The digital me – past, present and future

I’m writing this online, on a flight to London (thank you for the WiFi, Norwegian!) as the first assignment to a course I’m taking on flexible, distance and online learning (FDOL)! The topic is “The digital me – past, present and future”. I really appreciate being able to go online on a flight – which probably gives a hint to just how digital the current me is. I’ve tweeted a couple of times today (it’s 8.00 AM when I draft this post), checked my facebook, the google+ community (which to be honest is quite new to me, but I quickly got drawn in by the FDOL course), and sent a few messages to a friend I’m meeting in London. So, as you might have guessed, I handle a lot of my social interactions online, and I love it! As an example of the “digital private me”, I’m a member of a book club and we meet (in real life) roughly once a month. It’s great to meet up with friends (some old, some new) over a nice dinner discussing both a good book and life in general. That really is good enough, right? However, between meetings we communicate online – everything from deciding on a time/place for the next meeting and keeping track of books we want to read, to looking up reviews and researching authors we’re currently reading. It enriches the social interaction tremendously, without taking away from the “real” meetings we have on a regular basis.

Now, the digital me is not only part of my private life – as much as we take on different roles in our daily lives, we take on different online roles. I’ve already given an example from my private life, so onwards to the professional. The reason I’m flying to London today is that I’m attending a conference called Medicine 2.0, according to the organizers “the leading academic conference series for Internet, Social Media, and mobile apps in health”. This is where my field of research is and it’s fascinating! I’m currently working on a project where we are developing national services for patients/citizens to support their interactions with health- and social care and enable them (us!) to follow care processes and activities online. I’m very excited about this work. One key issue though, is ensuring that we work together with people that are not all as enthusiastic as I am to make sure we develop solutions and services that work for everyone. But returning to the reason I’m in London; during the conference I will most likely be live-tweeting. In august, I was part of a team organizing a workshop at another medical informatics conference, Medinfo, and we actually decided to try to engage with a wider public before and during the conference. As a first experiment it was a great experience – and I hope to be able to continue doing similar things in the future. Overall, for me using social media in my professional life has been a very important learning experience. So, when I use facebook mostly for private interactions, I use twitter almost exclusively for professional tasks. Although the line between private and professional is often quite blurry for me, so far it works quite well. I especially like twitter as a personal learning tool. It enables me to keep up to date on most of my work, and it’s a lot of fun.

Teaching is of course another big part of my working me, and I try to combine digital and real meetings in my courses there as well. Much as in my personal life, I don’t think that online interactions will necessarily replace f2f meetings, however it enriches and expands the opportunities for learning and connecting with other people far beyond traditional meetings. I teach at the international master program in health informatics at KI, and we use the online learning platform PingPong for communication with students. I publish all materials there, use it to communicate with students and encourage them to use the platform for their group work. I feel however that I’m not quite at the level of usage on online tools in teaching as in other parts of my life. So I hope that the FDOL course will give me the tools to take my “digital teaching me” to the next level.

In summary, the digital me is a very big part of me. It hasn’t always been… I vaguely remember life before email, self-tracking devices, and twitter – but I would never go back. For me, online communication does not compete with f2f communication – instead it adds value and enriches the interactions. So, I hope this post will be inspirational to someone out there a bit uncertain about taking the plunge into the digital world – jump in!

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7 Responses to The digital me – past, present and future

  1. Hej Maria,

    What a fascinating post. Thank your being so open and sharing your story here with us all. Excellent to hear that you accessed the web while flying… I haven’t managed this yet. Thinking of this possibility but also our 24-7 connectedness, I am wondering if there are any downsides of this for you as an individual but also a professional. Perhaps you could also reflect on this?

    I hope the conference will give you loads of food for thought. Your research focus might be of interest also to a colleague from Salford University, Dr Leslie Robinson and I have tweeted her about you. 😉

    We are pleased you joined FDOL also to share experiences and ideas but also learn together. Speak again soon.

    You have made an excellent start!


  2. Thank you Chrissi. I was actually planning to reflect on the downsides as well, but I ran out of battery (and since I landed in London I simply haven’t had time). One downside is that with many ubiquitous sources of information and communication it is easy to get distracted. Regardless of what you are doing, a fragmentation of your attention is problematic, and perhaps especially when trying to focus on challenging tasks at work. Being constantly connected and available can of course be a problem too. I do my best to log off when on vacation and spending time with family. It can also be a little challenging separating the private and the professional sphere’s online. Me personally, I choose to use different social media for different focuses, e.g. facebook is almost exclusively private and I don’t become friends with students on facebook (but I will connect with them on LinkedIN), whereas twitter I use only professionally. I don’t mind being personal online, sharing my thoughts, ideas and experiences, but I make conscious choices of what I share in which spaces. If there’s one person I don’t want to read a certain thing online, I don’t write it online – you never know how information spreads. I believe this is something each of us have to decide as individuals – how much do we want to share? Yet, for me the advantages definitely outweigh the downsides and that’s also what I wanted to describe in my reflection.

  3. Simon Allan says:

    Hi Maria. How lovely to hear your thoughts and experiences. Thank you for sharing. I’ve only just started to use wifi on the train so I am most impressed at your high altitude social media use! I’ve started to follow you on Twitter and I’ll be interested to know how they use it at the conference you’re going to. I tend to just use Twitter as a way of quickly archiving useful papers and links for future reference and haven’t ever really go into a conversation using it – but hopefully something might come of the FDOL course!

  4. Pingback: #FDOL132 unit 1 or mixing @openfdol | Chrissi Nerantzi

  5. Anne Lee Solevåg says:

    hi maria! a little late i continue the discussion about accessibility and being online constantly. i have become an addict of e-mail (‘though not on my cell phone, only laptop which i carry with me almost everywhere). however, i have never succeeded working online on the train or plane as the connection has been very poor (worse than when we connected to the internet through the telephone line, remember..?). as such i actually feel like i have some time off when i am traveling. i dread to think about how my life would have been if i was to be notified about every e-mail or message on facebook instantaneously on my phone or being able to look things up on the internet all the time. in this respect, not having a smart phone makes me fell free, while others may think that it has to be more of a constraint than freedom not being online all the time..

  6. Anne Lee: yes, I’m struggling somewhat with disconnecting. I do have “offline” time – but it’s mostly playing with the kids, going out with friends etc. I quite like being able to use what was previously “dead time” (waiting at bus stops, on the bus/train), and free up time in the evening with the family instead. Might have something to do with commuting as well – if I wasn’t able to work on the bus I would have to spend an extra 2,5 hours/day at work… but of course it’s a fine balance, and it is a challenge to keep work (and other online interests) from taking over entirely. How will it affect our lives if we starting blending more and more online tools into our teaching practices? Will the boundaries be even more difficult to see and uphold?

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