Friday, October 15, 2010

Where We Are Is All In The Perception: The Identity of Mobility

“someone talk to me!!!! i can't handle this class any longer :(....booooooo)
Thursday [10/14/2010] at 2:08pm.”

This mobile transmission from Blackberry to Face Book was from my high school valedictorian-college honors- last year nursing student-daughter sitting in a lecture-based class. The first respondent was a high school friend, 1000 miles away. My daughter, according to Gitte Stald in the article “Mobile Identity: Youth, Identity, and Mobile Communication Media,” realized the liberation “from the constraints of physical proximity and spatial immobility” (p. 147). Like most adolescents and young adults, her mobile device did not get completely turned off as she survived her experienced boredom by allowing texting to take her somewhere other than her immediate physical space.

It is exactly this aspect of mobile reality that, as a high school classroom teacher, I cannot appreciate. For, not only is the student disengaged with the learning process taking place in a physically "real spatial existence," the student is attacking my self-perception as I am acknowledged as irrelevant. The reality of the face-to-face relationship is completely denied as the student perceives herself “to be in another space than the physical space, [and] the mediated situation is experienced as real” (Stald, p. 154). I cease to exist.

Before cell phones, there were daydreams that took one to a state of another existence. It was a private reality, shared only with the self. These daydreams transpired as self-reflections or “Walter Mitty” transformations. There was an essence of a thought process (though disengaged from the reality at hand). A teacher, or other face-to-face individual, could interrupt the daydream and once again become a part of a shared reality that was both spatial and conscious. This is not possible with technological mobility that actually engages others outside of spatial existence to unite in the new essence of place. Or is it?

Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) may have found a possible solution to this mobile “absence presence” (Staid,p.156).

Think of the possibilities placed from a podium or desk. The invasive possibilities…….oh, sorry, I was daydreaming.

Once the mobile device is under the (dare I say it?) control of the teacher, there are applications that I find exciting. Students are forever taking pictures on their phone. Now, a free service,
Yodio,, allows the addition of voice to the photos that could lead to the creation of meaningful, sequenced, storyboards. These storyboards can be created from a relatively inexpensive (as compared to a laptop) cell phone. The mobility of the technology allows the transport of the creation to other technical devices. Students can create and send projects directly to teacher or to a class web page. The “communicative function” (Staid,p.143) becomes a lesson integrating literacy, creativity, and technology. My self-perception has been restored.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Social Networking: A New Way to an Old Need Among Teenagers

In “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” Dana Boyd (2008) examines how social networking sites, specifically MySpace, engage teenagers in self-exploration as they seek “insights into identity formation, status negotiation, and peer-to-peer sociality” (p. 119). In MySpace, a network public establishes itself as individuality flourishes amidst masks, personas, and fantasies. All traditional boundaries are replaced as participants communicate and collaborate across time and space. The “of the moment” communications that were once stored as personal memories or diary pieces, become “recorded for posterity,” as “like minds” are given a path to discovery through searchability and a distinction as the moment can be replicated and shared anywhere, at any time (Boyd. 2008, p. 126). Teens are drawn to these social network communities as they are drawn to “the ability to visualize their social world through the network collection of profiles” (p. 122).

Ms. Boyd reveals how business interests understand the possibilities of creating a cyber networking site in which communities are given the reality of individual creation, collective identity, and public recognition. The MySpace creators played on the music industry to give a vast audience of teens the possibility to realize the public status of what many adults recognize as “groupies.” They also gave teenagers a place to create, through profiles, their own identities based in perceptions of how they visualize the world and its realities.

As a teenager expressing myself through the essence of Woodstock and its music artists, I can reflect on the association with music defining a persona-and-cause mentality. Seeing myself as a revolutionary leader of organized protests during the Viet Nam War, I can reflect on how my actions hurt many of my peers who were forced to fight in a war which I perceived as irrational, immoral and socially unjust. My parents tried to protect and guide, as many rallies and protests turned violent and included adults who could threaten or negatively persuade, but they couldn’t suppress my need to express and “manage impressions” as I resisted at every bend of my “let me be myself and learn for myself” lens of exploring personal identity.

As a high school teacher, I see this same need for expression and resistance to suppression of freedoms in today’s teenagers. Little has changed in teenagers’ needs. It is the means that has undergone transformation. MySpace is a new way for teenagers to find their place, through action and interaction, in today’s society. Yes, it can be dangerous. As Boyd states, “our role as adults is not to be their policemen, but to be their guides” (p. 137).

For more information on how to guide and safely utilize social networking as a learning tool at a variety of levels resulting in positively impacted outcomes for users of all ages, I suggest the many resources at:

To learn more about the fascinating Danah Boyd I strongly suggest reading her blog at: