Curating the Self
I use a lot of digital tools to make my work. I am likely to be using them mainly on my own, but since they can create shareable files, I am also able to use them to collaborate with small groups of people. None of this is ‘open’ or social. Mainly I’d use Notion, Miro, Scrivener, EndNote, Adobe Suite, and Ableton for such purposes.
I maintain at least four websites at any one time. e.g. my own website, two art sites, one for my degree programme. I also run an additional two or three websites for short-term teaching, art or research projects.
As a result, I have a number of quite different digital IDs that are all in the professional realm. I don’t have anything equivalent that’s ‘personal’ or directed at non-professional realms. I like the idea of blogs being akin to what Michel Foucault called the ‘practice of hupomnemata‘, “an exercise of self-cultivation.” (Weisgerber and Shannan 2016: 1347) This all seems perfectly healthy to me. However, I’m very wary of the forms of curation of the self that routinely take place in social media. The ‘data correlationism’ (Uliasz 2021) practised by social media platforms has gameified self-curation (Latin: curare = to care for), so much so that everyone ends up curating their self much the same way.
The ease with which digital literacy can be acquired, perhaps, is to blame here. I personally don’t see why anyone would knowingly choose to perform on a stage that’s been delimited by the profiteering algorithms of platform capitalism (Srnicek 2017) ‘that “learn” from experience to make classifications and decisions, a dynamic that has been shown to intensify structural oppression and bias while simultaneously invisibilizing its operations.’ (Uliasz 2021) Maybe, then, we need to integrate critical digital studies with digital literacy.
The self-care industry is a pernicious extension of this aspect of platform capitalism, a stealthy encroachment on state social care (e.g. NHS Scotland). I also dislike the compulsion that we have to constantly consider how we present ourselves to others via a proxy (‘mediation’); and act as if we were an organisation. It seems like a perfect recipe for our present-day cocktail of alienation and social narcissism (See: Liberman 2021). Simply put, we just don’t have to do this.
Moreover, I really don’t want to practice hupomnemata that entangles ‘me’ with writing or making. I’m not an autoethnographer, I’m not making art about me, nor is it something emerging from ‘me’, it emerges, rather, from avatars than I (co)create. These avatars are akin to implied authors or narrators – they are not = ‘me’. I also don’t want to explain what I’m doing in the way that hupomnemata is practiced in online platforms such as as blogs and social media; I just want to use platforms to do what I’m doing. So when I post things online, I am either not present in any obvious way, or I am simply reporting what I’m doing / have done as if it were a bulletin.
Pay Attention (Energy Vampirism) 🧛🏻
Alienation of attention is a consequence of the use of attention management technologies by platforms. (Liberman 2021: 83)
I am not on social media (The Twittering Machine). Some of the organisations that I’m part of, or that I co-organise, are on social media. If I take over such a social media platform, I’d only use it at or in an event that pertains to what we do (e.g at at conference). When we post in such situations, it is always ‘in character’. I don’t participate in social media, never ever check DMs, etc. for any of the platforms that I’m entangled with.
This social media embargo extends to any invasive forms of media – including email and SMS, etc. I strictly limit how much I check ‘messages’. I have all notifications off on my phone and laptop.
Why the personal ’embargo’? I stopped using social media 10 yeara ago, and, at the time, I didn’t really do it for political reasons; but that’d now be reason enough to quit them. Their ethics and the algorithms they use are poisonous (thinking here of Richard Seymour’s book The Twittering Machine, London: Indigo, 2019). At the time I quit, I simply recognised that social media are too invasive, that they are sophisticated ‘attention management technologies’ (Liberman 2021: 82) designed to trigger dopamine responses that lure users in and keep them hooked.
Social media are energy vampires: they overwhelm our cognitive load, drain our energy and stop us from spending our time on things we really want to spend our time on. The upshot of this energy vampirism – in Cyberpsychology – is that social media makes people sick. Like other powerful narcotics, you can’t dabble in them. The best way to escape their lure is to delete them and never use them again.
From Comfort vs. Discomfort to Enabling vs. Disabling
We met as a group Tuesday 15th March and started to outline some of the things I’ve written about above. The group notes are viewable here (link).
I think the dis/comfort dialectic is useful within the context of a small group like PBL07, but I want to add that it doesn’t go far enough if we consider it in relation to the social construction of disability. In short, we all need to be aware that some forms of digital (learning) technology are more enabling/disabling than others. This is not only a personal issue of individuals feeling dis/comfort as such (albeit recognition of such feelings is very important), it is a social issue too – it stems from a general lack of awareness of the social construction of disability (i.e. it is ‘ableist’). We should take a UDL (universal design for learning) approach as default to ensure we do not mindlessly adopt forms of learning tech that are disabling (or, rather, that socially construct disability) and that we use learning tech in UDL ways that are enabling as much as possible.
Open Networked Learning
I’ve engaged with ONL as did everyone during lockdown by teaching online. I was moving to a blended approach anyway, so the lockdown as helpful in accelerating this. The move has been positive since lockdown has eased. I have a personal investment in ONL for artistic learning – it’s something I want to see expand and take on its own form. So I have a particular stake in its development that might be uncommon.
