Digital identity and presence in the social milieu Gráinne Conole, University of Leicester Pelicon conference, 2013, 10-12th April, Plymouth Digital landscapes: meeting future challengesAbstractThe keynote will critique the affordances (Gibson 1979) social and participatorymedia offer in terms of promoting different forms of interaction andcommunication. It will explore in particular the nature of digital identity andpresence. It will argue that there is a complex interconnection between us andthe digital environment we inhabit and that this relationship is constantlychanging and adapting. In terms of harnessing this for learning, teachers need todevelop a complex set of digital literacies and need to adopt new approaches todesign that go beyond content to the activities that learners engage with. It willconclude with a description of the 7Cs of Learning Design framework, whichaims to help teachers make more informed design decisions that arepedagogically effective and make innovative uses of new technologies.It will describe a set of theoretical constructs that can be used to describe andunderstand our interactions online: the notion of digital identity and presenceand digital performance, our evolving rhizomatic digital network, harnessing theaffordances and new media and the associated digital social milieu, and thenature of our digital traces and the associated digital panoptican.IntroductionSocial and participatory media have a number of key characteristics that makethem distinctive from the so-called web 1.0 technologies. These include: openpractices, distributed cognition, networking and interconnection, complex andevolving interactions, and the development of a personalised digital landscape.These characteristics enable us to interact with others on an unprecedentedglobal scale.Developing the digital literacy (Jenkins 2009) skills needed to be part of this‘participatory culture’ is a key challenge facing education today. These skills areway beyond simple notions of ICT literacies and are more about harnessing theaffordances of social and participatory media. Skills like: play, transmedianavigation, judgement, and distributed cognition. The extent to which anindividual has these skills will impact on how they interact with others throughthese media. Rheingold1 argues that social media enable people to socialise,organise, learn, play, and engage in commerce. The part that makes social mediasocial is that technical skills need to be exercised in concert with others:encoding, decoding, and community. He identifies five social media literacies:1http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/attention-and-other-21st-century-social-media-literacies
attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness and criticalconsumption.Today’s digital landscapeFigure 1: The E-learning timelineFigure 1 shows the key technological developments that have emerged over thelast thirty years. Starting with multimedia authoring tools like Tookbook andAuthorware in the late eighties, which enabled users to create rich andinteractive multimedia resources. The Internet emerged in 1993 and wasinitially a very static interface, unable to handle large amounts of images ormultimedia because of poor bandwidth. In the mid-nineties, practitioners startedto talk about the notion of learning objects and the aspiration to create and sharelearning materials in a vibrant educational marketplace.As about the same time Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) /LearningManagement Systems (LMSs) started to appear. These were significant in tworespects. Firstly, institutions started to realise that technologies were core fortheir learner and established committees to evaluation different VLEs/LMSs andto instigate VLE/LMS policies. Secondly, they mimicked established teachingpractice and hence provided a safe nursery slope for practitioners to experiment.Practitioners could upload content, make announcements, set up discussionforums and provide mechanisms for their students to upload assignments. Thefirst generation of mobile devices emerged in around 1998; although they hadvery limited capacity and it was hard to see what they could offer for learning.Learning Design as a research field emerged as a counteraction to the long
established field of Instructional Design. The focus was on the creation of toolsand resources to help practitioners make more informed design decisions.Around 2000 gamification emerged and in particular how games could be usedin a learning context. The Open Educational Resource (OER) movement took theideas around Learning Objects a stage further in 2001. Promoted byorganisations like UNESCO and the Flora and William Foundation, a coreprinciple was that educational is a fundamental human right and thateducational materials should be freely available. UNESCO estimate that there aremore than 100 million people who cannot afford formal education; OER offerthem a means of getting an education.O’Reilly defined the term Web 2.0 to distinguish the emerging tools and practicesassociated with