Security, identity, voice, opportunity and agency on the distributed web

The topic for the final week of the E-Learning 3.0 course is Agency. Agency is one of those words that, if you work in education, is very familiar, but when it comes down to it, are we clear about what it means? Off the top of my head I would associate choice with the word agency, i.e. learners have the freedom and ability to make choices about their learning. Looking up definitions of the word agency reveals explanations related to business and organisations, but a search for agency in education resulted in the following two definitions:

Agency is the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative—the opposite of helplessness. Young people with high levels of agency do not respond passively to their circumstances; they tend to seek meaning and act with purpose to achieve the conditions they desire in their own and others’ lives.

In social science, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, structure is those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and their decisions.

The first definition relates closely to the work being done by Silvia Baldiris, who works with the Fundación Universitaria Tecnológico Comfenalco (Colombia) and Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (Spain), and Jutta Treviranus, Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) and professor at OCAD University in Toronto. I found their conversation with Stephen Downes this week, very thought-provoking and surprisingly moving, so I think I can understand why and how Stephen’s recent trip to Colombia resulted in him creating a video about what peace means to him.

Silvia and Jutta talked about how they are working to give vulnerable young people in Colombia, who have different and diverse learning needs from the norm, and are therefore marginalised by the education system, opportunities for finding their voice and identity, through shared storytelling. They described the success of the work they have done thus far and their aspirations for future work. It is well worth listening to the recording of their video for details of their work.

I am not going to write any more about it here;  a very good account of their discussion, which covers all the main points has already been posted by Roland Legrand – Diversity, Data and Storytelling  and you can find out more about their very impressive work from the resources listed at the end of this post.

Once again Stephen posted a very helpful Synopsis at the beginning of this topic on agency. This prompted the following thoughts/questions which I will insert (in blue font) into Stephen’s text (in italics).

Each of the major developments in the internet – from the client-server model to platform-based interoperability to web3-based consensus networks – has been accompanied by a shift in agency. The relative standing of the individual with respect to community, institutions, and governments was shifted, for better or worse.

What do we mean by agency in this context?  Do we mean choice and if so can too much choice be confusing? What examples do we have of ‘the relative standing of the individual with respect to community, institutions, and governments’ being shifted for better or worse. Is agency a myth?

Each stage in technological development is inspired by social, political and economic aspirations, and understanding the next generation of learning and technology requires understanding the forces that shaped them. So we close our enquiry with a consideration of issues related to power and control, to peace and prosperity, to hopes and dreams.

This brings up questions around technological determinism. To what extent are social, political and economic aspirations inspired by technological development? What are the forces that will shape the next generation of learning and technology? Is it true that more agency on the distributed web will mean more power for learners, or will power continue to be concentrated in the few that know how to manage distributed learning and understand how to use it?

McLuhan said that technology is a projection of ourselves into the community, so we need to consider how human capacities are advanced and amplified in a distributed and interconnected learning environment. Our senses are amplified by virtual and augmented reality, our cognitive capacities extended by machine vision and artificial intelligence, and our economic and social agency is represented by our bots and agents.

We are the content – the content is us. This includes all aspects of us. How do we ensure that what we project to the world is what we want to project, both as teachers and learners? As content and media become more sophisticated and more autonomous, how do we bind these to our personal cultural and ethical frameworks we want to preserve and protect?

Does projection of ourselves into the community also come with risk – risk to our data and identities? Agency will only be a reality if people know how to do this safely. Power will be in the hands of those who know.

These are tied to four key elements of the new technological framework: security, identity, voice and opportunity. What we learn, and what makes learning successful, depends on why we learn. These in turn are determined by these four elements, and these four elements are in turn the elements that consensus-based decentralized communities are designed to augment.

Is there a hierarchical relationship between these four key elements, i.e. security must be in place before identity and then voice can be realised, and opportunity with agency rely on security, identity and voice being safeguarded. Security, identity and voice will enable the confidence needed to take advantage of opportunity, exercise agency and make safe choices. Is agency a lottery?

