Posts Tagged ‘online presence’

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Class 6: My Avatar and Me – virtual identities

November 7, 2019

Who’s who in the digital environment and how do we know? The question posed by Locks Aichi in this week’s class.

Locks Aichi started the discussion by asking us ‘Who are you?’ She qualified it by suggesting we could respond as our avatars or our real selves. All the replies were short and to the point with some of you giving your avatar names and others your class name or the subject you are studying.

Locks continued by asking us to consider the pieces of data that make up your identities in the virtual space and this produces a range of replies:

  • what you post on your feed
  • putting out a reflection of yourself
  • in SL you can choose how to display yourself – the visual aspect makes it different from the limitations of text-based social media apps
  • the Green Team noted their decision to share a single identity as dogs. (Is that your only identity? Is there anything beyond the pack?)
  • Exposing your identity
  • recalling Sitearms comments a few weeks ago you suggested that people can create different personas
  • present differently online from how you are in RL
  • present the best part of yourself.

It was suggested that social media provides a curated or crafted version of yourself, it also presents the highlights of your life. In RL we are so used to reading body language that it can be harder to hide aspects of yourself than it is online, which provides the opportunity to be more deceptive, perhaps.

Then Locks asked ‘Who owns your digital identity?’ You thought that there is much less privacy now than before – we tend to be more open and post everything that we do. We don’t really have privacy.

In RL who owns you? Nobody. Why is it different in the digital space? In the early days of social media we frequently heard the aphorism

if you are not paying for a service you are probably the product.

Data is sometimes referred to as the ‘new oil’ because of how valuable it can be. How often do we read the terms and conditions before signing up for an app or a service? Do we take the time to understand what data we are handing over? In Europe GDPR legislation (General Data Protection Regulation) has come about to protect our data. Organisations are not permitted to hold our data without permission, nor are they entitled to use it for any purpose other than the one for which we have given explicit permission. It also gives us the right to be forgotten – digitally.

By not making a choice we are actually making the decision to give our personal data away. If you share too much without giving consideration to the consequences it makes it harder to shape your online or virtual identity later. So, for instance, Locks made the decision to use her twitter account solely for professional purposes. It is not possible to glean anything of her personal life from it.

Do you think about the shape of your digital life: socially, personally, professionally?

LouHug said that he posts less online now than he used to two years ago – part of the reason for this is that he doesn’t want to appear foolish in front of his kids later on in life. Others suggested that you could use multiple accounts for different personas and/or purposes.

Locks suggested that it is becoming more difficult to live outside the digital world. So much commercial transactions are now carried on digitally that it has become necessary to link digital identity with our real world identities. For example, banking legislation is increasingly resisting anonymity to ensure trust and reliability and to counteract laundering and other illegal activity. The data trail is now becoming an asset.

Locks asked us to take five minutes to think about how you would present yourself as a professional online and post your response in 140 characters or less. When you had all posted your responses in local chat she asked how you had made the decision about what information to share?

  • started writing about the future but then reverted to describing the present
  • gave abilities rather than personal details
  • personal perspective – tried to look at it from a client’s perspective
  • professional – present as diligent, dedicated, reliable and experienced in team work
  • professional but with one personal trait for balance
  • look like the best professional possible
  • factual

Virtual identity is something you create. Given time and careful curation it can become a valuable asset. So, for instance, if somebody retires from an organisation their profile may well remain. The identity is transferrable – it has become a quantifiable asset. Therefore, we are now seeing an increasing interest in laws around privacy, intellectual property and ownership of digital assets.

Impersonation is also a greater problem because it can be easier to present a false identity in the digital environment. Hence the rise of accredited identities such as the blue tick used by Twitter, although the service has been put on hold.

All of this underlines the importance of trust in the digital landscape. You should decide what you are trying to achieve with your online digital or virtual identity and allow that to guide your approach to developing it.

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Class 6: My Avatar and Me – virtual identities

March 21, 2019

We were joined by Locks Aichi for class this week but, due to the vagaries of online environments, she was unable to materialise her avatar in SL so engaged remotely. Locks could hear us but was unable to move her avatar or communicate through text or voice. Instead she sent WhatsApp text to John who shared with the class.

