I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last couple of years as I continue to play with digital media…and teach others how to make this happen in their own lives/classrooms. I’ve commented several times over that last couple of years as I make digital media that sometimes I didn’t want to make the final product. What that means is that I had an idea in my head for what I would like to construct, and then I start experimenting with possibilities for digital texts and tools. Once I settle on a tool or platform that I would like to use, I focus on process and work the media and the tool. At the end of the process, when I am happy (or give up) with the process, I usually find that the end result is nothing like I planned from the start. I sometimes feel this way when I write. Poetry for example…sometimes when I write poetry I feel ideas in the process and get them on paper/screen. As I move words around, things make more sense aligned with next to each other. I can see some parallels with my experiences making with solely digital media…but I need to stew on that for a bit.
Before I move on to my make of cycle #2, I need to more fully explain my creation process…especially in a MOOC. Whether during the CLMOOC, or #WalkMyWorld, my habit is to begin the week/cycle/learning event and sit back to see what others build. I think about the prompt and the possible tools I might use. I look at the tools others use, and what they create. I usually comment on the work of others and post silly GIFs or memes. All of the time I’m trying to figure out what I want to make. I’ve been trying to flesh this idea out for awhile, and as usual Kevin Hodgson expressed it fully.
As I engage in a make during a MOOC, I look at what others are building. I look for themes, trends, and tools. I want to riff off of someone else and build something that is my own. I want to push my thinking…and push the thinking of others. I want to collaborate. I want to play. I want to geek out when I see others geeking out. I agree wholeheartedly that it is the community and the work of others that acts as the wireframe for my own thinking. I do not see an opportunity for truly creative thinking (at least for me) without the grist mill of collaboration and ideas I find in others.
Now let’s make and reflect. 🙂
My offline identity
My name is Ian O’Byrne. I’ve been Ian up until I started high school where I went to Bill because my legal name is William Ian O’Byrne. For one year…I went as Bill because I was embarrassed that every single teacher would call out “Bill” or “William”…and I’d had to answer that everyone calls me Ian. After a couple of months, my friends in high school called me on it and still tease me to this day. I was stuck as Ian to all…
…until I entered my PhD program at UConn. My advisor, Don Leu indicated that legally…my name is W. Ian O’Byrne, and I needed to use that in all publications. It didn’t hurt/help (depending on your political stance). I began to assume the W. Ian in all of my writing, publications, and presentations. I also started building up the use of wiobyrne for email, social media, this blog, and most of my accounts online. Believe me…I spent a lot of time thinking through all of the little details.
My digital identity
As I was starting my PhD, I decided that I also needed to build up a digital identity. At that point, most digital media consisted of text and images. There was some video and audio…but I also had the advantage that not many academics cared at all about digital identity. I needed to create a website for my comprehensive exams. I wanted to build up a complete digital identity for my teaching, research, and service. In building up that digital identity, I already had the text part…I needed the image part. This is where the journey begins. 🙂
We had a running joke in my family and with colleagues that I’m not exactly photogenic. I often make self-deprecating comments about how I “look like a serial killer” or that I was voted “least photogenic teacher for five years running.” These characterizations are not without merit. I needed a photo of myself for the NLRL website at UConn. Donna Bone repeatedly rejected photos that I sent her for the website. The problem was that I would always put up a goofy smirk, or feigned expression during the photo as I got more self-conscious. The final tipping point occurred when I met with a colleague from work to have a photoshoot/intervention for my issues. The results are not pretty….sorry the photos appear a bit pixelated. 🙂
I finally found a photo to use in pictures, but I wanted to find another option. I met with my 9th graders to have them develop a graphic or avatar for me. They, of course, loved this opportunity to create/remake/critique me…and I could use their help. We quickly learned that it’s tough to make an avatar that looks like an actual person…but isn’t that creepy. Some of the creations were too lifelike, and I was trying to distance myself from the real world version. 🙂 Some of the better versions are available below.
The challenge is that I wanted to create an alternate, digital representation of myself…without appearing too comical, or unprofessional. I wanted to use this creation as an easy way to recognize and associate my identity with other places I would use it online. I didn’t want people in offline spaces to judge me by the way I represented myself online…or by the spaces in which I existed online.
Ultimately we settled on the avatar that was created in MEEZ. Meez allowed me to build in slight modifications of the same character. I could drink coffee, push a stroller, wear sports gear, or type on a computer. I could wear outfits, suits, etc. The first version created was the jeans and suit jacket version shown above. Now I’ve settled on the version of me pushing to the side, or pointing out to the reader. The one that I receive the most feedback on is shown below.
I use the avatar that my students created for all of my online representations. In a way, it has become my icon. I use it on social networks, for connecting with others in my PLN. It’s funny when I post a photo of myself on Google+/Twitter, or appear on a webinar…people are often surprised to see what I “really” look like.
I know that this 2nd make of the CLMOOC is all about remediating, and the ways in which our choice of platforms, or media change what we create. I chose to focus on identity as much of my work and research has been focusing on identity. I’m interested in how we create and develop our identity online. I’ve spent a lot of time making decisions about the ways I chose to represent myself in online spaces, and the potential ramifications this might have in offline interactions.
In working across the different tools, it was a challenge to select a tool that looked similar, but not too similar. I also didn’t want something that looked comical or dated. I could have selected a still image or graphic as some of my colleagues have done. I wanted the image to be somewhat professional…I wanted it to be a bit “tongue in cheek” as I created this new representation of my digital identity. I do not think it has negatively affected my offline relationships or opportunities. I have tried (and been rejected) by UNH and UConn to replace my “GlamourShots” photo with my avatar. We shall see what happens as I join the CofC. Until then, I’ll continue to use my avatar in its current form. I have been playing with some video/audio remixes…but that is another make for another day.
Cover photo by Keoni Cabral http://flickr.com/photos/keoni101/8397359784 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license