Learning therefore demands more than just the transmission or creation of knowledge – it requires the development of a capacity to define and instantiate each of these four elements for ourselves. Our tools for learning will need to emphasize and promote individual agency as much as they need to develop the tools and capacities needed to support social, political and economic development.

Is this referring to technological tools?

It is difficult to imagine a world in which education is not solely about knowledge and skills. But as we transform our understanding of learners from social and economic units to fully realized developers and sustainers of the community as a whole, it becomes clear that education must focus on the tools and capacities for agency along with the knowledge, culture and skills that sustain them.

I find these last two paragraphs don’t quite fit with my experience, in which learning has always been more than just transmission or the creation of knowledge. I have always understood learning to be the process through which learners learn to become the person they want to be. So yes learning is about much more than acquiring knowledge and skills, but it always has been, and yes we want learners to have agency and take control of their learning, but we always have. So what can the distributed web and the latest technological developments offer to make this a reality in everyone’s educational experience?

Resources
What Peace Means to Me
 Dec 20, 2018 video The only path toward peace and freedom from authoritarianism is the path that leads toward the creation and maintenance of the civil society. The just society. The caring society.

The Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design
GitHub, 2018/12/18
The three dimensions of the framework are:

  • Recognize, respect, and design for human uniqueness and variability.
  • Use inclusive, open & transparent processes, and co-design with people who have a diversity of perspectives, including people that can’t use or have difficulty using the current designs.
  • Realize that you are designing in a complex adaptive system.

You can edit this work on GitHub. Web: [Direct Link]

Social Justice Repair Kit
Inclusive Design Research Centre, 2018/12/18
The goal of the Social Justice Repair Kit project is to support youth at risk who have learning differences to re-engage in education through an inclusively designed social justice platform that integrates authentic project-based learning. For youth with identified and unidentified learning differences, the Kit will add inclusive design supports to remove barriers to participation.Web: [Direct Link]

Contando el valor de la diversidad!
Cuentalo, 2018/12/18
These stories serve as a reference to other people who identify themselves in them and who discover in them similarities with their own life story, which in some cases may turn out to be unfavorable, however, in this discovery, possible methods of coping are identified that allow resolving or resignifying adverse situations optimistically. Web: [Direct Link]

Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers
u Hong, Scott E. Page, PNAS, 2018/12/18
“We find that when selecting a problem-solving team from a diverse population of intelligent agents, a team of randomly selected agents outperforms a team comprised of the best-performing agents.” See also Problem Solving by Heterogeneous Agents, by the same authors. Web: [Direct Link]

Identity graphs as a ‘source of truth’

Week 4 on Identity in Stephen Downes’ E-Learning 3.0 MOOC has come to an end. It was another very interesting week. Stephen has summed up the week with a video and a paper, both of which I will link to in this post. They deserve to be widely distributed.

Whilst the topic title for Week 4 was ‘Identity’, and we had some discussion about identity in general as a philosophical idea that ‘runs through the history of education in a single thread’, the week mainly focussed on digital identity, which Stephen clearly said is not the same as ‘my identity’.

I was pleased to hear him say this, as throughout the week I consistently felt that our digital identity is nowhere near the whole picture of who we are. As Stephen says it is just one outcome of ‘myself’, through which I can recognise parts of myself and others can get glimpses of me, or if they know me can recognise a bit more.

I subscribe to National Geographic and this week I received a mailing from them which included this stunning photo by Yuri Andries.

But it was the text underneath that caught my attention. ‘…. the photo was taken in Ladakh, a remote alpine region of northern India where Tibetan Buddhists, Shia Muslims, Sunnis, and Christians live in villages connected by rocky roads. There’s no phone signal, Internet, or gas stations, and hardly a single person in sight.’ So no digital identity for anyone living there, but of course that doesn’t mean no identity.

