Collective and the Individual

As the Spring 2014 Faculty Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) Initiative begins its second cycle I can’t help but think about individual faculty who have joined for various reasons (create Domain, integrate Domain of One’s Own project into courses, enhance technological literacy skills, money, etc.). Regardless of the reason each will seek support to venture into or enhance their digital journey. While a focus on individual faculty is central to the work of this initiative I also like to think more holistically in terms of the collective experience.  As I believe the collective experience (face-to-face and on the Web) can be a powerful experience and is really at the heart of this work.

19 faculty (12 tenure track, 7 tenured) are participating and represent Sociology, Art and Art History, Mathematics, History and American Studies, Classics, Philosophy, and Religion, Political Science and International Affairs, Computer Science, Business, Marketing, Curriculum and Instruction, Foundations, Leadership, and Special Populations, and Historic Preservation. The faculty model design is to ‘mix-it-up’ by placing faculty in one of four small groups (4-6). Each group is comprised of faculty from different disciplines, various career stages, and self-reported comfort level with technology.  Faculty come together six times (once a week for an hour); face-to-face time is roughly divided between discussion (assigned reading(s) and open topics) and technology. What is a particularly interesting characteristic about this cohort is that the majority of faculty are on the tenure track.  I can’t help but wonder how and in what ways participation in this faculty digital initiative supports or hinders their tenure journey. Something I would like to follow-up on.

I am planning and hoping to attend all four faculty groups and listen in – jotting down anecdotal notes to capture conversations, ideas, and sharing that occurs within each group and then ‘look at the collective’ for common themes/topics that emerged during our faculty face-to-face time.

Week 1: Understanding the Web.  Faculty began the work of setting up their Domain and our readings helped to inform our understanding of the Web.

  • Tensions between personal and professional

Many shared their varying degrees of comfort related to how much to share and what to share. The idea of being able ‘to control’ your online identity was something that resonated with faculty as many are taking the first steps in that ownership.

  • Developing/refining  ‘voice’ and ‘identity’

I find this theme to be at the heart of the Faculty DoOO initiative. Getting faculty blogging about the initiative (and what ever else they want) was met with various levels of concern. For many faculty the whole ‘idea of blogging’ was seen as a risk; never done before, daunting. Questions emerged, lots of questions. What do I blog about? How formal do I need to be? How informal?  What will others think about my thinking related to the initiative? It is my hope that faculty will ‘stick their toes in’ and find like minded faculty to share their experiences with and perhaps this work can help support  and enhance their digital voice.

  • Conceptualizing

This is hard work for many of us when we first begin to think about how we want to represent ourselves on the Web.  While there are so many tools to ‘build’ what we envision it is often overwhelming to ‘envision’ something new in a context that one is unfamiliar with.  Who is my audience? How do I want my work to be represented? What matters? This work is the building blocks of our identity.  I think one of the strengths of the Faculty DoOO facilitators is the sense of community they create within a particular group and also the sharing of their own digital journeys. Hearing stories of others journeys helps us to envision and shape our own digital journey.

One group talked about the tension between ‘publishing’ a finished piece of work and how different that would be in terms of ‘publishing’ a work in process (for anyone to see). Faculty question how and in what ways publishing their work in process connects to the online identity they are working towards creating.  And also how finding a ‘online community’ could also support scholarly work as others critique and contribute to ones understandings.  In some ways ‘publishing’ a work in process is very similar to taking a formative stance to the work.  As opposed to ‘summative’ the final polished piece that is judged by our peers.  I would imagine that this ‘summative’ aspect of our scholarly work matters particularly for our tenure-track faculty who are working towards establishing themselves within the discipline. And I can sense and appreciate their struggles.

While everyone is at a different place and have joined for different/similar reasons I am taken by how willing they are to experiment and try out new tools as they craft their own digital identities.  More next week.

One thought on “Collective and the Individual

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    February 3, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    It’s a good sign to me that so many tenure track faculty are participating, and, at least at UMW, it would seem to me to only help them.


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