Chelsi's Educational Musings

The Age of Self-Expression

Posted on: October 20, 2011

Last night’s EC&I831 class kept me thinking all day long!  I thoroughly enjoyed our class session devoted to Social Media, Networked Learning, and Open Education, presented by our very own Alec Couros.  There are honestly so many blog posts that I have in mind after our discussion last night, but I will start with one about identity.

Where does identity come from?  When, and how, does it begin to manifest?  I have taken a number of Ed Psych classes, and it seems that most of the major psych theories deal with the formation, and the crisis with, identity.  All of the major goals of these theories pertain, in some way, to developing and cultivating identity and teaching a client to build social interest and skills.  (Sounds like some thorough time spent on Facebook could cure most identity crisis!  Only kidding…Freud would be rolling in his grave. :P)  Whether it is Freud’s Psychoanalytic concepts of cultivating one’s ego (identity), Adler’s building of social interest and sense of belonging, Existentialists‘ aid in balancing the formation of identity and healthy relationships with others, Person-Centred Therapy’s goals of encouraging people to make changes so that they can live as who they really are, or Gestalt Therapy‘s concept that self-awareness and identity leads to living a more meaningful life, each major theories deals with forming an identity.  I feel that technology today allows us to cultivate our identity more so than ever before.  Many of the ways in which we cultivate our identity is through expression and sharing of ourselves, and nowhere else can we express ourselves to such a vast audience more prominently than on the Internet.  We have discussed the concept of sharing numerous times in our class.  I feel that by expressing who we are, we are sharing part of our identity with the world.  The more we share of ourselves, the more we learn about who we are, and the more that our identity is cultivated.  Plus, I feel that identity is not static – it changes with our experiences, our new communities, and to what we are exposed.

There are countless ways to express ourselves online, and Alec gave us numerous great examples last night (see the last page of the Google Doc for some examples).  It used to be that if we created something such as a painting, poem, story, or song, apart from our friends and family, it was rare that an audience bore witness to our creation.  I am a huge Beatles fan.  Speaking of identity, that is definitely part of mine!

(At Paul McCartney’s concert in Montreal this summer!)

Something interesting is that in the late 60’s, the Beatles had the very primitive notion of what we now call open source.  They created Apple Corp (get it, Apple ‘core’? :P) as a way for everyday people to share their art and music with the world without having to go through the rigamarole of having it published.  Wikipedia quotes Lennon as saying, “It’s a company we’re setting up, involving records, films, and electronics, and – as a sideline – manufacturing or whatever. We want to set up a system where people who just want to make a film about anything, don’t have to go on their knees in somebody’s office, probably yours”. McCartney also said: “It’s just trying to mix business with enjoyment. We’re in the happy position of not needing any more money. So for the first time, the bosses aren’t in it for profit. We’ve already bought all our dreams. We want to share that possibility with others”.  I found it interesting that The Beatles were like pioneers of open source in the music industry, trying to usher in an age of artists sharing music and art for free with the world.  Apparently, Apple Computer was named as an homage to The Beatle’s Apple Corp (or so I’ve heard).  Perhaps they were fans of The Beatles’ ideas of sharing.  (Incidentally, Apple Corp was not a fan of sharing their name, resulting in a long legal battle over trademark infringement.  It was settled that Apple Computer would never be involved in music.  I guess they never anticipated what a hit iPods would be…)

The Beatles’ concept of free self expression has now been realized.  We have endless opportunities to explore and express ourselves through so many ways.  We can use photography and a vast amount of photo editing tools and projects online, create video to instantly upload to YouTube, write for an audience on a blog, and compose a song in Garage Band to upload online.  No longer do we have to pitch our work to numerous people before we are able to get it published – we can do it instantly and for FREE online!  I remember the first time one of my students showed me a stop-action movie that he made with this action figures.  He was in grade five at the time, and his dream is to become a director.  He learned how to film, edit, and post his video to YouTube, and we all watched it in class.  I couldn’t believe that something that was once only done by professionals was created by my ambitious ten-year-old student.  This is such an awesome time to be living in!  His identity, his desire to be a director, was being achieved and fulfilled so early that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see his name on some  major movie’s credits some day!

I often feel overwhelmed by technology, but not in a negative way.  I feel that there is so much that I want to do, but not enough time to do it all!  I stay up WAY too late each night simply doing things online as my “reward” (and that would be Behaviouralist Theory!)  for accomplishing all of the other work that needs to get done throughout the day.  I post and share my photos on Facebook, and comment on others’, make jewellery and sell it on my Facebook page, read blogs to find new recipes and craft ideas, find “outfit inspiration” on fashion sites, watch runway shows, and listen to music from old and new bands.  Not only that, I then am compelled to share these things with my friends, and view THEIR recommendations!  A major part of my identity is as a “creator”.  Since I was young, I have constantly been “making things” – drawings, paintings, writing books, creating songs, recording videos, designing clothes, creating jewellery, taking pictures…anything that I can to be artistic.

I constantly talk with my friends about how amazing it would have been to be a kid today with access to all of this technology.  I remember making movies with my friends on a video camera that I honestly could not hold on my shoulder because it was so big!  We recorded songs by singing into my Fisher Price tape recorder.  We made books, then made copies of them by tracing each picture from the original and painstakingly colouring them all.  When I received carbon-copy paper for Christmas one year, I was thrilled!  We saved our allowance to buy film, then saved our allowance again to develop that film.  We had 24 shots – we couldn’t waste them!  What could we have done with digital cameras, tiny camcorders, YouTube, Garage Band, and photo editing tools?  Perhaps our more arduous creative labours formed our identities as “creators” more than if we would have had easier access to technology, as we do today.  I guess I’ll never know.  All I know is that self-expression leads to a deeper understanding of who we are, and I feel that we are living in an age where self-expression and sharing of oneself with the world is so easy to do.  It’s an exciting time to form our identities!

Quite honestly, this post has gone in a COMPLETELY different direction than I had planned!  I guess I will save my original idea for my next post.  As for now, I am off to scour Pinterest for new craft ideas!

2 Responses to "The Age of Self-Expression"

Thanks for sharing a bit of your identity with us! I think that is such an important part of the online experience in a course like this — and letting go with a stream of consciousness is a great way to get ideas out. Like you, I’m so amazed at the creative potential that new technologies are releasing. I remember when the web first became available — it was amazing, but it was such a one-way transmission line from the creators to the consumers — just like old media. Now, though, that has been blown apart! We can all be creators and consumers at the same time. It is blurring long-held traditions and authorities in a way that is extremely exciting.

It is really amazing to reflect on the ideas of visionaries of the past, whether it is the Beatles and Apple Corp, Vannevar Bush’s concept of the memex, or Ivan Illich’s vision of “Learning Webs. Dreamers and philosophers had these fantastical ideas years ago, but technology is making them possible now. How cool is that? And just imagine the crazy ideas that our kids will come up with.

I like what you said about the web “blurring traditions and authorities”. It’s very true, and you’re right – it IS exciting! We are more in control of the media, what we consume, and how we consume it than ever before!

I’m going to check out the ideas that you posted in your links. I can’t imagine what is to come! My friend posted on Facebook today that he wishes you could Google your past experiences and view them again. I said I wished that I could record my dreams and view them. We both agreed that one day, people will probably do just that! Thanks for the comment!

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