I was struck by this because also this week I have been trying to understand what Stephen means by the ‘source of truth’ for the identity graphs we have created. How do we know the graph is an accurate representation of who we are? Where does the information come from? In his video Stephen says ‘we are the source of truth for our digital identity’; we are the thread that runs through the disconnected and distributed data that makes up our digital identity graph. Instead of our digital identities being about quantified demographics, they will (in E-Learning 3.0) be about quality, about the rich tapestry of data relations we have.

In case your were wondering, there is a link in my thinking between the people living in Ladakh with no digital identity, the many of us who do have a digital identity of one sort or another, and the idea of a source of truth, because it occurred to me that the truth about identity has to also include what is neglected, hidden or invisible. The emergent identity from the graph must surely be as much about what is not there as what is there.

As I was thinking about this Vahid Masrour published a post in which he writes about how he discusses online identity with this students. He urges his students to consider how their digital identity might be interpreted by future employers. This highlighted for me the idea that we have to manage our identities, deciding what to reveal and what to hide.

Stephen has said that identity in E-learning 1.0 and 2.0 was about the ‘quantified self’ where our digital identities were represented by demographics and numbers. E-Learning 3.0 will see us shift towards digital identities which reflect the qualified self and ultimately the connected self.

For the connected self, being represented by numbers (the quantified self of E-Learning 1.0) and facts (the qualified self of E-Learning 2.0) will not be sufficient. The connected self will be more about our relations and interactions. Will this lead to a more ethical Web? Will digital identity as a ‘connected self make the ‘source of truth’ of these identities more visible? Will the ‘connected self’ be more reflective? Will ‘the connective self’ more honestly reflect our hopes, aspirations and dreams?

Much of what is being discussed in this course is new to me and that includes the idea of identity graphs and the qualified and connected self. Stephen has clearly been thinking about this for some time. For further insights into his thinking I can recommend watching the video embedded above and reading this paper, which he shared as a summary of the week.

E-Learning 3.0, Part 4: Identity – https://el30.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=68516

Further resources

Digital Identity on the Threshold of a Digital Identity Revolution – http://www3.weforum.org/docs/White_Paper_Digital_Identity_Threshold_Digital_Identity_Revolution_report_2018.pdf

The Economic Impact of Digital Identity in Canada – https://diacc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Economic-Impact-of-Digital-Identity-DIACC-v2.pdf

Canada’s Digital Economy Relies on a Foundation of Digital Identity – https://diacc.ca/2018/05/16/the-economic-impact-of-digital-identity-in-canada/

Identity as an Analytic Lens for Research in Education https://www.jstor.org/stable/1167322?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

See also the resources listed on the course site: https://el30.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?module=8

The Quantified, Qualified and Connected Self

This week the topic on the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC has been Identity. We have tried to answer questions such as:

  • How do we know who someone is?
  • How do we project ourselves on the internet?
  • How can we be safe and secure?

To answer these questions we have discussed what identity means, digital and otherwise, we have created identity graphs (there are some great examples, see the end of this post) and Stephen Downes, convener of this MOOC, has introduced us to the idea of encryption keys.

For me there remains a topic which perhaps needs further discussion, and that is, what do we mean by quantified self, qualified self and connected self, what is the difference between them and why do we need to know?

Stephen has written:

We were the client, we were the product – are we, at last, the content? We are the thread that runs through an otherwise disconnected set of data, and knowledge about ourselves, our associations, and our community will create an underlying fabric against which the value and relevance of everything else will be measured. Instead of demographics being about quantity (sales charts, votes in elections and polls, membership in community) we will now have access to a rich tapestry of data and relations.

If this becomes the case, then we will have an unparalleled opportunity to become more self-reflective, both as individuals and as a community. The “quantified self” will give way to the “qualified self” and ultimately to the “connected self” as we begin to define ourselves not merely by simple measures of ethnicity, language, religion and culture, but through thousands of shared experiences, affinities, and inclinations. Evidence for this trend already exists and can be found through the exploration of expression of communities and culture online.

