating myself but as part of the organization and creating an official account that I would be on. Never entirely at ease being a spokesperson for anyone but myself even wearing many hats, I’d been planning to make the move now that a few other key members are tweeting including the president/founding member. That got bumped to the head of the line when someone took a statement our of context and was bent on laying at the organization’s doorstep.

    Add to that two more twitter accounts, one personal /comprehensive and another for poetry/writing/ lit pages. Four Facebook pages in addition to personal profile, blogs and sundry aggregation / curation pages. I could use an identity management MOOC …

    PS this is me commenting (I think)

  4. jennymackness March 27, 2012 / 8:33 am

    Hi Vanessa – thanks for your comment. I think your last line is the most telling – ‘this is me commenting (I think)’.

    Does the ‘I think’ mean you are not sure – or are you pretty convinced of who you are despite having different ‘accounts’ distributed across the web for different purposes?


  5. brainysmurf March 30, 2012 / 9:03 pm

    I love Vanessa’s idea of an identity management MOOC! Please keep me posted if you hear of one or develop one! 🙂

  6. red rabbit skills services April 3, 2012 / 6:58 am

    Thank you for this very useful resource. I intend to follow up on your resource and reference list. I would like to reblog this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s