Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Shades of knowing?

Wow, I honestly didn't think that my open pondering about "knowing" would get this traction - but this is the beauty of the massive open course (and heck...perhaps this is a great example of collective learning!)

First, Brainy Smurf wrote an interesting post about the process (or perhaps the indicators) which are necessary for him to write a response to something he finds online. I have to say that he's hit the nail on the head with most indicators. I do dislike errors in blog posts - but I do take certain into consideration: if I read something that has errors in insidehighered.com or chronicle.com, then I am less likely to respond because I feel like the bar is higher - those people are not my peers.  If I read something in this MOOC, despite any minor grammar issues I am more likely to respond because I see MOOC participants as peers.

As far as profiles go (i.e. does the profile provide any info on the person), that's not are as a high factor for me because I've been used to seeing anthropomorphic avatars - after all, for the longest period of time the BSD Daemon was my avatar on the forums (or fora? ;-) ) that I participated on :-)   I am not saying that it's not important, it just depends on context. I think that the issue of online identity is very important to people, as one can see from John's posting on the topic,

John writes:
It is a personal choice, and although I am in favor of openness, I could understand that openness is not viewed as a nominal practice for many professions. This is especially so, for certain professions like medical profession, where duty of care, professional accountability and responsibility comes before any disclosure of incidents or experience that relate to patients or medical care. Exposure of one’s true identity (both as a professional, an educator or student) might have an impact on one’s professional identity, personal security and privacy – like those working in sensitive professions – in defence or police operations. I also think there are significant issues not addressed when debating about political or social aspects in public which may relate to individual organisations, especially when such debates/discourse could be viewed and judged by the public, present or potential employers.

Here I think this is where the virtual identity can interfere with the real world identity. Sometimes the two are the same, however sometimes they are in opposition to one another; or you may be considered "an expert" by your peers, but  your company or institution may not appreciate you spending your time (at work or at home) evangelizing, sharing your expertise, or airing certain political opinions.  If you are in the US, read Speechless: The Erosion of Free Speech in the Workplace. It's a fascinating book and the bottom line is that if you are working in a right-to-work state, you have no free speech. If you employer doesn't like what you do or what you say, even on your own free time, they can summarily dismiss you. I think that's why it's important to give some people some slack on their online identities. Then again, as John writes if you are contacting a company you expect someone eponymous, of if you are following some company on twitter or facebook, you expect a real person there.

So where does this leave us with the whole issue of knowing?  I think that there are many facets to examine, and there probably isn't one simple answer, but it would be an interesting thing to explore with other people who are interested in this: "What does it mean to know someone in the digital realm in our Web 2.0 world?"
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