I am familiar with the idea of the Quantified Self. I’m aware that I could track and measure a lot of what I do if I so wished; my calorie intake, how much I sleep, how many steps a day I take, my heart rate etc. etc.  In the past, I have done a little of this. I did once own a Fitbit and I do have a Strava account, but my interest in them waned very quickly, and I now don’t use either. I find I don’t need a machine to tell me when I am eating badly or am not fit enough – I know. And I don’t want to think of my body, or myself, as a machine. I was dismayed when searching for information on the Quantified Self to find reference to the Quantified Baby. I would suggest there’s a limit to how much we should be measuring human beings. And that goes for activity on social media too. I have observed people on social media who admit to measuring themselves by the number of followers / friends etc. they can display on their sites. Like Geoff Cain (see his tweet below), I am happier with two or three in depth interactions and I am even happier if these happen in private rather than public.

geoffcain @geoffcain Analytics does not mean very much in the end. I have been happier lately with the two or three in depth interactions I have had with people online than I have with months of high traffic “hits.” #el30 #highered #edtech

So I am not a fan of the Quantified Self, for myself, although that’s not to deny its uses, in terms of health and well-being.

The Qualified Self sounds like a move in the right direction, but what does it mean? According to one recently published author, it means a more ‘well-rounded’ self ( see Humphreys, L. 2018. The Qualified Self. Social Media and the Accounting of Everyday Life, MIT Press, http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/qualified-self )

I haven’t read the book but José van Dijck, Distinguished University Professor, Utrecht University; author of Mediated Memories in the Digital Age and The Culture of Connectivity, has endorsed the book as follows:

The Qualified Self offers a new perspective on how social media users construct and distribute ‘self-portraits’ through media technologies. Lee Humphreys has delivered a truly original revision of ‘mediated memories’ and a much-needed update to the age of connectivity.

Lee Humphreys, from the reviews I have read, believes that online sharing of the minutiae of our daily lives, ‘selfies’ and so on, is not narcissistic, but simply a continuation of an age old tradition of diary writing and similar activities. As I say, I haven’t read the book, but I would want evidence that the sharing of the ‘diary writing’ is not for the purpose of collecting more followers and more clicks, if we are to believe in a fully Qualified Self. Of course the Qualified and Quantified selves could presumably exist alongside each other.

Stephen has suggested that our identity graphs will provide the rich data of tapestry and relations which will give us the opportunity to become more self-reflective, both as individuals and as a community and shift from the Quantified Self to the Qualified Self. This is not statistical data. It is data reflecting self-knowledge.

It has been hard to find anything very much online about the Qualified Self, but there is a good post written in 2014 by Mark Carrigan, which seems to align with Stephen’s and Lee Humphrey’s writing. In this post, Mark writes:

….. I’m suggesting qualitative self-tracking can be thought of as a distinct type of practice.

…. My point at the time was that the ethos of self-knowledge through numbers does very little for me personally. But I’m intellectually drawn to the Quantified Self because it’s a fascinating example of the intensification of reflexivity in contemporary society. (Mark has written Quantified Self in this final sentence, but I think it’s a typo and he means Qualified Self. That would make more sense in the context of his writing)

And then he goes on to attempt to define the Qualified Self,

Here’s an attempt at a definition of qualitative self-tracking: using mobile technology to recurrently record qualities of experience or environment, as well as reflections upon them, with the intention of archiving aspects of personal life that would otherwise be lost, in a way susceptible to future review and revision of concerns, commitments and practices in light of such a review. So obviously things like personal journals would fall into this category.

From this, the Qualified Self is more reflective and less concerned with measurement and numbers.

