I found Yish’s comments on public/private spaces and issues of identity in the use of social software really interesting. Back last week when we were just getting started with this, I was blogging on my own blog and thinking about how it was different from blogging in this space or, for that matter, on the other ‘community’ blog at elgg that I write in and I began meta-blogging the blog experiences… I spent a long time wondering where to post the meta-blog reflections. I didn’t want to post them on my own blog because I wanted to keep my personal researches separate from group research… I tried a few workarounds, trying to add it to my blog as a new page, or a new category but neither of those kept it separate enough from the individual research space I’d created, so I deleted it.
At first, I was reluctant to post it here – because, well, you were all ‘a bunch of strangers’ to me.
Now I’ve ‘seen’ you on video and ‘talked’ with you a bit more, that strangeness seems less – so I’m going to post the meta-blog post here now. Mainly pushed on and encouraged by Yish’s comments and group interest in the construction of social identities in virtual spaces.
(Created on 4th May – after the first session)
Blogging and Identity
I was writing away in my blog today when I started thinking about all the different kinds of experiences and virtual spaces my blogging activities have started to take me into. Also, whilst I was participating in the LKL Social Software blog today for the first time, I was quite deeply struck by a sudden depth of focus on identity – entering a new arena – who did I want to be? Weird. I guess it was the questions Carey set to get the discussion going.
What are your expectations of the course>
What experiences are you bringing with you?
What technologies do you think we should use to support the course and how?
Thoughts on identity and blogging started when I first began my personal research blog back in April 2005. In the last month or two, however, as I’ve extended my blogging to other spaces – a personal ‘research focus’ blog on elgg.net which relates to a specific project, the community blog on Mirandanet and, now, the collaborative blog for LKL, I’m beginning to feel the impact of multiple online identities.
Interestingly, these different ‘virtual’ spaces are impacting on me as a writer, and more particularly, as a ‘writer with audience’.
My own research blog (the first) is my preferred space. I like writing there and feel free to write whatever I want to, as the mood takes me – as such, it’s very much a narrative, personal journalling experience. At the same time, however, it’s really a research blog and the main focus is my PhD research and the experiences attached to that… the researcher’s journey if you like. The reason I’d still quantify it as a ‘personal’ blog is perhaps because it is the space where most of what I consider to be ‘me’ comes through in my writing. But, then again, maybe that’s just because that blog is the longest-established of my blog experiences. There’s also a strange thing with that blog – that I feel compelled to blog daily somehow (perhaps a harkback to my offline and early web-based journalling experiences) – something I don’t feel a need to do on my other blogs – which have a much more functional feel to them, I don’t consider them to be personal – they’re more like notepads than diaries, if you like.
With the Mirandanet Project on Mindmapping and my subsequent elgg.net blogging, I recall that I was resistant – I didn’t want to begin a new ‘personal’ blog. The decision to take one was based purely on the principle that I didn’t want to merge the Mirandanet Project with my PhD research… and, wanting to keep them separate, in effect, drove me to create a new blog. I do like the Friends feature in elgg.net as it enables me to have a kind of localised blogroll of participants in the Project and to visit their websites when I’m (albeit virtually) in their space. I’d rather visit them from there than add them to the side panel on my own research blog because I don’t like clutter. That’s also interesting – in terms of spatiality and my relationship with the screen, both in terms of design and topology.
Then, with the Social Software blog today, and Carey’s introductory questions there was this whole other notion of identity at play in terms of how I answered the questions… how would I answer, what would I say, who would I be? *grin* Thinking back on how I did come to answer the questions… I think my initial thoughts were… who am I in this context, which, I guess, is pretty much as it should be. Attendant to that, though, were additional thoughts such as: how much do I write, what doesn’t need to be shared… and a whole measuring of parameters, etc. It was certainly much easier to write, having read a couple of others (Yishay and Mike’s). What that says about the development of online identity, I’m not quite sure.
Some other things that have come to mind as I got ready to get involved with the Social Software discussion group… juggling multiple tools – wondering what to post where… do I write to the Wiki, or to the blog… the sudden ‘Oh’ realisation that when I posted something to Google Groups it automatically emails everyone… and that, I guess, is the beginning of exploring social software in the real sense, the development of an emergent sense of virtual identity.
Thinking on these things, I came to the conclusion that there are lots of factors that shape identity online, in and through the use of social software like blogs and wikis:
One-Shift-Removed identity – where your audience knows you in person but your writing diffuses your personality/identity
Invisible identity – where you blog to an unknown, unseen audience
Community identity – where you belong to an offline group that shares a common focus and works as an online community of individual bloggers
Collaborative identity – where you belong to a group that also exists online but are less connected than you might be in a ‘community’ sense
For me at least (and perhaps for others), these different kinds of identities do tend to define what I write, where and when and how I write.