Tomorrow, Lee Skallerup and I will be speaking to Ken Bauer’s #iTec Digital Identity course, a five day bootcamp on digital identity for undergraduate students at Tecnológico de Monterrey on…you guessed it – digital identity. Ken has put together a stunning lineup – Dave Cormier, Bonnie Stewart, Alan Levine, Amy Burvall, and Autumm Caines – and that’s just on the first half of the week.
I’ve heard all of those people speak expertly on digital identity, to the point that I feel a bit superfluous. However, in the spirit of not giving into imposter syndrome, I’ve devoted a bit of time to thinking about what I can bring to the conversation that is special and uniquely my own.
I started by brainstorming on Twitter with 5 thoughts on my approach to digital identity and when I started that list, it became clear to me fairly quickly that I had a problem with the title of this course.
I don’t like to talk about digital identity, because it creates an unnatural divide between digital and other forms of identity. Digital identity is no different than the multiple identities we carry through the day – e.g. our parenting identity, professional identity, peer identities.
Personally, I’ve been working hard over the last five years to consolidate those identities into a balanced, holistic approach to being an authentic human…so to separate out my ‘digital identity’ and talk about it for minutes on end just doesn’t seem to jibe with the rest of my life mission.
I am myself. I am myself in digital spaces. I am myself in the grocery store, in my living room, in my work cubicle. Because my digital experience is so completely integrated into my physical activities, I am my digital self at the very same time that I am waiting in the grocery store line, and in my living room, and in my work cubicle. In fact, I workout early in the mornings to exercise videos stored on my google drive. I can be doing one-legged burpees when I see a Twitter notification pop up in the corner of the screen. Therefore, I am my digital self even as I am very much also my physical self. The distinction is meaningless to me.
I prefer to talk about digital presence.
Presence is closely related to but different from identity. Identity is who you are; presence is how you behave. How you present yourself. How you engage with the space and others in it.
Digital presence. All of the speakers Ken has lined up are brilliant on digital presence, but I can speak specifically to what it means to behave as a learner in a digital space.
My primary goal as a blogger and tweeter is to learn. I am a constructionist at heart; Seymour Papert writes that thinking is made sharper – refined – when it is made concrete. Write a thought down and it becomes less abstract while also becoming something that is available for self reflection and social commentary. I write to make things concrete. I write in digital public spaces to gain access to social commentary.
I blog and tweet to create a record. We learn by studying our own trails (and the trails of others). In 1945, Vannevar Bush called these associative trails. Sure, I could trace my trails through journals and scrapbooks, but I write in digital, public spaces so that I can have access to hyperlinks, tags, filters, multimodal forms of expression. I write in these spaces to have access to digital affordances. The ability to rearrange posts and create serendipitous juxtapositions is magical, happy learning.
Finally, I blog and tweet to be a part of something larger than myself. I have written over and over again on personal learning networks (so has Dave Cormier, probably a little more famously) so I’m not going to belabor the point now. But as I have said before (and so has Howard Rheingold), the key to learning in and on the open web is making oneself useful. There are different ways to make oneself useful. Being a learner is not just about the cognitive stuff; yes, on Twitter I have been known to help people learn their epistemological frameworks and others have helped me learn to code SQL sequences (all true, documentable stories). However, meaningful learning is often emotional. It feels scary sometimes. Isolating. Confusing. Lonely. I make myself useful by making myself available in digital spaces. I help people and they help me as best as we all can, because we are human: humans being humans in digital spaces.
Digital presence as an opportunity to create, record, and share – that’s what I’m going to talk about tomorrow.