Digital praxis and online identity

The below is modified from a reflective piece written for CILIP Chartership. As I was writing, I was interested in and thinking about motivation for engagement in online or digital spaces, and particularly social media. I began with framing in the CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), which presents social media as tools relating to IT and communication technologies. I wanted to think beyond this framing and consider the aspects of connectedness and formation of online identity which social media can develop and foster.

Recently, Lawrie Phipps, Donna Lanclos, and Zac Gribble released the experimental Digital Perceptions reflective tool which allows for a critical reflective exploration of one’s own perception of online identity compared with others’ perceptions. I absolutely recommend trying this out to help develop a critical perspective on your practice of being online—or for some of us, Extremely Online.

In a brief discussion with Lawrie I noted Paulo Freire’s definition of praxis as, “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed” which he worked into a piece ‘Toward digital praxis: just thinking out loud’, as:

I want to engage people with their practice, encourage reflection and action on both their existing practices, and the digital structures and background against which their digital self (Identity?) is perceived by themselves and by those with which they engage.

I feel it is this awareness of structure and context, and moreover a critical understanding of power, political structures, and ownership within those digital contexts that is essential to such reflection and action. To inform this, I draw on a model of reflection from heath and social care in which practitioners and academics have worked to create a body of knowledge and theory that combines reflection with critical theory, reflexivity, and social theory. This use of social theory has all the interesting implications one might expect…

This model for reflection appeals to me because of its appreciation of uncertainty and ambiguity in praxis, and a central concept of, “finding better ways to practice based clearly on different ways of thinking” (Fook and Gardner, 2007 p.67). This goes beyond the idea of corrective actions or ‘lessons learned’ of project contexts, and provides a critically-aware lens that offers deeper understanding of classic models of reflection such as Chris Argyris and Donald Schön’s (1974) single-loop and double-loop learning.

Digital Perceptions Johari window showing my ‘Arena’ and ‘Blind Spot’ quadrants.

Ahead of using the Digital Perceptions tool I had considered power and ownership at some length, which is one reason I use a self-hosted WordPress blog and free culture licenses for longer form writing. I consider a “domain of one’s own” an important form of online presence for developing not so much a personal brand, but a digital identity that reflects who I am professionally and also a way of verifying identify using services such as Keybase.io. One reflective element informed by my use of the Digital Perceptions tool is any ‘curation’ of online identity is transparent to others, in both positive and negative ways. This leads me to question how this presentation of identity can ever be authentic, and how subjective others’ perceptions of one’s identity are. For this reason I find suggestions that one is just being one’s authentic self online reward a more critical examination; ultimately I see this contraction as an example of mediation of structure and agency.

Personally, I have found critical frames drawn from sociology and cultural studies helpful in understanding social media and have been particularly informed by Anthony Giddens’s theory of structuration (1983). Returning to an IT or tool-focused interpretation of social media, I argue this is a limited and limiting view. Social media can be understood not just as ‘a technology’ or ‘a medium’ but always a social system, constituting networks formed by an interplay of social and technological structures and human agency which shape each other co-constitutively. Without initially planning to, I saw how social media can be employed to develop interconnected networks of both “strong ties”, that is the professionals I know well, and “weak ties”, that is the acquaintances who I know a little or who are connected to people I know. My experience of introducing myself to someone at an event or conference that I follow on Twitter, or as a reader of their blogging, is now long established. I discovered this has some theoretical underpinning in Mark Granovetter’s (1973) argument that networks of weak ties better transmit ideas and innovation:

…whatever is to be diffused can reach a larger number of people, and traverse greater social distance […] when passed through weak ties rather than strong.

Granovetter feels this important in the spread and uptake of new ideas that challenge the status quo or are otherwise ‘risky’ and discomforting. Considering social media as networks and social systems, my interest lies in the potential for connection with these new ideas—in terms of both positive benefits such as innovation but also negatives which might be understood as risks to be managed. My understanding of the uncertainty and risk in social media communication draws on Stuart Hall’s (1980) encoding/decoding model of communication—wherein an ‘audience’ is not a passive receiver, but play an active role in decoding messages based on their experience and social contexts and is moreover in an intensified situation of immediate and unmediated communication.

I find this potential for transmission of ideas most effective in two professional contexts. First, when participating in conferences where Twitter can represent a back-channel of what delegates are really thinking about the issues under discussion, and more simply in getting practitioners’ immediate reactions and views from events I am not attending. Related to this, perspectives on conference presentations and discussion can be broadcast outside of the auditorium, reaching wider network and amplifying key points. It’s an open question to me as if those reactions and perspectives are more authentic and more honest than those offered in-person—or just hotter takes. Second, I have found participation in Twitter chats an effective way of bridging connections between disparate social groups, engaging new people, and experiencing new ideas in a relatively serendipitous way. I put much of these positives, and associated negatives, down to a network effect among a self-selected group of participants; and have seen these chats provide an initial spark for new professional relationships and working collaborations.