the web, which were more participatory, social and participatory(OReilly 2004; OReilly 2005). This term morphed into the term ‘social andparticipatory’ media, which is the central focus of this talk.Virtual worlds, such as Secondlife, gained popularity in around 2005; manybelieved they offered immersive and authentic 3D environments, which couldpromote pedagogies such as role play, Problem-Based learning and situatedlearning. This was followed by a second generation of mobile devices; inparticular e-books, tablets and smart phones. These made the mantra of‘learning anywhere, anytime’ a reality. Finally, the next phase in the continium ofLearning Objects, Open Educational Resources (OER) was the emergence ofMassive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), with thousands of people signing up toparticipate. Two distinct types of MOOCs have now evolved: i) cMOOCspromoting connectivist learning (Siemens 2005) and ii) xMOOCs, which aremore linear and didactic, such as those offered by Coursera.The social milieuThe social environment, social context, sociocultural context, or milieu, refers to‘the immediate physical and social setting in which people live or in whichsomething happens or develops. It includes the culture that the individual waseducated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom they interact’.So the digital milieu is a combination of the affordances of new media and anindividual’s personal competences and preferences; each person has to find theirown ‘digital voice’ and personal digital environment. They need to be able tonavigate across the digital landscape; being clear about how different media areused. So interactions in facebook will differ from those in Twitter or VirtualWorlds. We each create our own ecological niche, we connect with differentpeople for different reasons; each of us has an inner core of ‘friends’ and an outerset of acquaintances forming three different types of interactions, what Dron andAnderson refer to as Groups, Networks and Collectives (Dron and Anderson2007). Goffman (1972) in particular stressing the deeply social nature of theindividual environment. He talks about the concept of ‘performance’, the wayin which we interact and communicate with others online is a form ofperformance and relates to how we are perceived by others; each of us has an
individual digital identity, which is the culmination of our interactions acrossdifferent media.We leave visible digital trails as we interact online; a digital equivalent ofFoucault’s concept of the ‘Panopticon’ , which refers to the concept of a designwhich allows a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of aninstitution without them being able to tell whether or not they are beingwatched. In the digital landscape our identity is fragmented across differentmedia, we are connected in a complex set of social interactions with others,ranging from loosely connected to tightly bound communities.Digital identity and presenceDigital identity is about how you present yourself online and how othersperceive you. It emerges from the way you interact and communicate withothers. Our professional identity has changed as a result of our interactionsonline. In the past a research paper published in a closed journal might only havea handful of readers. Articles published online can be access by hundreds, if notthousands of people. And there is a blurring of our personal and professionalidentity, particularly in sites like facebook. Weller (2011) argues that: A key element to realising a strong online identity is an attitude of openness. This involved sharing aspects of personal life on social network sites, blogging ideas rather than completing articles and engaging in experiments with new media.He goes on to argue (2011: 99) that digital identity is both distributed acrossmultiple channels as well as usually having a central place (such as a blog). Andhe argues (2011: 136) that there are a number of facets associated with yourdigital identity: reputation, impact, influence and productivity.Rhizomatic learning and connectivismThe nature of our personalised digital landscape or network is not static; itchanges over time; we are constantly adapting and co-evolving with thetechnologies and through our network of peers. And as a result we develop, welearn, we adapt. Two key concepts in relation to our interactions online for meare the concepts of Rhizomatic learning (Cormier 2011) and Connectivism(Siemens 2005). In terms of Rhizomatic learning, Cormier argues that: A rhizome is a stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. This is analogous to how we interact online and in particular the way that ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-replicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process.So we develop connections with people, who’s ideas are of interest to us. Thismight be through including them on a blogroll, facebook chatting ideas, liking orcommenting on posts, or retweeting in Twitter. We build up connections withthose that we have most in common with.
