Media & Technology in Practice: how to balance all those selves

Next Monday I’ll be hosting a seminar at the University of Surrey in the Sociology Department as part of the Media and Technology in Practice series. I’m quite excited about the session; I love bringing plasticine and Second Life into the hallowed halls of academia and seeing what the minds of learners will do with them.

The thrust of the session is about how to balance one’s identit(ies) in the different roles that we play via the media outlets at our disposals today: blogs, podcasts, lifeblogs, video diaries, Tweets, social network shout-outs. In my own case, I’m also talking about the outlets I’ve had, including television, radio and mainstream journalism.

I am, of course, inherently interested in how these different spaces shape how we create persona to fit with them. In cyberspace (I do love that word), where the presentation of self is an explicit element of development, what techniques do we use to compartmentalise the many people we are?

So how’s it going to play out on the day? Well, I’ll spend a bit of time talking about my experience as a journalist (where it’s surprisingly difficult to control others’ perceptions of you) and as a researcher in an online world (where it’s much easier). I’ll also talk about how presenting oneself in an online space differs according to whether one is a user in a text-based world or a 3D world, or whether one is a producer of content. In the former, the control is ultimate. The latter is an iterative process of audience awareness.

The spaces we’ll be focussing on are havens for users to play with possible selves. They’re extensions, outlets and learning environments. How can we understand them as social media?

I’ll also throw a case study out from my experiences as a researcher in SL: tales of ethics and best practice for using these arenas for intellectual endeavors.

Finally, there’ll be a task:

Using plasticine, marker pens and Second Life, the group will design 3 avatars and their online “homes”, complete with profiles, drawings, models and – time permitting – CGI. The 3 avatars will be:

  • a public figure
  • a researcher
  • an everyday avatar

What i hope comes out of this exercise is an awareness how we can use these spaces as compartments for different motivations. We’ll discuss how each relates to existing offline roles, and how privacy and publicness affects their design. We’ll also tackle the difficult situation that arises when the roles begin to cross-over and the clarity of each role dissolves.

Photos to follow.

In the meantime, here are a couple of references I’ll be mentioning on Monday:
A Rape in Cyberspace by Julian Dibbell
An excellent selection of Games for the Web: Ethnography of Massively Multiple On-Line Games by Aaron Delwiche’s students at Trinity College

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~ by aleks on February 1, 2008.

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