Reading and Discussion Reflection: Online Identity

In a recent Tech621 Social Internet class, we talks about concepts and issues related to online identity, self-presentation, impression management, etc.

1. One big name to mention when we talk about identity performance is E. Goffman. Goffman’s book “The Presentation of Self” was written in 1959, but it is still worth to consider even when we talk about online identity management nowadays. However, when we consider things online, modification of the theory might be needed since the situation and conditions change.

One major concept in Goffman’s theory is front-stage and back-stage since the theory is based on the metaphor of theater, drama, and performance. Front-stage and back-stage are not versions of self, they are different social contexts and situations. The social contexts are time and space bounded, which makes it easier for the actors to adapt to the audience. The adaption to the audience is impression management. In general, back-stage requires less effort of impression management than the front-stage.

There are usually several layers of front-stage and back-stage, which I would like to call the relativity of front-stage and back-stage. Compared with your professional work, your professional blog, Facebook might be considered as back-stage, however, compared with your personal life with your significant others, your roommates and friends, Facebook can be considered as front-stage. On Facebook, you still have to create something, craft an identity to impress people. There is impression management in the process.

Going to a party can be the front-stage, even if it’s casual, and belongs to your personal entertainment life. Just because it’s informal and fun, doesn’t mean it’s back-stage. When you spend time to do the make-up and pick up dresses and shoes, you are crafting your identity to impress others. Your identity is engineered, and you do a lot of work on the performance.
I also think about front-stage and back-stage at the group level, though Goffman’s theory is mostly at the individual level. We as a group, during a classroom discussion, it can be considered as back-stage for the group. When we discuss publicly on Twitter, that the front-stage for the group. However, both the situations can be considered as front-stage for the individuals. It maybe helpful for my own research to consider the identity management of individual during online collaboration and the identity management for a group as a community.

2. Where the “self” comes from?
“You only know yourself from what other people tell you”–George Herbert Mead. George Herbert Mead is the creator of the theory of Symbolic Interactionism: a theory about how the self comes to be. It is through meaningful interactions with others. You see yourself in other people’s eyes (looking-glass (mirror) self), then you internalize that image and become that. Watching TV is a form of symbolic interaction. It’s kind of one way, but it’s symbolic interaction. So watching TV could influence what kind of person you become.
One major concept in symbolic interactionism is the action self “I” and the reflective audience self “Me”. There is a continuous negotiation between I and Me. “I” is natural and impulsive and “Me” is more socialized and adaptive. When you are a child, you are natural. As you grow up, you learn how to control your impulses and how to behave in and adapt to different social contexts. “Me” is monitoring “I”.
When we perform, we think about how other people will think about us, here the “other people” is generalized other. It’s a concept of ourselves, it’s our perception of others, it’s inside, not outside.

3. What happens when will move things online?
When we move things online, the contexts change. The line between front-stage and back-stage become much softer and blurry. Sometimes, the line is just our perception. Also the time and space boundaries have gone, which makes identity management much more difficult. The filtering of audience doesn’t happen at the senders’ side, it goes to the receivers’ side.

The evaluation standard of online identity management varies. If your goal is to find a job, then the evaluation standard might be whether your online image has played a positive role in your job hunting process. We have to keep in mind that, the goal of online identity management is not always to impress your future employers, you management your identity for all kinds of audiences, although to impress future employers is often the case for college students.

4. For my own work:
As I mentioned above, it maybe helpful for me to consider identity management of individual during collaboration and the group identity definition and management as a community, since my work is related to collaborated tagging in academia and crowdsourcing.

5. For my own online identity management:
I should be careful when talk about sensitive political topics. Also, maybe I shouldn’t talk too much about my stress and too much about my “dark” inner thoughts? The online platform should become an exhibition where I show my professional work, my brilliant thoughts (maybe not that much brilliant sometimes:), and a little bit hint of my personal hobbies such as cooking, sports, music, etc.


