You ever come across something you made a few years ago and go, “yeah, okay that’s a thing I did and totally blocked out of my memory.” That’s how I feel about this blog. As my post history here shows, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything, which I only started because of an assignment for one of my grad classes when I was getting my MA in Educational Technology. It’s not that I’m self-conscious or embarrassed about what I wrote–I’m not. I still stand by the silly circus metaphors I made about education and I’m still obsessed with Adam Savage making a box on YouTube. No, I totally blocked it out of my memory because it was 3 years ago that I last made a post on this blog and in Internet-time that is basically a different century. I’ve written and read so many papers, emails, articles, texts, snaps, tweets, posts, and everything in-between since then. I was never going to remember what I said and did here in the interim.
But now I am back because I am participating in the DigPINS (Pedagogy, Identity, Networks, Scholarship) experience with a wonderful cohort of Instructional Designers. This week’s topic is Identity (honestly threw me for a loop given the acronym order!), and it’s great because it gives me a new frame to look at how I curated / presented myself not only in this WordPress space, but online in general.
For this week, we were asked to complete a Visitor-Resident map of our use of the internet. An interesting reflection that made me feel less connected to the communities and sites I participate in than I realized when I saw how heavy the “Visitor” side of my map was.
There are many other ways of mapping / thinking of ones identity online of course–the Visitor-Resident map being a new continuum for me that I liked a lot. When considering identity online, the terms digital native and immigrant never sat well with me personally. It almost sounds xenophobic in a politicized discourse kind of way. Like the idea that we can only naturalize so many immigrants to our tribe before some quota is achieved.
I’ve dabbled with the idea of my identity on the Internet as a member of a marketplace for a while. I am a consumer or producer. It’s a fluid identity though. As a consumer I can easily become a producer of content and digital artifacts that in turn will be consumed by others. But that’s also rather capitalist and frankly a bit dehumanizing to me. I think that line of thinking places the human behind the content and artifacts they generate rather than in front of it–which may be the point, I’m not sure.
But then I often catch myself thinking of my online identity in terms of performer and audience. How the curated presentation of myself on the various platforms I engage with are really just a performance of a character I want people to like, agree, or sympathize with. I’m reminded of the relatively young comedian, Bo Burnham who comments on this in one of his comedy specials, “Make Happy.”
He asks to the audience what his show is about near the end of the special and then explains that it always winds up being a meta-commentary about performing because it was the most honest and relatable thing he could talk about with his audience as a performer. “Social Media, it’s just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded to perform. So the market said, ‘Here, perform everything to each other all the time for no reason.'”
This isn’t a new idea of course. Judith Butler has been talking about Performative Acts and gender identity since the 80’s. We perform ourselves to each other every day, so it’s no surprise that we continue to do so with a whole host of new and exciting tools at our disposal in this new medium and modality.
I went in to this identity exercise and week not really having a clear idea of who I am, or rather who I am trying to perform to be and become. And I’m not sure if I really have a better understanding of it now either, which is fine. It’s made me more thoughtful of my engagement for the time being, and for now that can be enough until I figure the role(s) I want to play.