Landing : Athabascau University

Week 3 Reflections

A little late getting in my reflections this week, it's been a pretty hectic one, but enjoyable nevertheless.  Dr. Jon was right, there was no way we could have gotten through all that reading!  I continue to really enjoy the first few weeks of this course, allowing us to delve into topics that resonate with us.  An excellent structure to keep students engaged and keep relevant/dynamic material being fed into the course.

I thoroughly enjoyed this week.  I spent the first few days researching topics in and around networks and communities and the social structures that relate and distinguish the two.  This led me to studies and literature on social constructs and ultimately down a rabbit hole of Social Identity Theory (SIT) and Self-categorization theory (SCT).  These topics really resonated with me as I reflect on me and my relationships and how these are impacted with social media, how my kids are impacted by pervasive and ubiquitous online social interactions and the the impacts social media design is having on people and relationships writ large. 

Where SIT looks at how people identify with certain groups and how these groups interact with each other, "Self-categorization theory posits that, depending on the relative salience or
importance of a certain situation for social or personal identity, an individual’s behavior is driven either by social or personal identity processes" (Trepte, 1). 

In reading some of the background of these theories and how central media is to the study of them, the thoughts that kept on pinging in the back of my mind are how digital media is impacting our sense of self and ability to make meaningful connections.  Another area of focus that I find fascinating is how current digital media has really influenced and shaped the discourse of social interaction over the past decade. 

Two links that were provided in the suggested reading material really stood out for me.  The first was Sherry Turkle's TED Talk, 'Alone Together' and the other was Eli Pariser's TEDTalk 'Beware online Filter Bubbles'. 

One the main point of Dr. Turkle's talk is that the more we connect online the more isolated we become.  She discusses themes of conversation and connection, the need for control and the inability for people to take moments of solitude (something I'm very conscious of myself and my kids doing).

At one point she points out that in today's day and age, being along feels like a problem that needs to be solved and that we too often turn to technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings, even as we are having them, coining the motto "I share therefor I am". 

What's wrong with this? We don't feel like ourselves if we don't connect so we connect more and more, but ultimately end up feeling more isolated because we're not enabling our own ability to be comfortable being alone. Without an ability to be solitude, we turn to other people online to fill that void ... but we're only using them to "fix" the isolation feeling.  We're not really trying to connect with them on a deeper level ... "using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self" as Dr. Turkle points out. 

In Eli Pariser's talk he discusses how Filter Bubbles are "Invisible algorithmic editing of the web", where machines decide what we do and do not see.  His analogy to editors being the gate keepers of information during the radio/tv broadcast ears to it now being computer algorithms is pertinent.  He further advocates that at least editors were human and and a conscious and ethics ... algorithms lack this, and as such should be built to encode other points of view or topics that challenge our personal norms that these machines seem to know so well.

At the end of all of this, what struck me was that these talks are a decade old.  What progress have we made?  Very little as far as I can tell.  Moving forward in the course I would like to focus on digital media ethics and the ethics that go into Algorithms designed and built for digital media.  


Trepte, S and Loy, S. Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theory. The International Encyclopedia of Media Effect. 2017:1. URL. Accessed 29 Oct 2021.