Course Project Topic: What Social Media and Social Media Analytics Could Tell Us about College Experience?

Quincy and I will collaborate on this project. We will look into what social media could tell us about college experience using social analytics tools. In thinking about this project, I found that some information we got from our two presentations is very useful for thinking about this project, which I didn’t realize until I start to think about our own project.

Some Details:
1. We want to focus on engineering and technology college students. We will NOT focus on Purdue specifically. Instead, we will look at engineering and technology college students’ experience in general. We will probably look at the differences among east coast, west coast, and mid-west regions.

2. Our data set will be from the public data of several leading social media sites. The major one is Facebook, because for the college students age group, Facebook is still the major social media avenue. Here is where the statistics we presented in our first presentation comes to play. We will present the rationale using those statistics to say why we chose Facebook, and other social media sites. In the last reading this week (the ASEE identity management paper), it is also mentioned that Facebook is the dominant social media site the participants use. A couple of the participants have Twitter accounts, but haven’t use it actively. Some of them read others’ blogs, but were not maintaining one themselves. Although many college students aren’t using Twitter actively, there probably college graduates talk about college experience they had before on Twitter, so we will still include data set from Twitter and other sites.

3. We will use social analytics tools Radian6, Visible Technologies, and NodeXL. We will explore to see what different aspects these tools will say about the data set. This project will be very exploratory, and we will refine/narrow down our questions along the way.

4. In our literature review, we will include some literature about college experience that have done off-line using survey, interview, etc. We will compare whether what we got from social media sites is different from what they got offline. If there is a difference, what leads to the difference? Here is where our second presentation about Internet culture comes to play. There is probably certain aspect of the Internet culture that leads to the difference.

Research Questions:
What social media could tell us about engineering and technology students college experience? What are those good things and not-so-good things in their college experience? What these results could inform us to improve students college experience, retain students, and help students success? (this question can be put as the implication part rather than the research questions part) What are the differences among east coast, west coast and mid-west areas in terms of college students experience? What are the differences when people talks about college experience online and offline provided by previous literature? What leads to the differences?

Who will be Interested:
This project will inform the college administrative body and policy makers to improve students experience and retain students. Most people who are interested in student retention, student success should be interested in this paper, and they will find it’s a whole new way to look at this problem space from the public discourse on social media sites. People who are interested in social media analytics tools and their application will also be interested to see how we use different tools.

Benefits To me:
(1) This project will take the nature of my research closer to engineering students, which will benefit me as a PhD in engineering education.
(2) I will come to understand more about the culture of social media, and the culture of college students on social media.
(3) I will become familiar with social media analytics tools, and they are very related to social computing, which is my research interest.

1. The conversations taken online. Some of them are talking about college experience, some of them are talking about their opinions about college experience, how do we distinguish? If everything gets mashed up together, will that be valid? Other questions are mostly related how to we deal with the data, how do we tell “this” from “that”. I guess we just have to seat down and play with the tools to see what we can get.
2. We have to develop a series of keywords related to our topic to search and generate results from the tools. What kind of standard we have to comply with? Or just think about the words out of our mind?
3. We want to submit an abstract to the ASEE conference by Oct 7th. Not sure which division we should go?

Beautiful Songs Shared via Human Generosity

This is a review about Emotional Bag Check, a site where you can off-load your emotional bag and get a nice song suggested by a stranger to cheer you up. It “turns music into mental medicine”.

I’ve tried this site twice this weekend, and really like it. The first time I posted that “My badminton partners don’t really want to play with me, because I am worse than them. I am ruining their fun. They just ignore me implicitly.” I got a song back in about 20 hours. It’s called Onemosphere by Atmosphere from the album God Loves Ugly. I never heard this song before, and it’s not really my style, but the lyrics is somehow encouraging. The second time, I posted “I got a very bad team partner from one class. He just talks big and doesn’t really do real work. I have to do twice the work.” I got a song back in just about one hour and with some comfort words. The song is Lean On Me, which I really like. The fact that these strangers are putting thought and effort looking for the song that could comfort me is really touching.

