Broadening the Lens

I’m going to ask everyone to travel back in time to last week’s discussion of social media and identity – sorry!
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Although there is only a four-year gap between boyd and Buck’s articles, the subtle difference between their scholarship on social media and identity is interesting – one could even go so far as to say that it is indicative of the larger trends in social media and research on technology. In 2008, danah boyd suggested that we “figure out how to educate teens to navigate social structures that are quite unfamiliar to use because they will be faced with these publics as adults, even if we limit their access now…” and contemplated if “perhaps instead of trying to stop them or regulate usage, we should learn from what teens are experiencing” (138). Interestingly enough, Amber Buck seems to respond to this call in her 2012 article that explores how student navigates the “publics” boyd is so concerned about.

I agree completely with Scott when he criticizes Buck’s analysis of Ronnie as being  “a bit disingenuous… because it is not indicative of most students practices on a social networking site” – I too was suspicious of Ronnie when I read Buck’s description of his highly involved social media practices, and my suspicions were validated when Buck herself admitted that Ronnie was not a typical social media user.

​ How many students see themselves as “publishers” of information the way Ronnie did? Although Buck eventually admits to Ronnie’s uniqueness, I worry about scholars over-generalizing students and technological use. Similar to the way many students have the label of “digital natives” pushed on them, scholars like Buck may be in danger of over-simplifying and stereotyping students and their online activities – this would be a huge disservice to composition teachers and their students. ​
​In spite of this, however, Buck’s research questions were engaging, and I found myself asking similar questions: “How typical am I in terms of sophistication of online identity? In terms of navigating multiple platforms or publics? Compared to people in my age group? Compared to fellow graduate students?” I thought of my nearly fifteen years as an internet user, and thought of my various escapades in exploring my online identity. From my middle-school Gaia account avatar to my current professional Twitter account, and from my first Xanga blog (my username was Ninja_Bunny_of_Death, to my incredible embarrassment) to my current LinkedIn profile, my self-awareness when it comes to managing my sense of self has been nowhere close to Ronnie’s. At least, I certainly didn’t (and still don’t) have the meta-cognitive vocabulary to discuss my decisions and actions on these sites.
I’m not sure that Buck intended to come to any grand conclusions about social media, youth and identity. However, I do think that her scholarship is both an excellent response to boyd’s work and a call for even more research. I absolutely agree with Buck in that we need to focus on multiple aspects of social media and identity, such as Brooke’s “ecologies of practice” and the interface itself. However, I’m personally interested in broadening her questions to wider subjects. Instead of only researching students, I’d be incredibly interested in understanding how professors or graduate students “engage in sophisticated literacy practices in order to present different aspects of the self.” (35) There is so much to learn and teach our students when we can look to our own practices and habits.
On Twitter, I follow an account called Shit Academics Say, @academicssay. The account posts some pretty silly and hilarious things about the ridiculousness of academia:
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Most interestingly, it is run by Nathan C. Hall, a professor from McGill. Since I realized that he was the individual behind this “fake” account, it’s been incredibly interesting to see how he navigates both his personal Twitter account and the Shit Academics Say account.
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Personally, I think that as professors we should be thinking of how we navigate our identity online as well as how our students develop theirs. This could create more of a dialogue in the classroom and less of a dichotomy, which I think boyd and Buck would be in favor of.
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One comment on “Broadening the Lens

  1. Gabi, I loved reading your thought-provoking blog. These statements really stuck with me: “Personally, I think that as professors we should be thinking of how we navigate our identity online as well as how our students develop theirs. This could create more of a dialogue in the classroom and less of a dichotomy, which I think boyd and Buck would be in favor of.” You make excellent points about the danger of instructors making assumptions about their students’ familiarity with and wisdom about their online presence – I need to keep this in mind for the future. Your blog also got me to wonder about how much I’ve thought about my own online presence. The answer: not much! My life mainly consists of school, school, school, school, applying for positions, and more school, so anything I post online is pretty dull (and not of the red party-cup variety). However, I’m thinking that Michelle’s assignment would be of great use to me – perhaps taking an in-depth look at my own online presence could be informative. Hmmm…

    p.s. Thanks for introducing me to Shit Academics Say (I think it was during our first few classes together). I stay cracking up at the postings on there (via Facebook). The postings are funny because they’re true…

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