This post is in response to #digpins course I’m participating in this summer through SNC.
A Visitor-Resident Map (VR map, #vandr) describes how we use digital spaces. Dave White conceptualizes a VR map as a way of describing how we engage online. This idea stems from the digital natives-immigrants idea, but acts as an update to this earlier mappings. Natives-Immigrants seems to divide individuals primarily based on age. Younger individuals who’ve grown up immersed in technology are natives, while the rest are immigrants. In my own experience, the digital natives-immigrants notion has never fully captured the continuum of digital use. As a “young person,” I don’t necessarily know as much as some of my older colleagues. And although my students use social media and technology regularly, I would not necessarily say they quickly adapt to new forms of technology. VR mapping provides more flexibility and room for individuality in mapping digital identities.
VR maps allow mapping along two continuums: Personal –> Professional & Visitor –> Residential. While the personal-professional dimension is fairly self-explanatory, the visitor-resident continuum requires further explanation. The links above (e.g.,Visitor-Resident Map and Dave White) give a much more thorough explanation, but in my understanding we are acting as visitors when we use an online space and then log off without leaving much of a trace, for example, logging on and conducting a google search and logging off.. We act as residents when we leave some trace or artefact behind after logging off. For example, commenting on a picture or posting on a blog. Here is my current (but ever changing?) VR Map:
If one of my students created a VR map, I imagine they would readily fill the upper two quadrants, with next to nothing in the lower two. In other words, my students likely have and use snapchat, facebook, twitter, pinterest, vine, instagram, etc… but primarily, if not exclusively, for personal reasons. Not to say students need to have an “institutional” identity or are critically lacking an institutional digital identity. But perhaps college is the right time to form some sort of an academic or professional identity.
As a young professor in psychology, recognizing this gap in my students’ ability to use technology and digital spaces has intrigued me and pushed me to integrate new (to my students) spaces in my course design for students to practice using. For example (though not novel to most students), I always use Moodle (or another online course platform). I have also had students collaborate on a wordpress blog and had students post notes on tiki-toki.com. As a student myself (I graduate from college in 2010 by the way), I only had a few professors who used online spaces, and only course platforms such as Moodle at that. If I wanted to create some sort of digital identity that had a semblance of professionalism, I was on my own. It wasn’t until later in graduate school that this idea of Googling myself (which my mother has readily picked up on in her efforts to scrapbook my life) and having some sort of digital identity that I curate surfaced. And even then, there was SO MUCH out there that it was intimidating to create an online identity. I was and still am faced with questions like … What should my digital identity look like? What sites should I use? What face(s) should I put forward? Can I express my opinions? How professional do I need to be? How does this reflect on my affiliated institutions? No really, can I express my opinions? etc… I don’t want my students to be overwhelmed, as I was, when they graduate and have to cultivate their own online identities.
Thus far, I’ve kept student assignments and posts in private online spaces. For example, the course blog my students created on wordpress was private. This coming semester, I’ll be teaching Physiological Psychology and my goal is to push my students into the lower right quadrant (professional-residents). They will no doubt hate this (at first). But I think it’s an important exercise for students. My goal is to have the students create inforgraphics and podcasts that I’ll post on our course blog and they’ll share with their social networks. These assignments will center around a current controversial topic in cognitive neuroscience, cunningly known as neurohype, neurotrash, and neurobabble. (For anyone interested, here is what I will be using for our course blog: https://sncphysio.wordpress.com/; also I welcome any thoughts/feedback)
Returning to VR mapping more specifically…
Frankly, I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with residency. As a high school/young college student I kept a regular blog (with a pseudonym) and regularly posted on facebook (which was the only form of social media at the time). Through grad school I think I increasingly lost confidence in putting information, thoughts, ideas, etc.. out into the public, especially with my name attached to it.
In digesting this week’s reading, one point that resonated with me (and helps explain my loss of digital identity confidence) was expressed in Bonnie Stewarts post on Living Public. She wrote, “…we have to take all the faces we regularly wear and throw ’em into a blender.” This idea made so much sense to me. I think part of what makes “leaving a trace” online, whether through a blog (probably the most intimidating) or twitter or somewhere else, is that you aren’t filtering your identity for a particular facet of your life. You’re expressing perhaps the truest form of your identity because of the expansive audience that could potential receive your message. I think it is hard to overcome the uncertainty and the sense of permanence that comes with posting some sort of content and becoming more residential in a particular space.
When I created my VR map, I tried to include the spaces I use the most. I clearly act as a visitor more than a resident. When I check my phone in the morning, I usually read the news via the Daily Skimm and “log off.” When I’m watching TV at night, I’ll flip through my Feedly and read the table of contents to a variety of journals I subscribe to and bookmark articles that look interesting. I log my workouts on Sportstracker, which theoretically could leave a trace (but I think the only person who pays attention to my workout logs are my husband and my brother).
Facebook, twitter, and blogging fall toward the middle of my map. I think this demonstrates how intertwined my personal and professional identities are – I can’t fully disconnect my personal interests from my academic ones. In fact, I feel they often inform each other and create some sort of “humanized” professional identity. For example, I have always been a big fitness/health person. I run (excessively) and compete fairly regularly (though this has been an “off” year). This requires a lot of long-term goal setting and putting aside my current desires (sleep, ah hem) in lieu of these long term goals. My research focuses on temporal discounting. Temporal discounting is what you do when you procrastinate, when you buy a way-too-expensive pair of shoes instead of putting that money in a savings account, when you decide NOT to exercise when you wake up in the morning, and when you have that second serving of dessert. My interests and my research bleed into each other.
Twitter and Facebook are the two forms of social media I use most frequently. And I primarily connect with professional friends on Twitter, whereas I connect with family and older friends on Facebook. “Professional friends” are colleagues, friends, and connections I’ve made through graduate school, conferences, networking, and teaching. I have been attempting to increase my visibility/residency on Twitter through increasing my tweets and retweets. I also use twitter to follow my personal interests as more of a newsfeed, but don’t necessarily use twitter to “connect” with these entities. In this sense, I use twitter as a visitor. My blog (this wordpress blog, but also course blogs I’ve created) is small and represented with a dashed orange line because this is a form of digital identity I would like to cultivate. Hopefully a year from now I can shift my digital identity in the twitter and blog spaces to the right, becoming more of a resident in these spaces.