I tend to blog or post something online when I am unhappy. I think Internet can be used for healing emotional discomfort if used wisely. Life is tough. We constantly need someone to share, or need a shoulder to lean on. However, out of various reasons, oftentimes we cannot find the appropriate person to share, or a shoulder to borrow around us. Strangers can be a good choice under such circumstances, since we don’t need to worry about anything else. Internet is a good place to seek strangers since the identity can be totally hidden. People become more understanding and empathetic when being a rationale stranger. Not only I can seek comfort from Facebook among people I know, also I can seek comfort from totally strangers. Now I think for healing emotional discomfort very close people (strong ties) and totally strangers can both be helpful, while weak ties are mostly for purposes like job seeking, information sharing, etc. The weak ties for me is a gray zone, and haven’t figured out how to maintain yet.

If what Clay Shirky meant by cognitive surplus can be regarded as a intellectual contribution to the whole society, what Emotional Bag Check and other similar sites such as PostSecret brought is psychological or emotional contribution to humanity. Both of them are out of human generosity.

While I like the idea behind the Emotional Bag Check very much, I also appreciate the simply and easy user interface. Not need to sign up and be buzzed by the various functionality, just write things out of your chest and get a song via email with a URL linked to Grooveshark.

screenshots from

This is almost the simplest user interface design I’ve ever seen. It’s this simple and achieved a lot. The user also have another choice to offer to help others out by taking the bag and finding an appropriate song. I haven’t tried this, assume that it should also be easy to use. There is one interview with the creator of Emotional Bag Check Robyn Overstreet, and he mentioned that he wants to keep things simple. Simple is good!

#621p2 Reflection

1. Collaboration: The collaboration is much smoother than last time because of the use of Google+ hangout. Even when we have so many channels to communicate, we still want to talk face-to-face (though virtually) in an exclusive group focusing on our topic, rather than letting our tweets buried in myriad of other tweets. I think @hanjunxian, @geovon_b and @hockyisgood did a good job at coordinating and organizing. I wish @GenXrecon’s microphone could work. I spent most of the last 1/4 time during our first Google+ to coordinate with @GenXrecon for inviting her to Google+, Google+ hangout and fixing her microphone. I am glad that she made it finally, but her microphone still doesn’t work. I also spent quite a bit of time inviting @fredvgreene to Google+ hangout. I wish he could make it to the presentation. Another important factor is that Dr.V showed up on our second hangout, and also wrote comments to our Google doc and wrote a blog about Internet culture. This helps us a great deal to find the right direction of the presentation. There are tons of information out there, but we still need a director who is clear where the direction is. I also wish Google+ could release those new features before our hangout rather than after. Then at least we don’t need to spend time to invite people, if Google+ was open to the public like now.

2. Internet Culture: Like I mentioned in class. The processes of preparing for the presentation makes me understand some of the reasons why people do all the weird things on the Internet. Based on understanding, it’s easier for me to embrace and enter into this culture. I hated acronyms before, and didn’t understand why people do that only to make communication difficult. I thought people should always express themselves clearly in order to avoid misunderstanding during communication. I thought everybody should just work on to say something that make it easier for other to understand. Now I think I was kind of wrong. Culture sometimes is meant to be only understandable for people inside of the culture, not outside of the culture. If everybody understands it, it’s the same to everybody and every group, then it won’t be culture anymore. Culture is meant to be unique and exclusive. We need the uniqueness in order to achieve diversity and prosperity. I couldn’t tell how much these knowledge about Internet culture could influence my research specifically at this moment, but it does help me to understand the internet culture and the US culture in general as an International scholar. It will be beneficial for my long-term experience in the US. At least during the process of preparing for the presentation, I had more topics to talk with my roommate 🙂 Overall, knowing about Internet Culture kind of helps me overcome a psychological barrier to be able to tamp into a new realm and do interesting studies there.