That leaves the Connected Self. I’m assuming this means being connected to our inner selves and our own ‘Being’, which would be a progression from the Qualified Self, but would also mean being connected to the selves of ‘Others’. The Connected Self would be a more ‘embodied’ self, which understands itself in terms of relations and ‘betweenness’. ‘Betweenness’ is a topic I was exploring before starting this MOOC. On reflection I think it is relevant to both the Qualified Self and the Connected Self.

I have not found it easy to unpick what Qualified Self and Connected Self mean. If you are reading this post, perhaps you have some thoughts / alternative perspectives you would be willing to share?

Source of imageHarvard Business Review

Participants’ Identity Graphs

Matthias Melcher – https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/el30-week-4-identity-graph-1st-attempt/

Roland Legrand – https://learningwithmoocs.com/education/el30-task-identity-graph/

Kevin Hodgson – http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/2018/11/15/messing-around-with-identity-graphs/

Geoff Cain – http://geoffcain.com/blog/conceptmaps/week-4-el30-graphs-and-decentering-the-self/

Frank Polster – http://frankpolster.com/blog/elearn30/franks-identity-graph-week-three-2nd-task/

Laura Ritchie – https://www.lauraritchie.com/2018/11/16/my-graph-el30/ 

Ioannou Karvelas – https://ioannouolga.blog/2018/11/16/id-graph-e-learning-3-0-1st-draft/

Vahid Masrour – https://outdoingeducation.wordpress.com/2018/11/19/e-learning-3-0-identity-mine-and-others/ 

Keith Hamon – https://blog.keithwhamon.net/2018/11/el30-prepositions-on-edge-of-identity.html

Dorian – https://engramseeker.wordpress.com/2018/11/20/el30-on-the-narrative-identity-and-our-data-obsession/

Random Access – https://randomaccesslearning.wordpress.com/2018/11/17/who-am-i-digital-identity-and-web-3-0/

Gerald Ardito – https://inventinglearning.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/identity-mine-at-least-partially/  

Lou – https://learningreflections.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/week-4-activity-identity-graph-identityg/ 

E-Learning 3.0 : Identity Graphs

We are now in the fourth week of this E-Learning 3.0 open course/MOOC. The task for this week is to create an Identity Graph, which Stephen Downes (convener of this course) has outlined as follows:

Identity – Create an Identity Graph

  • We are expanding on the marketing definition of an identity graph. It can be anything you like, but with one stipulation: your graph should not contain a self-referential node titled ‘me’ or ‘self’ or anything similar
  • Think of this graph as you defining your identity, not what some advertiser, recruiter or other third party might want you to define.
  • Don’t worry about creating the whole identity graph – focusing on a single facet will be sufficient. And don’t post anything you’re not comfortable with sharing. It doesn’t have to be a real identity graph, just an identity graph, however you conceive it.

Here is my graph, which I created using Matthias Melcher’s Think Tool – Thought Condensr, which is very quick and easy to use.

Like Matthias,  I puzzled over why Stephen required that the graph – “should not contain a self-referential node titled ‘me’ or ‘self’ or anything similar”. How could I avoid this if the graph is to be about my identity? In the event, it became obvious that not only is it possible to create the graph without referring to me, but also that doing this clearly demonstrates that knowledge of my identity is in the network rather than any specific node. My identity begins to emerge from the graph, without me having to specify it.

You can see from the graph that there are three links which don’t connect. I did this by simply cutting them off for the screenshot of the graph, because I wanted to suggest that this graph could, in fact, go on and on. This image provides only a glimpse of my identity. I could not only expand the graph, by making more links and connections, but I could also make more connections within this section of the graph. I am also aware that if I started afresh and drew this tomorrow it would be different because my identity and how I think of it is fluid and evolving.

I was also aware in drawing the graph that pretty much all of it is traceable online. It reminded me of the introductory task that was set on Etienne Wenger’s online course  Foundations of Communities of Practice that he ran with John Smith and Bron Stuckey in 2008. The task was based on the idea of six degrees of separation. “Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps” (see Wikipedia). At the start of that course we were given the name of an unknown fellow participant and had to find out enough about them to be able to link to them in six steps and then share this information. This was a very good way of learning more about fellow participants at the start of the course, but also of recognising that we can easily connect to anyone across the world in just a few steps.

