I wanted to respond to Becci’s synthesis post, A Comment on Identity. In it, Becci describes the pride she has for her name despite having no control over it, and how she felt when she changed her last name due to marriage: both saddened and liberated. Reading this reminded me of a thought that is more prominent in my head at the beginning of semesters: the way we introduce ourselves to a new class, work group, etc. Some people say “I am [name] and I am from Department X” while others say “My name is [name] and I am from Department X.” I first noticed this as an undergrad, when these types of introductions became regular, and I actually started to go through a mini-debate in my head (“I am” vs “My name is”) when I was faced with an upcoming introduction. This internal debate soon became the norm, almost a personal joke for which I was recognizing the setup and making personal note of the punchline delivered by each of the other group members. When my turn came, I would simply introduce myself. The funny thing is that this brought me yet another connection between identity and community. I eventually realized that I was subconsciously being very consistent with my introductions about myself, and that the group was as well. You see, when I was introducing myself to a brand new group of people — such as I did on the first day of IST 402H — I introduced myself as “My name is Brandon and (blah blah blah).” But in a recent committee meeting I attended, where most of us were already familiar with each other but introduced ourselves for the benefit of the few new members, I introduce myself as “I am Brandon and (blah blah blah).” Apparently the “blah blah blah” is always relevant.My familiarity and role within the community affects the way I present my identity. To a new group, I say “My name is Brandon.” It’s as if I am saying, “All I can tell you right now is my name, and that is the basis of my identity to you. Hopefully, through our community’s actions and our interactions, more of me will emerge so that I am more than just a name to you.” But when introducing myself to a group where relationships already exist — you know, the awkward type that I described above — I say, “I am Brandon.” But I am really saying, “Hi friends, I’ve been a part of your community for a while. I am Brandon — yes, that Brandon. The one who did [embarrassing incident] and is responsible for [task or action that saved or brought joy to the group]. You already have linked these events and my actions to the name “Brandon,” so I am merely telling you that I am Brandon.”Funny how much thought can come from someone expressing the joy and sadness they experienced when losing their last name. And funny how my fiancee has expressed similar thoughts regarding the upcoming end of her life and identity as a Ventura, despite the added benefits of moving up further in alphabetical order when she takes my last name. And funny how she and I have started to create a new identity for ourselves through a portmanteau of our last names: Rubentura. Is Rubentura our identity or is it our more adventurous and public alter-ego, as some of our friends have described it? I can ‘answer’ to that question comes from an excerpt of my post on identity that Donna included in her entry: My identity is who I am , or is it simply who I perceive myself to be? It is who I am to others , or is it simply who others perceive me to be?
The Tipping Point: Diffusion from a community approachThe ideas behind Elements of Diffusion are very similar to the ideas behind Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. (while that link takes you to the book on google, you can read about the book in Gladwell’s blog). In the Peruvian Village, it is suggested that Nelida’s attempt to diffuse the technology of water boiling failed because she only focused on those similar to her, or social outcasts. She did not target influential members of the village. This is very closely related to Gladwell’s first rule of successful epidemics, which suggests that tipping points , which are very much a part of diffusion and innovation , rely on certain types of people to make them successful: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. When Rogers suggests that Nelida would have been more successful if she had target influential village members, which he calls village opinion leaders, who could activate networks to spread the message, he is very much talking about the same three types of people that Gladwell says are important.A case of note, from Gladwell’s book, which shows the difference that targeting the right people can make: We’ve all heard of Paul Revere and know that he warned John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the approaching British Army. But fewer people are familiar with William Dawes. Dawes was the other rider sent with Revere that night. According to Gladwell, Revere, a Connector, notified influential members of the communities on his route; Dawes, like Nelida, employed a less effective approach by notifying many people but not many influential people. Clearly, the lesson is that spreading the word, or an innovation, is more dependent on the types of people you know in the community than what you know or how good the innovation is. I experience this every summer at my summer camp; key staff members or campers rise emerge, and any successful movement through the camp usually gathers speed and momentum once it reaches these people. The key, though, is that these community leaders don’t have to just receive the information; they have to buy into it! Cole is pretty passionate about the potential benefits and opportunities that arise from using blogs, podcasts, and other web 2.0 technologies in educational environments. Penn State supports him, or else I imagine he wouldn’t have his job and the resources to put together the many projects he is behind. I have bought in whole-heartedly and feel lucky to be involved in the early part of this movement. My impression, however, is that this innovation and its possibilities has yet to spread through the rest of PSU. Is Cole targeting the right people: PSU’s version of influential village members, and its Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen? Will Cole be Paul Revere, or William Dawes?
Here is something I have been thinking about with regard to ‘peripheral’ members of our community.With Carla, or even internet lurkers (hello out there to all of our fans; we do this for you, and thank you for your support!), there is some quantifiable and observable way for us to know that they are part of our community. Carla directly interacts with many of us, and the lurkers (hello again) directly interact with our content, even if in a passive way.But what about this:Every Thursday, after I leave Chambers, I spend the next hour telling my fiancee all about our class. She knows all about the technologies we discuss (and I have even hooked her on using some of them, like Google Reader), and all about the discussions we have. In fact, sometimes she even engages me by trying to form and articulate the difference between knowledge and learning, or community and identity — an extension of our discussions.Despite this, she has never been to any of the class sites — Pligg, the class blog, your blogs, or my blog — and I have yet to bring up any of her points in class. So is she a member of our community? Unlike Carla, who we can interact with in class, and lurkers (one more shout out to my homies in cyberspace) who leave a statistic that Cole can identify through Google Analytics, my fiancee leaves no trace (until this comment, anyway). If you think she is a member of our community, why do you think that?
The most frustrating aspect of technology is how quickly it evolves.