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Sunday, September 15 • 11:31am - 11:50am
“Networked identities vs. institutional identities”

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Who are we when we’re online? How are networked practices of the self different from traditional institutional academic identities? This paper outlines an ongoing ethnographic exploration of identity practices in social media, and the implications of these practices for higher education. It will explore key aspects of social media identity within networked publics (boyd, 2011), including performativity, asynchronicity, quantification, and participation, and the ways in which these are fostered by the affordances of digital media (Stewart, 2012). 

This paper focuses on the ways people signal identity, credibility, and legitimacy in social media spaces: it then frames these emergent practices of produsage (Bruns, 2008) against the conventional hierarchies of identity roles and status on which academia operates. 

Both academia and social media can be said to be ‘reputational economies,’ (Willinksy, 2010; Hearn, 2010) but the terms and values by which reputations are built within the two environments are not identical. In online networks, roles and hierarchies tend to be more fluid than in institutional settings, and the division between personal and professional selves less rigid. Key distinctions include concepts of presence, privacy, time, and audience, as well as social cues governing the manner in which it is acceptable to talk about self and identity. 

Networked practices can create new opportunities for public engagement with ideas (Weller, 2011), but they demand the construction, performance and curation of intelligible public identities as a price of admission. The signals by which this construction and curation are shared and taken up, however, may not be visible to individuals not acculturated to these practices: they require, in effect, a form of immersive literacy (Savin-Badin, Gourlay Tombs, Steils, Tombs, & Mawer, 2010). This paper will outline common practices and literacies enacted within spheres of networked self-presentation. It will identify strategies utilized by networked identities to signal legitimacy and credibility, and compare these with parallel practices within academia. Distinctions will be framed both in terms of the differing affordances of online and offline interactions and between neoliberal and institutional ideals of the self. 

Stewart is a Ph.D candidate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Prince Edward Island: her research draws on more than seven years in blogging and Twitter communities, as well as other networked publics. 

boyd, d. (2011). Social network sites as networked publics: Affordances, dynamics, and implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.). A networked self: Identity, community, and culture, pp. 39-58. New York, NY: Routledge. 

Bruns, A. (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond: From production to produsage. New York, NY: Peter Lang. 

Hearn, A. (2010). Structuring feeling: Web 2.0, online ranking and rating, and the digital reputation economy. ephemera, 10 (3/4), pp. 421-438. 

Savin-Badin, M., Gourlay, L., Tombs, C. , Steils, N., Tombs, G., & Mawer, M. (2010). Situating pedagogies, positions, and practices in immersive virtual worlds. Educational Research, 52 (2), pp. 123-133. 

Stewart, B. (2012). Digital identities: Six key selves of networked publics. Blog post, retrieved from http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2012/05/06/digital-identities-six-key-selves/. 

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. Bloomsbury. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781849666275 

Willinsky, J. (2010). Open access and academic reputation. Annals of Library & Information Studies, vol. 57, pp. 296-302. 

avatar for Bonnie Stewart

Bonnie Stewart

University of Prince Edward Island
Bonnie Stewart is a writer, educator, and researcher fascinated by who we are when we're online. She explores the intersections of knowledge and technologies in her work, taking up networks, institutions and identity in contemporary higher education. Published in Salon.com, The Guardian... Read More →

Sunday September 15, 2013 11:31am - 11:50am EDT
ROWE 1009

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