Stephen set some further optional questions for us to consider:

  • What is the basis for the links in your graph: are they conceptual, physical, causal, historical, aspirational?

They seem to be physical and historical, whereas Matthias’s graph seems to emphasise the conceptual. 

  • Is your graph unique to you? What would make it unique? What would guarantee uniqueness?

I think it must be unique. The nodes are not unique, but the relations between the nodes, whilst they might not be unique individually, as a whole must be unique. I think it would be impossible to guarantee its uniqueness if it remained static. Anyone could come along and copy or mimic it. Uniqueness can only be guaranteed if the graph is continually updating, evolving and new connections are being made. I am not sure whether old connections can be broken, or do they just become inactive and move way off to the edge of the graph?

  • How (if at all) could your graph be physically instantiated? Is there a way for you to share your graph? To link and/or intermingle your graph with other graphs?

I’m not sure if I have understood the question correctly? Isn’t the graph I have created using Matthias’s Think Tool, and posted here, a physical instantiation? Does physical instantiation have a specific meaning in relation to graphs? I think I might have missed the point – but I can see that it would be relatively easy to intermingle my graph with Matthias’s graph. It might be necessary for us both to add a few nodes and links, but not many, to be able to connect the two graphs fairly seamlessly (a bit like the six degrees of separation task described above).

  • What’s the ‘source of truth’ for your graph?

This is a big question as it raises the whole question of what we mean by truth. I have been grappling with this for quite a few months now. In my most recent blog post about ‘truth’ –  I reported that both Gandhi and Nietzsche have expressed the view that “human beings can only know partial and contingent truths and perspectives; there are a multiplicity of truths and perspectives.” So in these terms, the truth of my graph can only be partial or contingent. Even if I have not knowingly lied, I have selected what to include in the graph and therefore I have also selected what to leave out.

But Stephen’s question is about the ‘source of truth’. Is he asking about ‘source of truth’ as defined in information systems?  This is not a subject I know anything about.

In information systems design and theory, single source of truth (SSOT) is the practice of structuring information models and associated data schema such that every data element is stored exactly once. Any possible linkages to this data element (possibly in other areas of the relational schema or even in distant federated databases) are by reference only. Because all other locations of the data just refer back to the primary “source of truth” location, updates to the data element in the primary location propagate to the entire system without the possibility of a duplicate value somewhere being forgotten. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_source_of_truth

In these terms I’m not sure how to answer Stephen’s question about ‘source of truth’. If someone could enlighten me that would be great.

Some Thoughts on Identity

The topic for Week 4 of Stephen Downes’ E-Learning 3.0 MOOC is Identity. The focus of this topic is on digital identity – exploring questions such as:

  • ‘How do we know who someone is?’,
  • ‘How do we project ourselves on the internet?’ and
  • ‘How can we be safe and secure?’

Stephen also writes on the course site:

Our new identities have the potential to be an enormous source of strength or a debilitating weakness. Will we be lost in the sea of possibilities, unable to navigate through the complexities of defining for ourselves who we are, or will we be able to forge new connections, creating a community of interwoven communities online and in our homes?

Looking back through this blog, I see that I have written a few posts about identity, the first about ‘Identity in the Network’ in 2008. It has been interesting to read back through these posts and I am not surprised to see that the biggest influence on my thinking about identity has been Etienne Wenger’s book: Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity, which is one of the best thumbed books on my bookshelf.

Back in 2011, I attended a talk given by Etienne Wenger at Lancaster University, where I heard him say:

‘The 21st century will be the century of identity’ and ask ‘How do you manage your identity in a world which is so complex and in which there are so many mountains to climb – in which there are too many places to invest in who you want to be?’  which relates to Stephen’s question – ‘How do we project ourselves on the internet?’  There is quite a bit of overlap between Stephen’s writing and what Etienne has written.

