Buck, “Examining Digital Literacy Practices on Social Network Sites”

Buck offers a close observation of everyday literate practices of one undergraduate student who navigates across several social networked sites to represent himself and his identity in the process of mediating his literate life. As Buck writes, “social network sites are intricately woven into the tapestry of his daily literacy practices; they play a large role in how he interacts with others in his personal and professional life as well as how he presents himself to difference audiences. For students like Ronnie, everyday literate activity takes place in networked digital environments, which shape their literacy practices and their online and offline lives” (9-10). Per Selfe & Hawisher (2004), living a “literate life in the information age” increasingly means “learning to navigate these spaces, managing one’s identity and online data, and considering complex issues of privacy and representation” (10). In outlining her observations, she keys in on two aspects of his literate practices: (a) his identity representations on social network sites; and (b) his interactions with site interfaces (see pg 13).

Some of her key observations, relevant for my diss include:

  • Many of Ronnie’s decisions and rhetorical choices in writing where motivated by how he was representing himself in these sites. In this sense, his identity is closely tied to the networks of connections on a given social media site. Per Marwick and boyd (2011), “one’s personal network of connections collaborates in his identity construction, in interacting with others and responding to the intersts of one’s followers” (Buck 14). Hence, Buck notes that scholarship on identity often focuses on “how users build and maintain audience communities” (15).
  • Ronnie imagines an audience in each of his social networking sites which motivates the degree and kind of writing he elects to share. He reflects, “I use selective tweets on Facebook, so only particular tweets will make it over, pretty much ust ones that I know will get a reaction from people who are never using Twitter, because otherwise its just kind of a stream of consciousness. I don’t want to bother people’s news feeds” (17). He also reflects a similar process for photography: he’ll share just about anything on FB, but makes a selection for Flickr. As Buck writes, “Ronnie envisioned different audiences with different concerns and interests on both Facebook and Twitter and constructed his identity on both sites with audiences n mind” (18). The question then is how he constructed these imagined communities/audiences?
  • Ronnie also creates various ‘alter egos’ in order to both connect with a different kind of audience while also going under the radar of other networks on the other sites (though he doesn’t say that this is the reason). As Buck reflects, “he represented a specific part of his identity for a specific audience” so he can tailor the kind of writing he shares (e.g. music for his musical alter ego) rather than personal life. Connected to curation.
  • Ronnie is accurately aware of/attuned to the different ways he can disperse information & writing about himself and how it would be used by others, and he wants to control this process. While he generally didn’t have concerns about sharing his information online and publicly visible, he was concerned about ‘who’ owned his information and what they did with it (see page 31). For instance, Ronnie is concerned with the ‘mean world’ of the Internet that seeks to use his invisible digital identity against him. Buck argues that part of managing one’s identity online, such as in the case of Ronnie, involves the user to adjust, adapt, and resist the scripts and expectations of use that accompany technologies and enable/constrain certain actions. As Buck writes “users can align with these scripts or resist them, adjusting these technologies for their own usage through an ‘antiprogram,’ a user’s program that is at odds with the designer’s program” (32; see: Akrich & Latour 1992; Jonhso-Eilola 2005).

Key ideas/definitions:

  • Lankshear & Knobel (2008) define digital literacy as “a shorthand for the myriad social practices and conpcetions of engaging in meaning making mediated by texts that are produced, received, and distributed, exchanged, etc. via digital codification” (5).
  • boyd & Ellison (2007) define social network sites as “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection; (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (para 4).
  • Adpated from Bill Hart-Davidson (2007), Buck uses time-use diaries to “record the time of the event, the message and its purpose, and the technology through which the message was sent (mobile phone vs computer, for example)” (13).
  • Prior & Shipka (2003) define chronotopic laminations as “the dispersed and fluid chains of places, times, people, and artifacts that come to be tied together in trajectories of literate action, the ways multiple activity footings are simultaneously held and managed” (181). As Buck writes, “this kind of writing work is what makes up a literate life, occurring in multiple environments and across physical and digital spaces. Ronnie’s social media use demonstrates the ways in which many social network sites users integrate their social network activity into their daily lives” (22).



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