3. Backchannel: Based on my limited conference experience, I know people do this a lot in conference. I first got to know this in the HubBub conference at Indianapolis April this year. Then at the ASEE conference in Vancouver, I know lots of people wanted to do that there, but they don’t provide free Internet. Luckily, you can use text to tweet. Then unfortunately the conference is outside of US, only people with unlimited text or who have a plan in Canada could afford to text all the time. I know a great deal of people do, but not me 🙂 So the Marc Smith talk before the Tech621 class last evening was my first real experience of tweeting live. I was already kind of tired from tweeting at the Marc Smith talk, and even more TTTT after the Tech621 class. Although tired, I think it’s overall beneficial to me as an audience. I was able to retain more and think more during the Marc Smith talk and in the class, because I have to be responsible for what I tweeted. It seems I wasn’t pay attention and was busy doing something else irrelevant, but my brain was actually work hard to digest what the presenter said and tweet it and to make conversations with other people who were tweeting. If I wasn’t tweeting, it may seem that I was paying attention, but my brain may be just daydreaming something else.

I will initiate backchannel in the future when I think the talk is really interesting and engaging so tweeting won’t distract me too much. I choose to do this because tweeting is actually help me retain more of the important content out of the talk of my interests. Writing a blog after it will be even more helpful to get the most out of the talk. Also the topic should be interesting to some of my twitter fellows. If I think nobody on Twitter around me will be interested in the talk, I probably won’t tweet. If the talk is boring or mediocre, I probably will look at whether others are tweeting, and try to engage with them, if they are not tweeting interesting things neither, I probably will just leave or do something else.

As a presenter, having a backchannel there is not a very pleasant experience, though after the presentation, seeing the tweets the audience tweeted during the presentation is quite pleasant. Based on the first presentation in the class, I expected lots of conversation, however it seems we didn’t get as much as we got last time. Sometimes I kind of feel being ignored with the audience tweeting there (and my iPhone keep vibrating in my pocket) and didn’t know what to talk about. I guess I should adjust to this situation, and always to be prepared to talk more rather than expecting the audience to talk, but also leave space for the audience in case they want to talk more. The pros and cons of having a backchannel could be very interesting research topic.

I feel having a backchannel could serve 4 purposes:(1) to help the individual audience pay more attention and having more thought (2) to engage the audience who is listening to the talk in a conversation (3) to help the audience who is not present in the talk or conference to know what’s going on (4) to retain the content after the talk. I was wondering which one is the most significant? Is it more useful for people inside of the talk or outside of the talk, during the talk or after the talk?