We all teleported to a location that was large enough for you to break into your teams far enough apart to have a voice discussion without disturbing each other. However, it seems you mostly used text again! continuing to be somewhat reluctant to use voice. Each team was asked consider the question: ‘what is the basis for your visual identity?’ and come up with two key considerations – to be posted to a scrumblr board.

Scrumblr board recording team responses.

We then teleported back to the classroom to share our thoughts. John opened by suggesting that some consideration of what ‘self’ means is an important starting point when considering our personal identity. Chalmers talks about consciousness – a prerequisite for the idea of ‘self’ and Dennett posits a particular theory about the nature of ‘self’ being somewhat fluid to say the least. (Some of you hadn’t viewed the video material so it would be useful to do so now to get an insight into this thinking.)

Using the examples of our avatars John suggested that virtual identity gives us the opportunity to explore how we might present ourselves to others. His own avatar, Acuppa Tae, was originally designed to look as close to him IRL as possible because he felt it was appropriate in his role as a teacher. However, that requires the avatar to be updated as time passes! Sitearm Madonna’s decision to use a female avatar emerged from a desire to acknowledge his mother’s role in his development. Locks said that she chose to be a guy to be different from her RL self; not really because of how she wanted to be perceived but more to see if she would behave differently when aligned with a male avatar. She considers her avatar as a suit of clothes rather than an identity. Experimenting with your virtual self allows for fun to explore – just like dressing up. It poses the question that identity may be something transferable bringing to mind the movie Get Out.

We discussed the issues you noted on the pin board and attempted to identify the shift in thinking from consciousness of the self to the development of an identity and on to the promotion of a personal brand. The notion of authenticity began to emerge as we came to the end of the class and this would be an interesting point to pick up in your own blog posts. What influences our choice of avatar and how we present in SL? How do we identify with our avatars? What identity are we attempting to present in our website blogs?

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Class 6: Persona, identity, presence

November 8, 2018

This week John started by reminding the class of the importance of re-reading the assessment criteria for your blogs. You will notice that one criterion relates to ‘timelines’ and suggests that regular updates each week are required. So, those who have yet to submit a link to their blogs should do so on the Facebook page as soon as possible. Please check that your blog is listed on the Student Blogs page and let me know if it is not.

Many of you have not completed the ‘About Me’ section of your blogs. It it important to provide a short and appropriate bio to your readers so that they understand your background and perspective. In that context you should also review your blog – try to approach it from the perspective of a first time reader – to ensure it is coherent. Tidy up the layout, deleting any leftover template placeholders or widgets. You have all included photographs of your SL experiences in your blogs. Ensure they are appropriately captioned and, if you are using images from any other source, remember to credit the author/creator.

We also spoke about how the nature of your writing should be developing over the last two blog posts. For the first three posts your were asked to describe your experience of SL and the module but now you are being asked to reflect on the experience of team building. Write about how you are finding the application of the theory we discussed in the third class meeting, what you think you are learning (or not learning!).

Finally, it is important to proof read your writing before posting. This is to eliminate not only typos and errors but also to improve your communication style. The more you re-read your posts  before publishing the tighter the writing and, usually, the better the final outcome.

As we began to discuss the concept of personal branding it emerged that almost none of you had read the two short texts set from the previous class. John explained that they were essential for any meaningful discussion so class was adjourned for a short period to give you time to read them now. Then John asked you to consider your own online identities and how they are made manifest. You talked about using social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. You are aware of the impact on your profile that posting to these apps is having. You also spoke of the need for compatibility between your Real Life (RL) and your online personas. While it was not explicitly declared there is also an implicit understanding of the need to differentiate between you personal and professional profiles. However, John spoke of the difficulty in doing this in the era of Google and Facebook: these global enterprises are very effective in eliminating boundaries. In addition to collecting as much information about you as they can they also seek to compare the data and combine it in order to build as full a picture of you as they can. They don’t respect the boundaries you might like to keep. As a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain anonymous. It is very important, therefore, to be aware of the nature of the online environment and to maintain a high level of digital literacy.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the Guardian article Yourth crime commissioner Paris Brown steps down over Twitter row from 2013 (accessed on 08/11/18).
  2. Read: another Guardian article Justine Sacco, PR executive fired over racist tweet, ‘ashamed’ also from 2013 (accessed on 08/11/18).
  3. Write the sixth post: to your blog about how you might convert your personal presence online into an identity for  professional networking.  
  4. Read: the academic paper User Generated Content and Virtual Worlds (accessed on 11/11/08). From the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 2008.

