Digital Perceptions, Praxis and Context

screen shot of digital presence tool window


I’m just back from two weeks annual leave and just trying to get fully back into work mode, this post might be a bit of a distraction from my inbox.  I’ve never been one for digital detoxing, but my digital engagement, presence and perhaps perception, does shift when I am not at work. I have always also firmly believed that if something  important/relevant/of interest to me happens when I am not as active as “normal” then karma (or possibly more accurately my network and various echo-chambers around it) will bring it to my attention.  And so it was with this post from Lawrie Phipps about a new prototype tool around digital perceptions he has been working on with Donna Lanclos and a few others.

The tool is for reflecting on your digital identity, or how you are perceived by others online. It is not a diagnostic tool! It will not tell you what to fix. However, it might help you in planning how you to develop your identity in the future.

My digital identity is very closely interwoven with my professional persona, I am most active in digital spaces including social media in a professional capacity. So as I am gearing back up again after my summer hols this seemed like a very timely post, and the tool worth a bit of an exploration.  Lawrie also linked back to a post from last month around digital praxis.  In that post Lawrie asked:

In a very brief discussion with Andrew Preater, he also started me thinking about his drawing of the definition of Praxis from Freire; “reflection and action on the structures to be transformed.” This is possibly at the heart of where my thinking is going. I want to engage people with their practice, encourage reflection and action on both their existing practices, and the digital structures and background against which their digital self (Identity?) is perceived by themselves and by those with which they engage.

Is this Digital Praxis? I am looking for input.

I’ve been thinking a lot about praxis, Freire and critical pedagogy of late too, hopefully this post will provide some input to the discussion.  Lawrie’s post explains how the tool has used the Johari window technique for interpersonal awareness as its foundation. I confess, I had never heard of it and with really no critical understanding of what I was about to do,  willingly clicked on the link to try the tool.

All you have to do is choose six words to describe your digital presence – simples!  You can see my “window “ here. You can add some of your own adjectives to describe how you perceive my digital presence.  I’d love to know what others think of my digital presence too. I’ve used my twitter id sheilmcn so just add it.

As I was choosing “my” adjectives, lots of things were flying around my brain (quite literally) including presence, multi-identity, personna, digital fragmentation and segmentation and most importantly context.

Last week I took part in a couple of the Virtually Connecting sessions at the Digital Pedagogy Lab   I was aware of being even more remote that usual as I was still partially digitally disconnected and in another non related work related space. However the discussions were (as ever) stimulating, touching on many issues.  One of the conversations wandered around digital self defense,  to the increasing need for distinct personnas for interactions in different spaces (hopefully I’ll be able to write a post about that later this week too).

Those discussions and selecting the adjectives for the digital presence tool is making me wonder if  I have perhaps become too complacent about my digital identity and my data footprint.  It’s not that I’m not aware of the issues , rather I think it’s that the need to maintain my professional identity overrides some of my concerns.  I also believe that if we can access platforms we still need to make our voices heard.   Perhaps the opportunities of being able to grow  a professional digital identity has given me false sense of security (safe in my little bubble)?  Maybe I do need to fragment a bit more so work (twitter) @sheilmcn really is separate from instagram @sheilmcn, and facebook Sheila MacNeill . . .

Going back to Lawrie’s point about praxis, we can’t talk about praxis without critical engagement with and around context. We need to have a critical  understanding of the wider political context that we inhabit. In terms of digital structures  when we are thinking about our praxis we need to understand our relationships with the owners of those structures and the oppression that most of them bring.

In terms of presence in an institutional digital tool such as a VLE, then there are certain expectations that are built into the system and any users engagement and presence within it. These are dictated by the role definitions in that system – student (no rights) teacher/instructor ( a few more rights) etc, etc.  The owners of the system are not the institution, but generally neo-liberal edtech companies who increasingly want to help “personalise”   the “customer experience” through use of tracking and data.  They want us all to have a digital presence, one that conforms with their (neo-liberal) values and ultimately their profit margins.

Even in non institutional spaces our presence is dictated by our socio-political context.  That’s why people put disclaimers on their twitter accounts about their views being their own not their employers. (I can’t begin to explain how angry that makes me).  I am more than aware that the likely hood of me being trolled for saying something overtly political is far higher that any of my male counterparts.  Would having a different personna help with that? I don’t know, part of “me” wants to be “me” to have a presence, to be known by “my people” (that’s you dear reader)   . . . but an increasing part of “me” doesn’t want to be profiled and stereotyped.

Equally given the current state of instagram, youtube what kind of presence do you (or perhaps do your students) want to have? Given the commercial opportunities for making a living from social media presence maybe there needs to be another side of the tool with some different adjectives on it.  It’s certainly an area that needs much more critical reflection and discussion in and outwith education.

So what do I think about the tool? Well as a reflective tool,  it has worked for me. But I think about this “stuff” quite a bit. I would worry that some less digitally confident colleagues would be quite challenged to make any sense of it without a bit more critical pedagogy  based scaffolding around it.

Anyway what do you think?








2 thoughts on “Digital Perceptions, Praxis and Context”

  1. Thanks for reviewing the tool (and the other post)! I think you are right wrt to people being digitally confident to use the tool. I also think a level of robustness in terms of asking for feedback is also needed. I think the other area we need to develop is the language.

    1. You are most welcome! I will keep going back to context – what context is it being used in? personal development, as part of formal CPD etc. Looking forward to seeing how it develops.

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