Archive for identity

the real work of living

Posted in Online with tags , , , on August 30, 2012 by onepercentyellow

I’ve been living comfortably in my online persona for some time now.  I look back at my blog posts and have a sense of glee that I’ve made it to 35 posts.  It only took me 3 years!  As I scan the titles, I see some good academic work here.  A good sense of my values coming through and the direction I would like to go with my professional digital life and education.

But as I look at this digital self through the lens of autobiographical theory it falls flat.  While I have taken a few risks in sharing myself – my Week 5 reflection for ECI831 comes to mind (the punk-rock persona at the end) – I don’t feel as though I have shared my own personal struggles with finding meaning, like Jabiz did with his discussions of his father (see the pearl jam podcast), or like @cogdog did with sharing his mother’s stories.  Or like Bonnie did when she shared the pain of losing a child. 

Is my digital persona legit without sharing deeply personal stories of the struggle of life?

As I sit here this morning, it is tempting to immediately augment my digital presence with some lasting impression of my personal turmoil.  A tell-all of falling in love while in Peru, or a revealing reflection on finding forgiveness with my father as he struggles with losing his voice due to cancer.  Of course sharing these stories gives you an insight into who I am, but would the intimacy of our connection translate into the analogue world? Would I share these stories with you if we were in the same room?

See, the true conundrum of making this online self is that when I attend a tweetup or a conference, or even just find an afternoon to sit and play music, my analogue self becomes yoked to my digital representation of myself.  And aren’t we all afraid of becoming the “non-professional” persona?  allowing those cracks of real person to show through those suits that fit a little too tight… in ways, I keep a fine gloss over my asynchronous online persona.

But then there’s the synchronous world of #ds106radio, chat rooms and skype (as well as the nearly synchronous world of twitter) where I am myself in myself.  I am present, and presenting as close to an unedited, authentic self as is possible (self-delusion aside).   And as I look back, it is in these spaces where I have truly connected with people.  These are the spaces where I can cry.

I’ve recently come to realize that life is just a waste of time – you just have to choose what you want to waste your time on!  When we spend time – REAL TIME, you know that thing ticking away the seconds of your life (even as you read this!) – we create connections. There is no way to get around it.  There is no substitute for time.

Thanks for spending some with me.

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If you didn’t blog it, it didn’t happen.

Posted in eci831 with tags , , , , on December 19, 2011 by onepercentyellow

As I’m reflecting on the #eci831 experience and actually thinking about something like a grade for my participation, I realize that I may not have been as good a student as I thought. Not that I didn’t do a lot of wandering around the interwebs, connecting myself, exploring spaces of education, learning about digital learning theories, examining how others were using these theories, and determining what, of all of this, would be useful to me and to the analogue educators I am closest with. I certainly did that, but I didn’t capture all that here. Why is that a problem? Because if you didn’t blog it, it didn’t happen.

Over the term I wrote a paper on autobiographical theory in the online world, and came to the conclusion that the development of a digital autobiographical self requires a certain level of presence in the form of artifacts. The lived process, the trail of phrases and photos and links and videos that we leave behind as we play around in this world, is largely how we build an identity in absence. In many ways, this self is strewn around the internet. It lives a little over here in a reply to someone’s blog, and a little over there in a photo I put up, but it can be hard to pin down if I don’t create a home for myself – somewhere my friends can stop by and see me on a regular basis. I’m now coming to realize one of the great roles blogs can play in that development of self.

I’m thinking of it in terms of the way I roam around the world. In the last two years, I have lived in roughly 8 places in 4 countries. In the last year I have not lived in one place for more than 3 months at a time. I have drifted through town, absorbing, contributing, having fun, and sharing with others and then moving on. While I made connections with folks along the way, I have left little behind that they could point to in 5 years and say, “See, Leslie was here!” While there is something liberating about living like The Littlest Hobo, there is something to be said for building things. In that same time period, a friend has done amazing work on her back yard, another has been instrumental in a youth organization in B.C., another has helped develop a community art therapy program in Calgary.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that the things I have created have value. I know that I have made meaningful contributions to the world during this time, but I also know that I could be doing better. I could be building a tiny corner of the internet where I can call home. I can show what I have lived; I can share the beauty of the digital and analogue world; I can amass proof of the kind, sharing, safe, open people of the world and convince others that they need not be afraid. I can do this for myself and for others who may be interested in knowing what I’ve been up to for all this time! (MOM!!!).

So , as this “graded” moment passes, and I move into the space again as myself, I consider how I may use it as a showcase, a hearth, a kitchen table, a backyard oasis. I think of how this space will be visited, not only by others, but also how I will return to this space over time. Living as a gypsy I can’t carry much with me, but maybe I can stash a few artifacts here for safekeeping.

home in pink

A stranger’s just a tweep you haven’t met.

Posted in Online with tags , , , on November 15, 2010 by onepercentyellow

This overdue post comes after my first elluminate session, and my first youtube posting of a presentation.  My… how far I’ve come into my digital self over the last two months!