Connectivism is a useful analytic framework for understanding our interactionsacross this digital landscape. Siemens outlines 8 key principles of Connectivism,how these apply to our interactions online are emphasised in italics:1. Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions. Online we interact and connect with others through a variety of channels, co-constructing knowledge.2. Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. We connect both with people and with resources. Appropriating them for our own individual needs.3. Learning may reside in non-human appliances. So in addition to others, an important part of our network are the tools and resources we use.4. Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known. So it is recognising that we learn and develop through our network.5. Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning. Being part of a social network is about reciprocity; contributing to the network as well as using it.6. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. And as such we need to develop the types of digital literacy skills Jenkins talks about, to harness the affordances of the media.7. Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities. The net offers a powerful mechanism for developing skills and keeping up to date.8. Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. Which is about developing our own personal learning environment and critically reflecting on its development.So what is presence? Dictionary definitions include: i) The state or fact of beingpresent; current existence or occurrence or ii) Immediate proximity in time orspace. Neither of these really captures what I understand by presence. I think itis something more than this. This definition comes closer: ‘the bearing, carriageor air of a person; especially stately or distinguished bearing’.I am interested in the difference between presence face-to-face and online. In aface-to-face context presence is related to a number of factors. It’s aboutsomeone’s aura, their stance. It might be that someone has presence becausethey are tall, attractive, have a deep voice or it might be related to their intellect.We have all experienced the feeling of being effected by someone, being veryaware of them, feeling a connection with them on a sub-conscious level.In the digital world presence is very different, it is conveyed primarily throughtext. Presence is channelled through your words and associated emoticons, etc. Ioften wonder how I am perceived online. What people make of the things I say,the pictures I post. What is my digital personality and how is it different from theway I interact face-to-face. I find online interactions liberating and different tothe interactions I have with people face to face.Of course technology plays a part. The affordances of different media enable ordisenable certain types of interaction. So facebook is a good medium for sharingmultimedia, Twitter requires you to speak in a certain way, with its limit of 140characters. Virtual worlds provide a bridge to face-to-face interaction, via your
avatar. The avatar you choose says something about you. Our digital presence isfragmented across these different media. The collective self is a culmination ofthese individual utterances. The way I speak on my blog is different to thepostings I put on facebook or Twitter. They have different purposes andaudiences. So what does ‘presence’ mean in a digital context? I think it is abouthow you are perceived by others through your interaction with them. Presenceonly has meaning in relation to others. It’s a social construct. For some peopleyou will have presence, for others you won’t. It is all to do with whether yourinteractions have meaning for others.The Community Indicators FrameworkIn order to better understand interactions in social networks we developed aCommunity Indicators Framework (CIF) (Figure 2) (Galley, Conole et al. 2011).The CIF is built around four key aspects of community experience: participation– the ways in which individuals engage in activity; cohesion – the ties betweenindividuals and the community as a whole; identity – how individuals perceivethe community and their place within it; and creative capability – the ability ofthe community to create shared artefacts, and shared knowledge andunderstanding. Each of these aspects is interrelated and the whole reflects themultifaceted complexity of what we experience as community. We have arguedthat these aspects have a multiplicative effect on each other, in that the absenceof one is likely to significantly impact on the presence of the others.Figure 2 The Community Indicators FrameworkIn the paper we concluded that:
The notion of ‘community’ is complex and nebulous, especially in relation to online, open and transient communities.And go on to state that: Finally, we believe the CIF may also prove effective as a framework for supporting and guiding developing communities, as it expresses the tensions and challenges, which can emerge as communities evolve. A critical approach to these tensions and challenges may help to manage and limit risk to the community as people debate, discuss and work to create new knowledge together openly and online. For example a community may reflect on its progression and development using a series of facilitative prompts, activities and tasks informed by the CIF..The 7Cs of Learning Design frameworkThis talk has described the ways in which we can interact online and the benefitsof social and participatory media for learning and professional development.Clearly these media offer a rich set of ways in which learners can interact,however in reality teachers are not using social and participatory mediaextensively for learning. They need guidance and support to make informeddesign decisions that are pedagogically effective and make innovative use oftechnologies to support interaction, communicate and collaboration.The 7Cs of Learning Design framework illustrates the key stages involved in thedesign process, from initial conceptualisation of a learning intervention throughto trialing and evaluating it in a real learning context (Figure 3). The frameworkconsists of the following stages:1. Conceptualise: What is the vision for the learning intervention, who is it being designed for, what is the essence of the intervention, what pedagogical approaches are used?2. Capture: What Open Educational Resources are being used and what other resources need to be developed?3. Create: What is the nature of the learning intervention the learners will engage with? What kinds of learning activities will the learners engage with?4. Communicate: What types of communication will the learners be using?5. Collaboration: What types of collaboration will be learners be doing?6. Consider: What forms of reflection and demonstration of learning are includes? Are the learning outcomes mapped to the activities and assessment elements of the learning intervention?7. Consolidate: How effective is the design? Do the different elements of the design work together?
