Conference Keynote

Conference Keynote – Who are We When We’re Online? Self in a Digital Medium

Video Artifact: Who are We When We’re Online? Self in a Digital Medium
October 20th, 2012
Blissdom Canada Social Media Conference
video courtesy of Blissdom Events

Description of Artifact:
This presentation was a keynote address delivered to an audience of approximately 400 at the Blissdom Canada social media conference in Toronto, ON, in October 2012. It explores how identity operates within participatory networks, the ways in which we are shaped by the technologies we use, and the potentials and pitfalls of our digital practices.

My work on digital practices and identities is informed by my longstanding participatory immersion within social media communities. For this keynote, I was invited to adapt an academic blog post I’d written for the #Change11 MOOC in May of 2012, and present it in a TED-style talk. The keynote gave me the opportunity to synthesize my research on networked practices and digital identities and present it back to those from whom the ideas were originally drawn: bloggers and social media professionals.

The presentation demonstrates not only my understanding of digital identities and practices, but also my capacity to communicate that knowledge effectively and to make a significant scholarly contribution beyond the walls of the academy and within broad networked publics. The artifact speaks to my substantive understanding of digital identity practices, and to the emerging impact of my research.

In the presentation, I outline key aspects of digital identities and how these reflect particular qualities of digital media. My central point is that digital identities are, above all, facets of our embodied selves, and can form and sustain deep connections far beyond the boundaries of technology. I focus on three features of digital networking platforms – the reputational, social, and economic – and briefly frame how these shape the identities performed within social networks. I contend that when we are online, we are public, networked, and – to an extent – quantified; that we are ourselves, extended in capacity. I then emphasize the ways in which these identity performances or “selves” can contribute to the positive functioning of the Internet as the “world’s biggest small town.”

My goal for this presentation was to bring into focus the ways in which digitally networked technologies shape our interactions, for an audience who utilize the platforms for daily engagement but may seldom hear them analyzed except in business terminology.

The presentation’s main focus is on the value of connection. In a time when reports of anonymous ‘flaming’ and misogyny and cyberbullying tend to dominate media’s reporting about online communications, I wanted to emphasize the value in the Blissdom community’s connected and personalized networking practices. In spite of the diverse – and sometimes tense – relationships to monetization and brands among Blissdom attendees, which I’d written about previously, the practices within this network differ significantly from those found on online news sites or forums. That distinction is one I am beginning to emphasize across my work: how networked practices can be taken as models for the positive potentialities of social media.

Knowledge, Skills, and Attributes displayed by Artifact:
Researching, preparing, and delivering this presentation required me to:

  • synthesize findings from my research into digital affordances, identities, and practices
  • identify and analyze key ideas without jargon
  • conceptualize and contextualize findings for an audience of networked but non-academic users (knowledge translation)
  • construct and present a coherent and engaging narrative addressing the context, knowledge, and challenges of that particular audience
  • visually represent my work using effective images and carefully selected text in Powerpoint
  • present my work in a coherent, confident manner mindful of time constraints
  • lead discussion and field questions from audience following the presentation

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