According to Etienne, identity is a negotiated expression of the self and there are many landscapes and communities in which to do this, which means that we have to manage multiple trajectories all at once. On page 5 of his book, he writes that identity is ‘a way of talking about how learning changes who we are and creates personal histories of becoming in the context of our communities. It is not just what we say about ourselves or what others say about us. It is not about self-image, but rather a way of being in the world – the way we live day by day – He expands on this on p.151 of his book, writing:

An identity, then, is a layering of events of participation and reification by which our experience and its social interpretation inform each other. As we encounter our effects on the world and develop our relations with others, these layers build upon each other to produce our identity as a very complex interweaving of participative experience and reificative projections. Bringing the two together through the negotiation of meaning, we construct who we are. In the same way that meaning exists in its negotiation, identity exists – not as an object in and of itself – but in the constant work of negotiating the self. It is in this cascading interplay of participation and reification that our experience of life becomes one of identity, and indeed of human existence and consciousness.

Etienne’s book from which this paragraph is quoted was written in 1998. There is no mention of the internet or online learning in this book. But in 2009 he turned his attention to Digital Habitats in a book he co-authored with Nancy White and John Smith. I am again going to quote a paragraph from p.180 of this book. I am quoting it in its entirety because it seems particularly pertinent to our thinking about identity for the E-Learning 3.0 MOOC.

Our engagement with the socially active medium created by new technologies leaves traces each time we do something on the web. These traces become an impressionistic picture of the self – one that is scattered like dots of paint in a networked canvas, which includes discussions, product reviews, blog posts, pictures, podcasts and videos, instant messages, and tags, as well as comments from other people posted on our traces and comments we add to others’ traces.  This “digital footprint” [my bold] is an evolving (but enduring) image of ourselves over which we only have very partial control. Admittedly, we have always participated in many conversations and interactions; we have always had multiple means to store our memories; our identities have always combined what we produce ourselves and what others reflect and project on us. Recorded in a socially active medium, however, our traces are searchable; they can be found and reassembled dynamically; they are inspectable, manipulable, and remixable. Even when we think we have deleted them, they are found again. Scattered and computable, our footprints create reconstructable trajectories in a public space, largely out of our control. Who are we in this mirror that remembers and talks back with a voice that is only partly our own? Does the potential to remember so much mean that we know ourselves and each other better? Or could our digital footprints hide as much as they reveal, as if their very transparency only added to the mystery of identity?

I can relate to Etienne’s writing. I have questioned in the past, and continue to question, whether I have one identity or multiple identities, how I can know who I am, how I can and whether I should try and keep knowing who I am separate from what others say about me, and how I can know whether the perceived identity of myself, by myself or by others, is ‘true’.

Stephen’s questions (below) are new to me and I’m looking forward to hearing how others on this course react to them. I will need some time to think them through.

  • What do we become in a world of artificial intelligence, linked data and cryptographic functions?
  • We were the client, we were the product – are we, at last, the content?
  • Will we be lost in the sea of possibilities, unable to navigate through the complexities of defining for ourselves who we are, or will we be able to forge new connections, creating a community of interwoven communities online and in our homes?

At the moment, I would like to think that I am, and always will be, more than ‘content’.

References

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge University Press

Wenger, E., White, N. and Smith, J.D. (2009). Digital Habitats. CPsquare: http://cpsquare.org

Posts relating to identity on this blog – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/?s=identity

Source of image 

Identity and the Language Poets

howe-silliman-hejinian

ModPo has been moving too fast for me again. We are already on Week 9 and I am struggling to get to grips with Week 8.

Week 8 focussed on an introduction to Language Poetry. This is how the week was introduced (in part) on the Coursera site:

By starting with Silliman’s “Albany” and Hejinian’s My Life, we focus on ways in which – and reasons why – Language poets refused conventional sequential, cause-and-effect presentations of the writing self. The self is languaged – is formed by and in language – and is multiple across time (moments and eras) and thus from paratactic sentence to paratactic sentence. While this radical revision of the concept of the lyric self (and of the genre of memoir) emphasizes one aspect of the Language Poetry movement at the expense of several other important ideas and practices, it is, we feel, an excellent way to introduce the group.

Other poets introduced in Week 8 were Bob Perelman (Chronic Meanings – a beautiful pre-elegy), Susan Howe (My Emily Dickinson) and Charles Bernstein’s “In a Restless World Like This Is” (my mother used to sing the song – When I fall in Love – that this title comes from, when I was a child. At the age of 88 she can still sing it now). And we were introduced to another Ron Silliman poem – BART – written whilst travelling on the BART – the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transport, which I travelled on a couple of years ago on a visit to California.

I don’t have time to give enough thought to the Language Poets  – week 9 is upon us – so here I will record (and at some stage will need to come back to) – the key idea that came out of Week 8 for me – and that is that:

Language constructs the self

This was discussed particularly in relation to Lynn Hejinian’s work – My Life.

The idea that language is central to the construction of the self and identity resonates with me. This explains the ever-changing self as we continually reconstitute ourselves in response to language and social interaction. I like the idea that every time I speak/write I am involved in the act of constructing/reconstructing myself. It makes sense to me that I can use language to construct my self, but that language will also construct me.

Is the self multiple across time – as mentioned in the introduction to Week 8 above? This would fit with Bonnie Stewart’s work on Digital Identities. I have always felt that although I will inevitably be perceived differently by different people, I have one identity with many facets.  All the facets make up me! But I can see how the language I use and the discourse I engage in creates different perceptions of me. I can also see how language and our use of it influences who we are, and that the self is a fluid construct. But I’m not sure that this means that we have multiple identities. I need to think about this a bit more.

This has been in haste! A marker for future reference. There is lots more to think about and I will have to come back. The week 9 poets are calling!

In what way has this sentence, this blog post constructed/reconstructed my self?

FSLT13 – What is learning?

FSLT13  has started this week, and today George Roberts, Marion Waite and Elizabeth Lovegrove  ran the first live session in Blackboard Collaborate (View the recorded session here) .

Officially this is the Orientation week, so this synchronous session was simply to explain how the course will run, to have a go at using BB Collaborate tools (see below) and to raise and answer questions.

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This First Steps course has a very ‘friendly’ and supportive feel to it. It is open, but not massive. Over 250 have signed up and 12 have signed up for accredited assessment. New this year is the involvement of 20 volunteer ‘expert’ participants – people who have considerable experience of teaching in HE or who participated in FSLT12 last year. Alec Couros and Lisa Lane, have called these people ‘mentors’ on their courses. Finding the word that accurately describes their role is a bit problematic, but in FSLT13 the expert participants have already been proving their worth, responding to blog and forum posts and encouraging engagement.

Whilst this is an orientation week, no time has been wasted in getting down to the nitty gritty, with George Roberts asking the question in the Week 0 Moodle Forum – ‘What is learning?’ This is a very weighty question. I remember that last year I referred to Stephen Downes’ statement that ‘to learn is to practice and reflect and to teach is to model and demonstrate’. Ever since I first read this I have liked it. It is very straight forward and emphasises the process of learning and teaching. Of course, learning can also be a product which is articulated in this infed.org website.

What I particularly like about this website page is the quote from Carl Rogers

I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds  of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: “No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”; “Ah, here it is! Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!” Carl Rogers 1983: 18-19

This aligns completely with my belief that learning is not so much about what we know but about who we are. My thinking has been very much influenced by Etienne Wenger’s work on learning and identity. Ultimately, however we learn, it changes who we are. Through learning I learn about who I am and that knowledge influences everything I do. That’s what learning is all about for me.

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