I’ve also engaged with ONL as a student, mainly in MOOCs but also in smaller coaching based groups. Again, the experience has been positive on the whole. The ONL approach is really the only one that fits with the time I might be able to set aside for such forms of personal and professional development.
“I have just signed up to do an online course and I am excited to be there. But I have little experience of online courses and it feels really challenging to get started to connect and find my way with all these new sites and tools. I guess that other participants will be more experienced than me and I feel stupid asking about things. We are asked to create a Learning blog on the web; it feels a bit scary to do this. I do share things on Facebook with friends, but here, in the open? I want to keep my private life separate from my professional life. But on the other hand, my students seem to share and discuss all sorts of things in social media and use all kinds of tools and resources.
Consider three questions for this persona that would help them to transition to a point where they are sharing, but possibly not sharing too much?
So…. we could just jump in and offer some advice and perhaps frame that advice as if it were a question, e.g.
– Have you considered that sites / tools are always new to someone at some point; they have built-in ways of asking and getting help (peer support)? We can also use them with someone (mentor) as a way of learning on the job.
– Have you considered that a blog is less ‘open’ than Facebook – in a blog you decide who can see what you post, who can comment, etc. and you get to disable bots that mine your posts as data.
– Do you know that a blog doesn’t have to work like a form of social media? You can use it in many different ways? etc.
The problem is that such questions reveal that the interviewer thinks they know better than the newbie. (This interviewer is something of a hypersubject, rather than a hyposubject. See: Boyer and Morton 2016.) This won’t make the newbie feel any more confident about learning. It might actually enforce their fear of feel[ing] stupid asking about things.
Given what I’ve just said about cognitive load (energy vampirism), the emotional load of engaging with something new to us, and the need for UDL, we need more consideration when it comes to creating and asking questions. What sort of questions should we ask, how should we present them?
Perhaps, we can ask more open-ended coaching questions; then give ‘clean feedback’ instead? (Walsh, Nixon, Walker, Doyle 2015)
- Something that you said was that you feel stupid asking about things;
- I interpret this as meaning that you prefer not to ask about how things work than to ‘feel stupid’.
- Something that you said was that it feels a bit scary to […] share things […] in the open but that you do share things on Facebook with friends.
I interpret this as meaning that you are comfortable sharing things with friends in private.
Each question is clean. It simply repeats, or rephrases what the speaker has said. The speaker is then make more aware of what they have just said and of the implications. e.g. If they agree that they are more comfortable sharing things with friends in private they then have to justify why. This might enable them to see that a) Facebook is not private b) blogs can be more private than Facebook c) a learning community that they are part of (a PLN) could be a bit like a group of friends, etc. The Clean Feedback approach might coach (Thomson 2009) a newbie to see things more clearly rather than tell them how we think they should think…
The Clean Feedback coach focuses on the metaphors used by the client; gently encourging them to probem the metaphors they are using when they describe any given situation:
One way in which you might do this is to encourage them to think about their situation in terms of metaphors. This has the potential to enable them, first, to understand their world somewhat differently and, second, to find possible ways forward. In other words, it has the potential both to raise awareness and to generate responsibility. (Thomson 2009 :127)
Make a few suggestions as to how we would share this with the ONL221 community.
A performative pedagogy might be good here. We could role play this; one of us playing the newbie (strictly modelled on the info provided within the Scenario), one a ‘clean feedback’ Coach (drawing on the clean feedback approaches in the coaching literature). A third observer could witness what we do and offer both of us feedback on our performance (much as an acting coach might)?
We could share this performance in the form of a short audio play – partly scripted, partly improvised – with the third person (witness) acting as a narrator, providing an intro and outro?
It could be interesting to do this then share it, since all learners need to learn that their questions can sometimes reveal that they think they know better than others (newbies or otherwise). So we could offer a ‘clean feedback’ coaching approach as something we could all try to practice? Some for of (role)play would share this by doing (key idea of PBL, right?) rather than by codifying something for others to do later (which they won’t bother with, of course!) The partly improvised aspect would also be important as it would require us to ‘practice’ the clean feedback method, rather than simply understand it as a form of propositional knowledge.
Boyer, Dominic, and Timothy Morton. 2016. “Hyposubjects.” Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, January 21. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/hyposubjects
Liberman, Samson. “Attention Deficit: Alienation in Platform Capitalism.” Symposion (Iași. Online) 8, no. 1 (2021): 79–88.
Seymour, Richard. The Twittering Machine, London: Indigo, 2019
Srnicek, Nick. Platform Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2017.
Uliasz, Rebecca. “‘Optimize User Experience’: Optimization Techniques and the Simulation of Life, from the Model to the Algorithm.” The review of communication 21, no. 2 (2021): 129–143.
Thomson, B. (2009) Don’t just do something, sit there an introduction to non-directive coaching / Bob Thomson. Oxford England: Chandos Publishing.
Walsh, B., Nixon, S., Walker, C., & Doyle, N. (2015). Using a Clean Feedback Model to Facilitate the Learning Process. Creative Education , 6, 953-960. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2015.610097
Weisgerber, Corinne, and Shannan H. Butler. “Curating the Soul: Foucault’s Concept Ofhupomnemataand the Digital Technology of Self-Care.” Information, communication & society 19, no. 10 (2016): 1340–1355
(Colin Robinson Trolling, What we Do in the Shadows, Season 2, BBC)