Thursday 29 March 2012

WEB206 - Week 4: Narrating the Self

Everything we publish on the Web says something about who we are. Whether it be the photograph we choose to represent us on a social networking site, the biography we include as a part of our blog, or the nature of our conversations with others through communities, message boards and comments, as we contribute to the Web we are establishing for ourselves an online identity.

The accumulated content of your contributions to the Web is known as your Internet footprint. As a publisher of Web content, this is something that you need to be in control of, so that when people search for your name, the results provided will give them an appropriate idea of who you are and what you do.

In this light it is worth considering whether you wish to have two established presences on the Internet, one that is public and another that is private. You need to consider whether you want your (professional) web publishing to be connected with your private social networks.

This week's readings:
Turkle, S. (1999). Looking Toward Cyberspace: Beyond Grounded Sociology. Contemporary Sociology, 28(6), 643-648.
Schau, H. J., & Gilly, M. (2003). We Are What We Post? Self-Presentation in Personal Web Space. The Journal of Consumer Research, 30(3), 385-404.
Walker, J. (2005). Mirrors and Shadows: The Digital Aestheticisation of Oneself. Paper presented at the Digital Arts and Culture Conference.

To what degree - if at all - do you see yourself playing different 'roles' on the Internet?
I've been using the Internet since 1993 and back then it was a lot more about being anonymous online. I had one of those scary personal homepages with flashing gifs and the entire thing referred only to "Nicky", with very few other identifying features.  I found the Schau & Gilly reading really interesting because it made me realise that although the links I put on that homepage were there because I liked them, they were also there because having them there portrayed the type of cool geekgirl online persona I was striving for at the time. :>

For that reason, I found MySpace and more particularly Facebook to be quite confronting, and I deliberately held off on participating for a long time.  I still struggle with the concept of privacy online and although I've opened up a lot more in recent times, I've still made a fairly conscious effort to draw a line between what can be public and what should stay private.  My Facebook is fairly locked down by some people's standards and is probably the most purely "me", bad jokes and all.  I also have a professional LinkedIn profile and a public Twitter account and anything that goes on those is usually with "big picture web presence" in mind, so while they do demonstrate my humour and interests, there's very little that would be offensive to anybody.  I've also set up a completely separate Facebook business page and Twitter business account so I can keep those things separated. Initially I did this so that I didn't bore my friends & family with professional stuff, but it's now worked well in the opposite way too, to keep my professional contacts separated without the family photos.  This is the area where I plan for my new blog to slot into.

How much do you find user avatars contribute to your perception of the people behind them?
How is your perception of people affected by avatars within different contexts (i.e. discussion forums, games, instant messaging, social networks etc.)?
I find avatars interesting from the perspective of how that person views themself.  But I tend to base my perceptions of people more on what they write, or how they play, or how they react to certain situations, because I think those observations give me a clearer view of the person.  I've always viewed avatars as more like a snapshot in time, of what a person WANTS to be, rather than what they really are.  It's possible that I think that way because when I first got online, almost nobody had a photo or an avatar and you had to learn to form views based on on other things.

How do you think the lack of recognisable avatars within the Blackboard environment affects your relationship with others in this course?
I personally don't have a need for avatars, as I tend to form my views based on what people say and how they go about things, rather than what they look like.  But for those who do like them, here's my current Facebook picture.  I only recently changed this, I'd had the previous photo for 2 years but after my husband took this a few weeks ago I changed it because I liked the idea of being public but hidden behind sunglasses!


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