Monday, January 30, 2012

Developing a Professional Identity Through Social Media

A recent article for The Washington Post (1/21) titled  Teachers take to Twitter to improve craft and commiserate discusses the use of Twitter as a tool in sharing lesson plans and classroom challenges among educators.  The author, Emma Brown, writes that [teachers are] "using Twitter to improve their craft by reaching beyond the boundaries of their schools to connect with colleagues across the country and around the world."  And she is not alone in lauding the benefits of social media as a teaching aid.  Some college and university faculty have shunned the learning management software giant, Blackboard, in favor of open source software like WordPress, Blogger, Facebook, and LinkedIn (e.g. Prof. Hacker 3/18/10).

This illustrates a common byproduct of the "speed-up" of information flow facilitated through the Internet.  When individuals join together through a digital collective and exchange information at an accelerated rate, a new dynamic of group identity begins to emerge.  Through social media, all professions have the potential to form self-governing emergent systems which ensure professional integrity, recommend best practices, address collective labor concerns, and evolve through the infinite flux of technological evolution.  The professionalization of social media is evident in the new profession of "social media management" and the increasing importance placed on having a social media presence by corporations, large organizations, and the public relations firms that represent them.

This phenomenon illustrates the development of a collective identity as it is facilitate through the web.  It is a drastically scaled down version of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's notion of the "Noosphere," Michael Chorost's "World Wide Mind," or the Monism Scenario of simulation detailed in our recent paper (Tele)Presence and Simulation.  The idea is that individual identity is replaced by collective identity through the rapidly accelerated scale of information exchange instantiated by social media.