Reflectively, I am aware of the role of privilege in social media use and consider this in my digital practice. It is easy to breezily state that as I have not known professional life without at least early forms of social media being present, opting out would be unnecessarily limiting and self-defeating. This is one area the Digital Perceptions tool can’t help with; as it is not intended as a diagnostic tool it is down to us to ask critically reflective questions. For example, I have both the time, space and technical knowledge to make effective use of social media in a relatively safe and secure way and remain connected enough with different social media networks that I have been able to leave networks such as Facebook. Though I may consider social media in its broadest sense as essential to information work as the earlier generations of technology I use, we also have to look around and consider who is not represented and present in these networks—and why.

References

Argyris, C. and Schön, D.A. (1974) Theory in practice: increasing professional effectiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fook, J. and Gardner, F. (2007) Practising critical reflection: a resource handbook. Maidenhead: Open University

Freire, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the oppressed. 2nd edn. London: Penguin.

Giddens, A. (1984) The constitution of society. Cambridge: Polity.

Granovetter, M.S. (1973) ‘The strength of weak ties’, American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), pp. 1360–1380. doi:10.1086/225469.

Hall, S. (1980) ‘Encoding/decoding’, in Hall, S., Hobson, D., Lowe, A., and Willis, P. (eds.), Culture, Media, Language, pp. 128–38. London: Hutchinson.

Library Camp London (#libcampldn) update

Update

A quick update about Library Camp London (#libcampldn) as I have been asked many questions on Twitter and by email this week.

We released general tickets on the afternoon of Monday 10th December. I did this about 2 pm and the response was spectacular, in about an hour we’d ‘sold’ them all and were building up an Eventbrite waitlist. I released a further 30 tickets to clear the waitlist.

We now have 100 library campers registered including advance tickets we released earlier for library and information students.

Thank you for your interest in Library Camp London. The excitement and buzz on Twitter and offline, especially people wanting to be involved in organizing and talking about their session ideas has been wonderful. What next?

Waitlist

Although you’ve missed the first ticket release, you can register to join the waiting list for Library Camp London tickets.

If you are interested in attending Library Camp London, please join the waitlist. This is because when we release more tickets those already on the waitlist will be offered them first.

Venue

I am working with my employer (and Library Camp host) Senate House Library, University of London to make more space available for Library Camp London.

We want Library Camp London to be as inclusive and diverse as possible. In particular although we’re hosting the event at an academic library, it’s not focused on academic libraries or higher education. For this reason we’re making a case to make the event bigger.

Ticketing

There will be at least one further ticket release for Library Camp London. This is likely to be in January 2013.

Please watch for announcements from me (@preater) and the other organizers Gary (@ggnewed) and David (@davidclover) on twitter.

Links

How to root your HTC Desire and install Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)

Step-by-step guide

There are various reasons to do this, including:

  • Needing root to run certain apps. This includes taking backups, removing unwanted pre-installed apps, and installing a fix for the tiny (140 MB) internal storage on the HTC Desire.
  • Wanting an upgrade to Android 2.3 or higher. This is not available officially.

Isn’t this explained elsewhere online? Yes, but many guides are out-of-date or include unhelpful advice. I wasn’t able to find everything I needed in one place.

This post is 80% there: http://androidforums.com/desire-all-things-root/439627-guide-revolutionary-s-off-rooting.html

This will wipe your phone including apps and data.

Preparation

As well as an HTC Desire you need a Windows PC connected to the Internet and a micro-USB cable for your phone.

The custom ROM process is a bit quicker if you have a USB reader for your micro SD card.

Drivers

On your PC:

  • Download and install HTC Sync. Then uninstall the HTC Sync software itself, leaving the HTC drivers in place.
  • Download and install the HTC fastboot drivers mentioned on the Revolutionary documentation.

Is it necessary to install the Android SDK for this process – using adb shell? I don’t think so. Described on this post.

On your phone:

  • Enable USB debugging.
  • Enable installing non-Market apps.

Root and custom recovery

This is a two step process: we use Revolutionary to gain S-OFF on the phone, then flashing a root zip file which gains you root. Revolutionary does not get you root by itself.

HBOOT version / erase size of 20,000 or 40,000. As we’re using Revolutionary and ClockWorkMod (CWM) does this apply? I think not.

From boot screen:

Check if PVT version is PVT4. If so check erase size.

Install Terminal Emulator from Market, then

cat /proc/mtd

Check if 20000 or 40000. If 20000 or not PVT4, we’ll use ClockWorkMod.

Check HBOOT version, this must be lower than 1.06.

On your PC:

  • Turn off your anti-virus software temporarily.
  • Download Revolutionary from http://revolutionary.io and the custom root zip file mentioned on their documentation page.
  • Connect the phone. Put the custom root zip file on the SD card.
  • Start Revolutionary. It will guide you through the process.
  • You need to get a beta key for Revolutionary – the program gives the details about your phone to generate one on the Revolutionary site.
  • The phone will restart a few times and Revolutionary will update you on progress. It’s automatic, but keep an eye on it.
  • As a final step Revolutionary asks if you want to install a custom recovery – CWM. Say ‘yes’ to this.

