Plans for the semester…

Hi all. Boy, if I’m going to get this “academic web presence” spoken of last week, I am going to have to change my name, trying to register domains related to “Mark Smith” just doesn’t work out well. I do have two middle names that I could deploy, but that seems pretentious so I should probably just change my name to Excelliadon Superiorisoph… This may have the added benefit of affording me entry into the insular communities of Mirkwood as well… For now, I have dug deep into my array of nicknames and at last alighted upon a suitable pseudonym.

With introductions out of the way it is time to start thinking about “plans” for the semester. My plan for coming up with a plan is to muse through it in this post, and hopefully by the end of it some thoughts will have crystallized into actionable items.

One thing is for certain, I want to make sure that the work and production involved in this class serves and/or is used in my Thesis which, ojalá, will be done this semester… Fortunately it seems like a lot of the angles taken in this course dovetail quite nicely with my thesis project, so this may in fact be possible.

The subtitle for this particular special topic, Digital Cultures is quite fortuitous for me because my thesis research is geared entirely towards examining the intersection of digital and, (boy do we still call it analog?) cultural spaces. Specifically the way in which participation on webforum communities can influence or interact with a persons identity, lifestyle, capabilities, etc, outside of that space. So I’d like to use this class in part to examine the rate at which identity construction in one space bleeds through to the other… How much of our online persona do we carry into offline interactions? How much of our offline persona, co-constructed through a million painful childhood embarrassments, do we jettison the moment we go online? Is there profitability to be found in adjusting those measurements throughout our lives? Is it possible to use online spaces as a sort of “dry-dock” to intentionally reconstruct sections of your overall identity, before pushing the retrofitted product back into the sea of everyday life? If the “dry-dock” scenario is a possibility, what advantages does it offer over trying to do the same sort of reconstruction tasks while “at sea” so to speak? Is their a benefit to be gained in utilizing a separate (but connected), specialized community for this sort of work?

Here are some of my initial ideas for things to do that will be useful and learny, presented in bullet point form:

-One way I am interested in leveraging this course towards my thesis is in using the connections (our learning is so connected here!) built in the course to reach out to more interview subjects… This seems like an excellent opportunity to interview a diverse group of people about how their experience in an online community supporters their identities as learners, their learning process, and their sense of community membership. It could be particularly interesting to see if people notice significant contrasts between what we could call insular learning (traditional classes) and this crazy mooc-connected thing we are trying here. Will there be unforeseen drawbacks to this approach? Hidden benefits? Candy? So that is one thing: moar data!

-Poking through the digital resources section of the course site, I am definitely drawn towards the Rheingold article, this seems like it could fit in nicely and perhaps be a jumping off point towards other readings. Of course I won’t know that for sure until I read it, but for a first self-assigned reading you can’t beat 6 pages with pictures. From reading the big colorful excerpts, it seems like this could be useful in drawing the contrast between online and offline communities/socialization/persony-stuff.

-I’m also overdue on reading “Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds” by Holland and a bunch of other people, so this would be a good place perhaps to read about that and consolidate my thoughts/reactions in blog form. Perhaps using the blogs to connect the book’s material to this digital/online angle that my project and our course are taking.

So that is a start at least… More to come soon!