I had the strangest experience this weekend at Learning 2.010 in Shanghai.  For the first time I took my digital self into the analogue world to meet people I had only known peripherally through Twitter.  Actually, I realize that with my mere 668 tweets to their 5720 (@klbeasley), 19320 (@intrepidteacher), and 45604 (@courosa), I know them a lot better than they know me.  A few things came up for me during this first crossover experience, and as I move further into the digital world, I thought it would be neat to record my thoughts on this journey for posterity.

A travel journal of the crossing of the digital/analogue divide

So I walked into Big Bamboo, ordered myself a beer, and sat back to survey the room.  The sports bar, normally filled with tables of expats there to watch the game or play a bit of pool, was packed with teachers.  I have a friend who can tell someone’s occupation at a glance; these folks would look like teachers in the dark.  I was immediately heartened that I had found the right place and would hopefully be able to connect with some of the folks that I know through tidbits of thought, cool links, and interesting apps.  A walk around the pub didn’t present any identifiable tweeps, but I was sure if I sat in one place, they would be sure to find me.  I sat for a bit, but quickly realized that my usual engaging self was cowering somewhere in the corner as I looked around at this sea of un-e-dentifiable faces.

Do I know that person?  Gee, those avatars sure are small, when you think about it.  Wait, do I even remember that person’s name?  Do I remember their @name?  Can you call someone by their @name?  Do we really have anything to talk about?  Hold on a minute…

As people floated by me in the pub I found that I met their eye less and less, staring into my pint that was emptying at an alarming rate.  I was in trouble, so I booked it back to Puxi (West Shanghai), and went to a house party with a friend.

At this house party I was again surrounded by a group of teachers, but this time not only was I introduced by a real-live person, but I also had my ukulele.  It always makes me feel more confident.  People can’t help but smile when there’s music being created.

After the reassurance that I could indeed meet new people, even if they were teachers, I woke up the next day even more determined to make it to the conference before everyone had dispersed for the day.  I wanted to meet my first tweeple, and I had spent the day with my confidence being bolstered by @plind, a trusted source who had “boldly gone before” me in traversing the analogue-digital divide.  She also linked me to @intrepidteacher for a post to validate my feelings of disorientation at avatars and digital representations of self.

By the time I arrived at the conference, my digital self was ready to present. I arrived before the end of the last sessions, and waited in the conference hall, eyes peeled for those tiny little digital faces to appear.  Perhaps if I caught sight of people from far away it would make it easier.  As people started filtering into the room, I began to feel uncomfortable again.  I began writing about my feelings of frustration from the day before as a way to occupy my twitching mind.

Then it happened… I looked up and saw @intrepidteacher across the room!  Nervous, but certain in my resolve I walked over to where he was having a conversation with someone and politely waited to say hello.  In the meantime, up walked @klbeasley!  This was my first digital/analogue handshake and she quickly introduced me as @onepercentyello, @plind’s little sister.  Some things about being the younger sister never change.  I also had the fine opportunity to meet @courosa, one of the first people I followed, and @mscofino who I watched across the firewall in the K-12 online conference pre-note for 2009.  (Oh, how many times I tried to get that whole video to play!  Firewalls suck!)  I even got to meet @jutecht, the organizer of the conference and legendary web presence.  Finally, as with any great gathering I met a whole host of new friends: @betchaboy, @chamada, @dearlibrariann, @melindaalford and a Noice chick that I can’t find her @name at the moment! (@lissgriffin)

And this time I had my ukulele as well, and the musical meanderings continued with @klbeasley’s amazing soprano.

Since this conference I have found my twitter use increasing at an alarming rate.  Even my sister, @plind sent me a #bigsistweet, knowing it was late in China and I was still chatting with tweeps worldwide.  What’s more is that I have deepened my understanding of these tiny squares of faces and their 140 characters.  And through that deepening connection, I have come to meet additional analogue and digital friends like @drgarcia and @amichetti who introduced me to @savasavasava.  Of course the connection does not stop there, though for the sake of coherence, this post really must.

So, next time there’s a tweetup anywhere in your viscinity, take the unique opportunity to meld your personalities.  You can even use @betchaboy’s idea and wear your @name on your t-shirt for easy identification.

Beginning

Posted in travel with tags , , , on February 14, 2010 by onepercentyellow

After an anticipated January start to my MAIS course and an actual start of February, I am about to attempt my first quiz of my master’s degree.  Though it’s only worth 3%, I’m still nervous.  Not only have I been avoiding completing this exam, I have also found myself avoiding submitting any work for this course, and I have been wondering why.  Then it dawned on me: I learn in community and I don’t have one yet.  This has inspired me to find any way possible to chat about what I’ve been working on.  While I’m not sure if I’ll find any sympathetic ears here, I thought I’d try in as many forums as possible. We’re working on the first two chapters of Self-Directed Behaviour by David L. Watson and Roland G. Tharp and are expected to eventually undertake a self-modification or self-experimentation project as a major part of the course.