You now have S-OFF on the phone.

On the phone:

  • Switch off the phone, and boot into HBOOT by holding ‘volume down’ and pressing the power button.
  • The boot screen should say -REVOLUTIONARY- at the top and mention S-OFF in the next line.
  • Choose Recovery from the menu.
  • Select ‘Install zip from sdcard’ then ‘Choose zip from sdcard’.
  • Choose your root zip file, should be named Superuser-3.0.7-efgh-signed.zip.
  • Power off the phone from the CWM menu.

You now have an HTC desire with root and a custom recovery.

Custom ROM

We will use CWM to partition the SD card then install a custom ROM.

There are some dire warnings online about not partitioning an SD card with CWM, these apply to old versions of CWM and can be ignored with the current version.

This process will wipe the SD card. Copy the contents of it onto your computer first if you want to keep them.

Partition the SD card

Goal is to provide two partitions on your phone:

  • An ext4-formatted partition of 1 or 2 GB on your SD card that the phone will use as internal storage.
  • The rest of the card as a fat32-formatted partition the phone will use as regular SD card storage.

The only complication here is the ext4 partition must come second on the card, the fat32 partition must come first. CWM will handle this for us.

On the phone:

  • Boot into HBOOT by powering off and holding ‘volume down’ and the power button.
  • Go into Recovery → Advanced → Partition SD card.
  • Set the sd-ext partition to be 1 GB.
  • You don’t need a swap partition but setting one of 32 MB will not hurt anything.
  • The partitioning and formatting will take a while. Leave it be.
  • When this is done power off the phone

Installing a custom ROM

Take out the SD card and connect to your Windows PC.

Download your custom ROM of choice. There are many available for the Desire so it depends on what features you want.

I am using the SuperNova ROM which is very good. It provides Gingerbread and HTC Sense and a fairly ‘stock’ experience. Importantly, The ROM has a stable Data2SD installed that provides ample internal storage using your SD card.

Download the latest SuperNova and put it on your SD card. SuperNova instructions are here.

Quick version:

  • Shut down your phone and reboot to HBOOT.

Select Recovery, then:

  • Wipe data/factory reset
  • Install zip from sdcard → choose zip from sdcard → pick the SuperNova file.

Question: is it required to wipe cache and/or dalvik cache? Think it doesn’t hurt at the first install of SuperNova but should never be done when upgrading.

SuperNova is a big file so this process takes a while. It provides updates as it goes. Once it’s finished power off.

At first boot:

  • Allow the phone to boot, then answer all the questions asked except skip the Google account setup. Check About → Software shows the build as SuperNova.
  • Don’t restore data or apps yet. Reboot the phone.
  • At this point Data2SD runs during boot. When the phone has finished booting up, check the internal storage – it should be 900+ MB.

New Radio

Not the Bikini Kill song. The radio is software on the phone that allows you to make phone calls and use mobile Internet.

There seem to be incompatibilities between different Android releases, different custom ROMs, and different radio versions.

Radios are available from Mo Firouz’s site.

Best approach is to leave your radio alone and check if everything works with your new ROM.

  • If it does not, install the most recent radio release. SuperNova recommend you use this – version 5.17.05.23.
  • If this does not work then downgrade to version 5.09.05.30 recommended by Mo Firouz. This worked for me on Gingerbread when my current radio and the newest radio didn’t work.

Flashing the radio

This is complex. The radio as you download it cannot be loaded directly using CWM as they are only distributed in an old and incompatible format. Ignore the steps on the download page above.

You can flash the radio using fastboot. This is a hassle – there must be a better way, surely?

Guide to ADB and Fastboot for Windows.

On the PC:

  • First install the Android SDK. This will take a while as the downloads are large files.
  • Download and install the HTC fastboot drivers mentioned in the Revolutionary documentation.
  • Download your radio file and extract the radio.img file from it.
  • Reboot to HBOOT then select Fastboot from the menu.
  • Connect the phone using USB. Your phone screen should update to say ‘FASTBOOT USB’.
  • At this point you can issue commands using the ADB shell on your Windows computer.
  • Open a shell in Windows using cmd.exe. Navigate to the folder containing your radio.img file.
  • Note: online guides mention setting the system PATH variable. Don’t worry about this, you can just run the fastboot program directly.
  • Find fastboot.exe – it will be somewhere in the Android SDK folder. On my 64-bit Windows 7 machine, it’s:
c:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools\fastboot.exe
  • Flash the radio using this fastboot command:
c:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools\fastboot.exe flash radio radio.img
  • Finally reboot the phone:
c:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools\fastboot.exe reboot

Photo credit

HTC Desire‘ by Flickr user Matthias Penke, license CC BY-NC-ND.