Beach bum in the sun!

POSTSCRIPT
John has often thought, since starting to teach this module, that the ultimate benefit of teaching online is that it affords the opportunity to teach a class from any location, with the ultimate ideal of doing so while sitting in the sun on a beach. Travelling to conferences has required me to deliver the module from places such as Nantes, Vilnius, Poznan, Florence and other locations around Europe. We have also has participants join the module from Sherkin Island off the west coast of Ireland and various countires around Europe, the US and Australia. But this class was the closest I have come to delivering from a beach: on holiday in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Unfortunately, the vagaries of international time zones resulted in my having to teach this class at midnight local time! But at least my avatar got to wear a hawaiian shirt…

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Class 3: Team work and collaboration

October 11, 2018

We began class this week by reviewing the Elevator Pitch discussed last week. John admitted he had forgotten to refer to it in the main summary of the class so added it as a comment later, with a link to an article from the Harvard Business Review describing an elevator pitch. You should all prepare a 30 second pitch on any subject you wish. I will call on you at random to deliver it over the next few classes.

John went on to identify the groups in which you will work for the module project. He assigned you to one of five groups each with six members. You are asked to try working online and avoid working together in Real Life (RL) if you can, so that you get as full an experience of online collaborative working as possible.

JOC - 101318 - project groups
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As class progressed it was noticed that some students are having a few problems logging in to SL or getting their voices working. John asked you to help each other sort out these issues outside of class, if you can.

Many of you have sent links to your own blogs to John and these have been posted to the module website – please have a look at the blogs and comment on each other’s posts. You can find a link to them to the right on this page. Those who haven’t yet sent a link to John should do so as soon as possible but at least before next week’s class. You were reminded that the first assessment of your blogs will be after that class – if you haven’t already done so make sure to read the page on module assessment.

LouHug shared the Facebook group he created for us to communicate outside of SL. Second Life 18 is a private group and will be active only for the duration of the module this semester.

John gave a talk on Team Building to the class. Normally, this is delivered by Sitearm Madonna, a graduate from the module with extensive experience of online collaboration but I didn’t have time to contact him in advance. Hopefully, he will be able to join us for a later class to share his wisdom. In the meantime I, rather cheekily, used his excellent slide show Virtual Collaboration Tips and Tools to illustrate my presentation. We discussed the content of slides 2 to 5 in some detail; we just touched on slides 6 and 7 and will revisit the content in the other slides in a later class when it will be more relevant.

For now, you are asked to review the Form, Storm, Norm, Perform paradigm in your own teams to help form a bond. Also, consider the roles within the team you may be best at playing.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Meet in SL: in your team groups.
  2. Write the third post: on your blog describing the first meeting of your team or, if the meeting did not occur, describe how you tried to facilitate the meeting and why, in your opinion, it didn’t happen.
  3. Read: Living Structures in Second Life Virtual Worlds Projects by Sitearm Madonna. [accessed 13 October 2018].
  4. Read: Painfully Coming to Grips with The Medium is the Message an amusing and accessible introduction to the philosophy of Marshall McLuhan. [accessed 13 October 2018].
  5. Optional reading: Extrapolating on McLuhan: How Media Environments of the Given, the Represented, and the Induced Shape and Reshape Our Sensorium provides a deeper analysis of McLuhan. [accessed 13 October 2018].
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Class 2: Settling in

October 4, 2018

A few new participants joined the class today and settled in almost immediately.

Two participants sent links to their blogs to John during the week. Just before class started he noticed a bunch of emails arrive with links to many more which he will review after the class. He will post links to all the blogs here (see the link in page 9 in the column to the right) and encouraged you all to review the blogs and make comments on them.

John spoke about one of the key shortcomings in a virtual world such as SL: the lack of facial expression and body language. Because our avatars do not react or present non-verbal responses it can be difficult to establish rapport. Indeed, sometimes it can be difficult to know if the person behind the avatar is even there at all. Maybe she or he has gone away from the keyboard (AFK) to make a coffee or answer the phone! Therefore, feedback and response via text message or voice needs to be more frequent to reduce anxiety. You can text message ‘Acuppa Tae nods’ or ‘John smiles’ or even ‘y’ from time to time to reassure others that you remain engaged or agree with what they are saying.