Marc Smith NodeXL Talk Sep 22 @ Purdue

I have an interest in Social Media Analytics, so I went to a talk by co-founder of Social Media Research Foundation Marc Smith titled: Charting Collections of Connections in Social Media: Creating Maps and Measures with NodeXL. Some takeaways and thoughts I get:
1. Marc mentioned that Usenet is still growing at a pace of 11% per year. I was wondering why, because it seems nobody around me here use it anymore. Maybe it’s growing more outside of US, I know in mainland China and Taiwan, BBS is still very popular, especially in higher education institutions. In a later Social Media class, Dr. V also mentioned that Usenet is still widely used in certain groups of people who started with it. So I think maybe the body of a new generation who is born with Google+ will grow larger in the future, but then the old generation will still maintain on Facebook (at least before this generation die away), so Facebook don’t need to worry and panic now, maybe it should take some strategies to prepare for the new grown-ups 10 or 20 years later. Some of the thought here is inspired by this blog post by Dr.V.
2. Marc talks about one of the reasons for developing social media monitoring tools. When we see a large group of crowd on the street physically, we can actually see some patterns of the crowd. For example, they have formed various sub-groups, talking in different languages, and wearing different clothes. However, the shape of the crowd on the web is totally hidden. “The interface of social media is remarkably anti-social”. The nicely and neatly organized lists make everybody’s tweets and profiles the same format, thus break the shape of the crowd. So we want to take closer look at the content to see the patterns and shape of the crowd. To deal with large amount of data created by the crowd, we need social media monitoring tools with great computational ability. Here comes NodeXL–and MS Excel add-in that could help social scientists investigate the shape of the crowd with 0 line of programming.
3. Another interesting topic he talked is about strong and weak ties. Internet has increased the number of relationships we maintain in a great deal, however, most of them are weak ties. Strong ties need dedication of time and effort to maintain, and we only have limited time and attention. So are these weak ties useless? No. They matter a great deal! We usually share almost the same information with our strong ties,because we are very close to each other. Our weak ties are people who can bring new information, new possibilities, and job opportunities. Think about your own situation, if everybody you know knows everybody else you know, your job is not secure, because you are a redundancy, you can not bring new information to these people.
4. Marc showed a graph made with NodeXL about the connections among users who recented twitted “Purdue” when queried on Sep 16 2011.
20110916-NodeXL-Twitter-Purdue Composite
A larger version of the image is here:
Based on my understanding of Marc’s opinion, some of the in-between users in the middle green and light green areas are more important than the ones who are in the largest networks (the two big “hairballs”), because these in-between users connect the scattered people with the two big networks. Without them, these scattered people will lose the connections. Also sometimes, the big balls probably are created by famous patrons who don’t really belong to the group. I cannot remember the term Marc use to call them.
5. Another interesting graph Marc showed is:
2010 - September - 5 - NodeXL - Twitter - GOP
This is about people’s political opinions about GOP. Red represents GOP supporters, and blue represents critics. The in-between dot is This pattern has only been found in the US, not in other countries. So America is by far the most polarized country in terms of political opinions. This is an interesting finding that proves America is exceptional somehow.
Reflection about Tweeting the talk live:
I got a mission via Twitter from Dr. V at the beginning of the talk to tweet the talk live. I saw other people do so before but never done it myself. It’s quite interesting and intense and overall beatifically to me and maybe to whom read my tweets and this blog.

I felt super busy because I have to listen, tweet, and write my own notes at the same time. Later I abandoned my own notes because I couldn’t write notes and tweet at the same time. Today when I write this blog, I have to go back to my tweets rather than my notes to help memorize what was going on there yesterday.

One good thing about tweeting compared with taking notes myself is that I am responsible to make comprehensible sentences for my twitter audience, while taking notes I can use misspelling words, symbols and incomplete sentences. Some of the misspelling, symbols, and incomplete sentences never got corrected after I took them.

One drawback of making responsible sentences is that I have to think while couldn’t pay attention to listen. There are some words I don’t know how to spell exactly and I have to go to look it up. For example, Marc talked about the number of relationships chimpanzee could maintain vs. human could do. I couldn’t remember how to spell “Chimpanzee“, and couldn’t find it in a short time, I only find gorilla in my dictionary. I know gorilla and chimpanzee are different but I couldn’t remember what is the difference in the Chinese words, so I didn’t input the right Chinese word for chimpanzee, so I cannot find how to spell chimpanzee. I gave up to tweet this finally, and wrote a misspelling word in my own notes, but it took me a while.

Although this kind of things took some attention, but overall tweeting makes me pay more attention to the talk, because I am responsible to tweet as accurate as I could to my twitter audience. If I were not tweeting I probably would think about what I should have for dinner and daydreaming some other stuff that could take even more attention than looking for how to spell Chimpanzee. Overall, I think tweeting while listening and write a blog post about it is the most beneficial method to get the most out of a talk that you are interested in.

Are SNS and Microblogging Killing Blogs?

I encountered this post today:

The blog post talks about whether Facebook is killing blogs. It mentioned Indonesia. I think similar thing happened in China, but not necessarily true here in the US.

