Thursday, June 3, 2010

Palfrey, Harvard, and Identity Play

Aren't these leaves gorgeous? Yes, they are. Well, let me explain where they come from. This is a picture taken at Harvard University Campus in the autumn. I've never been to Massachusetts, but I did consider sending all my ACT and SAT scores there when I was in high school, just for kicks and giggles (I've been pretty set on attending BYU since I was old enough to know that the letter Y and the color blue are by nature inseparable).

So, how does Harvard's beautiful campus relate to my thesis on identity in the digital age? Well, it all started as I began hunting around for some blogs and other online conversation about this topic. I found this Harvard intern blog a few weeks ago, and I thought I'd take another look today. Searching around this blog led me to the blog of John Palfrey, who was the co-writer of the book Born Digital, which I've blogged about before here and here. John Palfrey, by the way, is a Professor of Law and the Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard (that school with the beautiful campus). I searched through some of Palfrey's blog entries looking for some more of his insight on identity in the digital age. One of Palfrey's posts is a series of notes taken at a conference, where Palfrey states that others studying in the field of the "networked self" have said that "In privacy, you need space left over for identity play, for engagement in unpredictable activity."

Well, this fits my thesis... sort of. I'm arguing that the internet allows people to experiment with identity, which in turns often allows them to form a singular identity. Basically, experimentation with identity leads to a MORE firm sense of self.

But is this what Palfrey meant when he referenced "identity play"? Hmm. You got me. So I looked it up and found a pretty concise definition, which also states that "In whatever way [identity play] happens, Identity Play allows people to explore a wider variety of experiences and enjoy a more fluid sense of self."

So, is it fair to say that this supports my thesis? I think it does. Multiple identies formed on the internet do not fracture peoples' lives. They can lead to a "sense of self" that is MORE whole. The ability to be fluid in our identities actually provides us with something like a more complete identity. We play with idenitity, and in playing, we figure out what we like, what we are... we become more ourselves.

Just some thoughts. I think I'm going to google more Harvard pictures now.

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