We had a useful discussion on the different voices of the sample blogs given last week (Dolce Merde, Brain Pickings and Chris Brogan) and analysed when and why you might read them. We also tried to determine the purpose of the blogs. So, for example, Chris Brogan is essentially reinforcing his reputation as a thought leader in online marketing whereas Dolce Merde is playfully offering eye candy. The discussion incorporated a review of your own reading habits: where you go for topical news; how you verify the facts presented to you; your unconscious trust in some media sources compared with others etc. Many of you joined in the conversation and contributed well. John concluded by reminding everyone that you should be cautious around your consumption of information and practice analysing sources to develop discrimination.

John commented that the tone adopted in your blog posts last week was appropriate for the content. It was mostly informal and informative, using a chatty style. You will find that you need to vary this tone from week to week depending on the topic you are writing about. You should also remember the basic conventions of academic writing and apply them appropriately during the semester. Be aware of writing in a narrative, descriptive, reflective and critical voice. It is also important that you refer to your sources and cite them appropriately. There are many different styles that can be used for citations but the main thing to remember is the purpose: your readers needs to be able to check your source for themselves. The College favours the APA Style so it is usually best to use it. Here are some useful links on the subject.

We agreed to use a private Facebook page for communication outside the class. One of you (I didn’t catch who it was) agreed to set it up and John gave his Facebook address to be added. If you aren’t already on Facebook you should set up an account for the duration of the semester. You may do this in your avatar’s name if you wish but please note that while this is a common practice it is, strictly speaking, a breach of Facebook’s Terms of Service.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Make contact: with two or three residents of Second Life. Introduce yourself and try to engage them in conversation. Always remember: if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation for any reason QUIT Second Life immediately. You can log in again in a different location.
  2. Write the second post: on your blog describing your encounters.
  3. Read: 5 steps to build a productive and tight knit remote team by Diogo Costa in Tech Co, 5 February 2016.
  4. Read: 10 Rules of Professional Etiquette for the Digital Workplace by Aaron Orendorff in Lifehacker, 27 April 2016.

OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL READING ABOUT VIRTUAL WORLDS:

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Class 12: Virtual identities

May 3, 2017

Sitearm Madonna visited DIT in Second Life this week to talk about the origin and development of his online persona. An engineer in the US oil industry in RL and manager of Virtual Dublin in SL Sitearm is glamorous female avatar who happens to be male in RL.

Snapshot_004

The glamorous Sitearm Madonna discusses the evolution of his avatar.

A resident of SL almost since its inception in the early 2000s Site elected to inhabit the virtual world in the form of a female avatar from the start. Attracted to the classical Greek myth of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, childbirth and virginity but finding the name already proliferating in SL he settled on the anagram. He muses on this decision wondering how it might have been influenced by his working single mother’s life experience, or a simple curiosity. He soon discovered that not only was there a greater choice of clothing available for female avatars but, male associates were prone to bestowing gifts of jewellery.

In the early days of SL communication was via text chat – voice chat did not became available until late 2009 – so there was little to give away the fact that a female avatar might be directed by an RL male. It was only as Site became more engaged with the virtual world in RL, attending conferences and developing a consultancy practice for companies trying to move into SL that his identity became an issue. This led to some colleagues variously being surprised, irritated, embarrassed or unaffected by the revelation.

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Sitearm, left, introduces one of his alternative avatars.

However, men using female avatars and women using male avatars turns out not to be unusual in SL. Women sometimes refer to unwelcome attention from male avatars as the reason for their choice and, indeed, Site also spoke of this. Locks Aichi also spoke of her decision to use a male avatar saying that she grew up as a tomboy and felt comfortable that way in SL having tried female and male avatars. She does have a female avatar in traditional Nigerian costume which she reserves for special occasions.

We also remembered a past student, Box of Chocolates, who photographed herself in RL with a cardboard box over her head and face, sporting hand drawn features, which then influenced her avatar for the semester.

