Identifying Identity (for Disruptive Tech)

Cross-posted from my Disruptive Technologies course blog

This week’s readings (“An Introduction to Discourse Analysis Theory and method” by Gee (1999), and The Medium is the Massage by McLuhan & Fiore (1967)) provided interesting fodder for an analysis of identity. In particular, Team Tiger (aka Group 2) focused on the following themes as they related to the concept of identity: d/Discourse Analysis, Recognition, Individualism/Authorship, and Context.

Language and communication impact identity. Gee shows (through Discourse Analysis) the ability to deconstruct a speaker’s personality and values. In essence, we “enact” language for purposes of representing a particular identity, while at the same time, language constructs an identity for us. It provides the ability to share our inner thoughts and ideas, but also shapes how we can communicate these effectively.

Many members in our group found the ideas in Gee’s “Real Indian” section particularly compelling. Roi has personally experienced the contextually-defined aspect of Japanese-American identity while navigating different spaces. Laura spent last summer living on an Ojibwe reservation and found it disconcerting that Gee did not mention (what she had experienced as being) the biggest deciding factor of “Real Indian” recognition–poverty. MJ posited that student groups also hold strong opinions and ideals that directly influence their identities. Recognizing, identifying, and understanding the implications of those interactions is something that is often not a focus for teachers, but should be.

While the two may seem dichotomous, it may be possible for collaboration to feed and nurture individualism. Individual identity [at least in the United States] is still the dominant definition of ‘identity’ and collective identity seems to take a back seat. However, the two can develop alongside each other. Just because more than one person contributes to a piece of work, individual input can still be important and recognized.

McLuhan & Fiore illustrates how context and content are inherently intertwined in The Medium is the Massage. Our senses cannot be turned off. They play a huge role in how we situate ourselves within our communities the roles that we play. With new technological advances (and their impact on how we receive communication), comes the “reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life” (McLuhan & Fiore, 1966, pg. 3).

Identity influences (and is influenced by) multiple and interrelated factors. Gee and McLuhan & Fiore tease a few of these out–d/Discourse Analysis, Recognition, Individualism/Authorship, and Context. Understanding the links and their relationships help educators appreciate both students and the learning process.

Image is Girl Before a Mirror, Pablo Picasso, Boisgeloup, March 1932. Oil on canvas, 64 x 51 1/4″ (162.3 x 130.2 cm). Gift of Mrs. Simon Guggenheim. © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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