So here are some of my struggles and reflections on the first Unit:

The readings for the first unit were easy to understand on an academic level.  The guidelines for self-change in the textbook were in the typical step-by-step form of all self-help books and provided interesting examples.  In addition, the class looked at the life of Ben Franklin as an additional example of successful self-modification.  Franklin created a list of virtues and, on a week-by-week basis, concentrated on manifesting each virtue for seven days in succession.  He kept track with a simple tally chart of instances where he demonstrated each virtue, but focused on only one per week.  Sounds like a simple way to be a good person, but if this process is so easy to follow, why does the assignment feel so monumental?  Why does the thought of change both stir a deep reminiscence of unbearable excitement while, at the same time, awaken a sense of dread?

On the one hand I would like to say that it is the nature of self-imposed and structured change that causes something deep within me to buck.  On a certain level I believe that we live in chaos and that no matter what system of meaning we impose upon it, life will always be beyond the best laid plan.  The starting gun that propels me into self-change will not get me any closer to the ceremonial ribbon-crossing where I can toast my accomplishments.  Neither of these exist; so, what’s the point?  In this vein, the key to life is floating.  Never really taking the initiative to move beyond the slipstream of life that takes you where it wants you to be.  The romantic view of this is serendipity.  The fatalistic view is determinism.

While I like the notion of serendipity, the problem is that lady luck is a busy woman and if this is the only inspiration for my self-development, I’m in trouble.  When you ignore your “self,” it will begin to ignore you.  Classic phrases that tell you your self has vacated include: “Who am I?” and “What the hell am I doing?”

The voice asking those questions is new to this game.  A new me has awoken to existence and sits in the wings observing the merry-go-round before jumping in.  She’s clever, this one, and looks for patterns that prompted her predecessor to get out of Dodge.  She’s patient because she is conjuring the breeze of change within her to bring this weary traveler some respite.  Her whispered stories of our future together bring my nose from the ground to the delicious apple dangling before me, and suddenly my load seems lighter, my journey not so long, the chaos a little more negotiable.

In trying to “begin,” my friend Marilyn reminded me to “give yourself a break… stop thinking that you always have to do… remember wisdom comes from contemplation on the life you live.”  In thinking about this project with fresh eyes, I can begin to see it as something for this new self to do.  Like a young child, she can’t wait to get her hands dirty and she’s excited to be able to help, but she also lacks the confidence to just jump into the chaos of my life.  I’ll give her time to observe and trust that she’ll join me when she’s ready

On Spreading Identity

Posted in Online with tags , , , on September 20, 2009 by onepercentyellow

My last semester in university was slated to be a cake-walk term punctuated by afternoon coffee with my favourite profs and ample time to explore my last three courses.  Mid-September I had a chat with one of these notable profs who seems to intrinsically understand the art of balance.  We discussed another academic who was returning after a year of sabbatical and the struggle that ensues when you re-enter a community after a period of rest.  The time off had given him a taste of what it means to simplify life, focus on what’s important, and save all creative energy for a small circle of people.  With no students to encroach upon office hours, no one counting attendance at university events, and nothing to distract from a deep contemplative navel gaze, life reverts to a manageable pace of stimulus where one can find a familiar connection with a sense of self that is normally muddled by all the noise of community.  Inevitably this eye of calm passes and and the strain (and excitement) of living with others claims and converts even the most introverted of us all.

It is with this cyclical journey between asceticism and engagement in mind that I reflect upon establishing an e-dentity.  This creation comes at a time when my i-dentity is being deconstructed and packed away in preparation for an extended move to China. As I pack away artifacts (attempting to adhere to leaving only one box at mom’s) and say goodbye (again) to friends old and new, I am required to centre on what elements belong to me and what belongs to others.  If the social-interactionists are right (as I think they are) I have a new self to meet as I engage in a new geographical location and daily human sphere.  In ways I look forward to a world of strangers without expectations, a journey reminiscent of @plind’s summers at camp where new identity was a liberating exercise in self-exploration, but it is always worrisome to think that some of my favourite characteristics are not actually mine but someone else’s.

All this pondering of travel and self makes me wonder what exactly I’m doing in this online world.  To be sure, I am exploring a new identity in a new space, (it is full of strangers with friend potential, cultural norms and faux pas, and its own language to boot), but I am also packing up parts of myself in here, parts that don’t necessarily fit with all the parts I’m taking to China.  I’m packing up influences and friends, experiences in photos, stories, studies, and mentors into crates labeled “Facebook”, “Twitter”, and potentially “Athabasca University”, but I wonder if this is the equivalent of taking sabbatical only to come to the office every day.  I will not be present, so I am creating avenues to continue my involvement, not realizing that this also creates a host of expectations for my e-presence (though I will be saved from these expectations by the Chinese government on occasion).

There are few opportunities in life to refine and refract thought in a quiet space, and I am not known for pacing myself.  I hope to take a lesson from my last semester in school.  I spent the time working 3 jobs, taking 3 classes, and being involved in more activities on campus than I care to remember.  As a reminder to myself, in the words of Edgar the turtle, “you gotta slow down…”.