Figure 3: The 7Cs of learning design frameworkFor each of the seven stages we have developed a series of conceptual designs,building on our work and that of others2 in the field. Three of these are describedhere: the course features view, the course map view and the pedagogyprofile view. The first is the course features view, which is associated with theconceptualise element of the 7Cs framework. This enables teachers to thinkabout the overall essence of the learning intervention and how it will bedelivered and supported. Participants interact with a pack of cards around thefollowing elements:1. Principles (Figure 4): What is the essence of the course, what are the core principles? So for example cultural or aesthetic aspects may be important, the intervention may have a practical focus or be about applying theory to practice, it may be based on a professional community of peers or it might be important that the intervention includes elements of serendipity.2. Pedagogical approaches: What pedagogies are involved? For example is the intervention based on constructivist principles, is it problem or inquiry- based?3. Guidance and support (Figure 5): What guidance and support are provided? For example in terms of a website or module handout, or access to study materials.4. Content and activities: What kinds of activities are included and what content will the learners be using?2 See larnacadeclaration.org for an up to date overview of Learning Design
5. Reflection and demonstration: Are the learners actively encourage to reflect at key points? How are they demonstrating their learning? What forms of diagnostic, formative and summative assessment are included?6. Communication and collaboration: How are the learners interacting with each other and their tutors? Are there any elements of collaboration included?Figure 4" The principles associated with the learning interventionFigure 5: Guidance and supportOnce the course features view has been completed, teachers can fill in thecourse views map, which considers what Guidance and Support is provided,what Content and Activities the learners will engage with, what forms ofCommunication and Collaboration are included, and the types of Reflectionand Demonstration. This includes details of which tools and resources areassociated with each of the elements and any notes such as details ofprerequisites required or description of the philosophy underpinning thelearning intervention, for example it might be that peer interaction is deemedimportant or that learners are expected to generate their own materials.
The third example is the pedagogy or activity profile view (Figure 6). Thisenables teachers to map the types of activities the learners will engage with.There are six types: assimilative activities (reading, viewing, listening),information handling, communicative, productive, experiential (such as drill andpractice exercises) and adaptive (such as modeling or simulation). The profilealso indicates the amount of time spent on assessment activities. The profile isavailable as an online flash widget.3Figure 6: An example of a completed pedagogy profileStoryboarding is a well-established approach to visually representing a temporalsequence of activities. For example, it is used in the film industry to represent thekey sequences involved in a plot. Storyboarding is used in our Learning Designwork, as a means of representing to overall design. It enables theteacher/designer to see how the different elements of the design process fittogether. It consists of a timeline, with the activities included in the design alongthe middle. Learning outcomes are mapped to the assessment elements. Abovethe activities any inputs to the individual activities are include: for examplereading materials or podcasts. Below the activities outputs are listed, forexample contribution to a discussion forum or creation of a blog post.Evaluation of the framework and the associated resources indicates that it iswelcomed and that the conceptual designs enable teachers to rethink theirdesign practice to create more engaging learning interventions for their learners.The conceptual views can also be used with learners, to give them an indicationof the nature of the courses they are undertaking. The activity profile isparticularly useful as it enables learners to see the mix of different types oflearning activities they will engage with.3 http://www.rjid.com/open/pedagogy/html/pedagogy_profile_1_2.html
ConclusionReturning to the theme of this year’s Pelicon conference ‘Digital landscapes:meeting future challenges’, I would like to argue that we need to move beyondthe notion of space and time when describing our interactions online; thetheoretical constructs described in this talk provide a richer means ofrepresenting and understanding how we interact online. Key challenges faceeducation and indeed society more generally. Education needs to prepareindividuals for a constantly changing environment. Individuals will need todevelop new digital literacy skills and in particular skills that enable them to beable to adapt, to retrain, as most will have more than one career change. Socialand participatory media have an important role to play; providing individualswith a rich, distributed ecology of resources and expertise that they can draw on.We now truly have what Salomon described as ‘distributed cognition’, betweenour minds and our digital network.ReferencesCormier, D. (2011). Rhizomatic learning - why we teach? Daves education blog:education, post-structuralism and the rise of the machines.http://davecormier.com/edblog/2011/11/05/rhizomatic-learning-why-learn/.Dron, J. and T. Anderson (2007). Collectives, networks and groups in socialsoftware for e-Learning. Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning inCorporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education Quebec. RetrievedFeb. 16: 2008.Galley, R., G. Conole, et al. (2011). "Community Indicators: A framework forbuilding and evaluating communiyt activity on Cloudworks." InteractiveLearning Environments.Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, NewJersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associated.Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Mediaeducation for the 21st century, Mit Pr.OReilly, T. (2004). The architecture of particaption.OReilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0 - Design patterns and business models forthe next generation of software.Siemens, G. (2005). "Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age."International journal of instructional technology and distance learning 2(1): 3–10.Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar - how technology is changing academicpractice. London, Bloomsbury Academic.