The China popular SNS Renren, though looks very much like Facebook, has IMO way better embedded function for blogging. It is similar as Note on Facebook, but they don’t call it note, they call it diary or blog. So the users get the sense that they can write way longer things here than Facebook note. So they started to write blogs and the community of Renren has made it way easier to share the blogs than an independent wordpress or blogger blog (of course, wordpress and blogger are blocked in China but there are other services). In my network, the most shared content probably would be (1) how to find jobs as college graduate (2) how to improve your English skill (3) how to go study abroad (3) how to cook while you study abroad (4) personal life and opinions (5) funny stuffs that distributed fast across the whole site because of sharing.

My personal experience was that I soon abandoned my own blog after starting to use Renren blog. While users like me who just want to find a place to publish and share would abandon the blog, people who are really enthusiastic about their subject and businesses will still keep the blog, like this article mentioned. I feel (just personal opinion) People in the US tends to be more independent and enthusiastic about their own topics while in China they like go to the community and sharing very practical things like job hunting and house buying etc.

Also as I mentioned, because the Facebook Note function is not really perceived as a blogging, I seldom see my Facebook friends use it, much less than the Blogging sharing in Renren. We probably don’t need to worry about blogs here at least in a short term. While in China I feel Renren and Sina Weibo (a Microblogging service) are really start to obsolete the blogging market. Although Renren and Facebook look very much similar, they are cultivating different cultures and fostering different user behavior patterns.

Pls excuse typos and logic and paragraph formatting, because I am using my iPhone tying all this. Using the WordPress app for the first time 🙂

JQuery Dialog Button Text Not Working and Others

After spending Saturday afternoon, Saturday night (until 3:30am), and Sunday morning coding on IKNEER, I figured out 3 things:
1. How to add a pop-up dialog window in an existing JavaScript table cell.

<div id=dialogForm></div> //this is in the .php file
var $dialog = $('#dialogForm').dialog({ });
var dialogForm=document.getElementById("dialogForm");
var dialogFormWin = new DialogFormWindow(null);

2. Because the existing table has 10 rows, so my pop-up window will have 10 iterative rows too. If I move the window into the click function, there will be accumulated rows in the pop-up window depending on how many times I click the button to show the window. So I have to remove the previous content upon clicking.

var dialogForm=document.getElementById("dialogForm");
if (dialogForm.hasChildNodes()) 

3. The third problem is the one cost me most of the time. I had this problem last week, and just decided to put it away for a while, this weekend I solved it! The JQuery dialog box button text doesn’t work.

var $dialog = $('#dialogForm').dialog({
             autoOpen: false, 
             "Cancel":function() {$('#dialogForm').dialog( "close");},
             "Save":function() {$('#dialogForm').dialog( "close" );}

If I use the code above, the text “Cancel” and “Save” wouldn’t show up. Debugging using Firebug on FireFox, I get:

<button class="ui-button ui-widget ui-state-default ui-corner-all ui-button-text-only" type="button">
<span class='ui-button-text'></span></button>

It has a text=”Save” attribute, but in the <span></span> tag, there is no text.

I found people have had the same problem before:

I actually also has the other same problem with the button showing 0 and 1 when using buttons as array rather than object.

There seems no easy solution to solve the possible inconsistency or conflict in the jQuery/jQuery-UI library. So I have to insert the text to the <span></span> tag.

There is an inspiring answer on StackOverFlow (this seems a good Q&A place for programmer, where I will go more often in the future) posted by a user on StackOverFlow named conceptacid:

$('div.ui-dialog-buttonset button.ui-button ui-button-text').each(function() {
$(this).html(<span class="ui-button-text">+"$(this).parent().attr('text')'+</span>");})

This didn’t work for my code, and after spending a long time wondering why, I modified it like this:

$('div.ui-dialog-buttonset button.ui-button span.ui-button-text').each(function() {

It works! I posted the answer to StackOverFlow