Virtual worlds such as SL, and social media in general, allow us to explore our identities in new ways. This can be an interesting and revealing experience. In Asian Genders in Tourism Rokhshad Tavakoli reflects on how virtual tourism could be used to overcome barriers to travel for Iranian women. But, one needs to be mindful of the impact this may have on others. There are numerous examples of how it can go terribly wrong from the Syrian lesbian blogger who was revealed to be a married man in 2011 to the outing of a white woman who posed as a black civil rights leader in 2015. They were both seen as behaving fraudulently despite their own insistence that they were presenting an inner integrity.

Somehow, the discussion segued into the subject of robots and cyborgs with special reference to Donna Haraway’s seminal feminist text: A Cyborg Manifesto (1984) which challenges traditional theories of the performativity of gender, proposing the confusion of gender roles against the essentializing of them. For Haraway the Cyborg represents the space to move beyond binary codes into more a fluid and dynamic understanding of identity, she writes;

Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth. (P.108)

Within this conversation Site told us about the Museum of Robots in SL and promptly his avatar become a yellow robot, reminiscent of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2.

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Tasrill Sieyes, an SL Resident who made Duchamp’s legendary painting come alive.

This constant merging and morphing of identities throughout the presentation was resonant with practices in the field of Queer Pedagogy which seeks to use pedagogical techniques to disturb and trouble the way social norms are constructed and affirmed through traditional educational frameworks. In Site’s performance, the ‘Dragging’ of identity expressed a creative space between socially assigned norms ie ‘Male/Female’, Drag being the in-between (/). Such performative pedagogies also subvert the traditional role of mastery assigned to the teacher in education, allowing for more constructivist horizontal approaches reminiscent of Joseph Jacotot’s radical conception of Universal Education discussed in the first session.

As an extension of this discussion and as a way to both engage with the ‘making’ potential of SL and to interrogate and question the formation of identity in SL, Glenn suggested we build a robot for our next project. However, given that this is the last class of the module before the exhibitions and presentations on the 17th May, this ambitious undertaking will have to be postponed until a future point.

This last class has really been the wildest of them all and certainly opened up new questions and new possibilities within Second life. The students have been on a creative and somewhat disconcerting pedagogical journey through this project, one which has been challenging and bonding in equal measure. It has broadened our understanding of what constitutes a world in the contemporary sense and how we might act in worlds that are still too new to be fully comprehended, but which might at the very least give us a glimpse of what is to come. Class ended with Site offering a guided shopping tour in SL. This was received with much interest and we closed a most interesting discussion.

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Class 7: Akron Island

March 22, 2017

The class visited the University of Akron island in Second Life this week. We were hosted by Prof Dudley Turner (aka Dudley Dreamscape) who took the module some years ago and then co-taught it with DIT for a number of years. Many of you also met Dudley at the seminar for National Digital Week in the West Cork Arts Centre last November. Unfortunately the problems with voice in SL have persisted so the class was conducted in nearby chat text.

Dudley described the origin of the island. When it was planned the faculty wanted to make sure there were a variety of areas for small group gatherings. These are scattered around the island. Originally there weren’t any big classroom spaces but Dudley built the larger lecture hall type space for larger meetings as the requirement grew. The learning spaces include a tree house and a glen with its own waterfall. Glenn noted that the rural design was reminiscent of the hedge schools that sprang up around Ireland under the Penal Laws.

Akron

Akron Island with the life-size pie chart maker in the foreground.

We moved to the life-sized pie chart maker for a discussion on virtual identity. As we were forced to chat through text this was a useful to device to encourage debate. The facilitator (me, in this case) asks a question. Participant avatars then move to the appropriate section: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree and a pic chart is built in the centre. We worked with the following questions:

  1. Do you think you share too much online?
  2. Do you know who is watching you online?
  3. I would be happier not to have social media apps
  4. I keep my business and personal stuff separate online.

The second question resulted in discussion around free apps and the ‘price’ we may unwittingly pay. Chip Van reminded us that if it is free we are the product. In response to John’s question if people feel in control of their online information Inchydoney suggested we tend to throw caution to the wind for the sake of convenience. However, there was an acknowledgement that different age groups are behaving in different ways online.

The discussion around social apps resulted in many comments about ‘addiction’ to the buzz from them. Yet everyone agreed they were useful for keeping in touch when physical distance is an issue. Once people have met in RL the online engagement can be more satisfactory.

The class meeting finished with thanks to Dudley for hosting us at Akron Island and an invitation for him to join us in Dublin anytime.

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