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You and Barrack Obama

October 12, 2012

McLuhan said  “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” 

Jill Walker Rettberg, (see References) experienced the power of this when she received, from the travel site Dopplr , a personalised annual report of her travels customised into a one-page visualization. Dopplr also included, for a bit of fun, a link to a blog post titled ‘Dopplr presents the Personal Annual Report …. freshly generated for you, and Barack Obama’ so Rettberg, and others could compare their travel with Obama’s.

Rettberg was fascinated. As she said  “no social network site had sent me such a portrait of my life before – and as a researcher of social media I’ve signed up to dozens of social network sites. By organizing my data in this way, Dopplr created a story for me, a representation of an aspect of my life.”

I remember in class when I discovered the third party tool ‘inmaps’ on LinkedIn which showed me a graphical representation of my own LinkedIn network. It was intriguing and I imagine is offered in the belief that seeing your network can help you to use it better.
Now sharpened, my perception, allows me to notice people everywhere using social media to create narratives of their lives.  For example: A narrative of 52 Sydney suburbs  or by the same blogger 52 suburbs around the worldLife Narratives on Pinterest, or Slideshare or professional narratives like the  creative job application or public relations narratives or political narratives like  Obama vs RomneyRettberg’s article discusses the ways in which social media help us craft the narratives of our lives.

So what do you think?  Is social media helping to give you a different perspective on the narratives of your life?  

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine - rethinkingmusings permalink
    October 13, 2012 1:38 PM

    Thanks for that Roxanne! Great tip about the inmaps. But then I did spend far too much time on the 52 suburbs blog. Love the idea about illustrating the narratives of one’s life. In a similar vein, have you seen the Missed Connections blog?

    Stories have always been one of the most powerful ways we learn, and share. So to be able not only to create narratives of our lives, but to illustrate them, and share them with each other. Nice to remember this as well as some of the darker side.

    • October 14, 2012 3:25 AM

      No I hadn’t seen the missed connections ny blog but will check it out now you have shared it ..thanks. I love NY so any chance to connect with that fab city is great. Talking stories about our lives, a friend of mine is a foodie and she always keeps a note in her diary (old media I know) of restaurants she goes to or dinner parties show hosts to remember things like who was there, what they ate, and what people liked or didn’t like this habit of hers means very easily she can recall details of her life that in mine are really quickly forgotten and to your point when she recalls those details it is like being told a story and often I’m transported straight back to back to event she is describing and of course get to experience it all over again…I’m often reminded of that theory we learnt Foundations, ‘phenomenology’ I think is is and I am intrigued by the way some of the stories are changing over time and of course amazed at the details she remembers but I don’t and vice versa…thanks again for visiting and taking the time to comment

      • October 15, 2012 10:22 AM

        I thought I was the only fan of ‘phenomenology’ after the first course! Highly recommend a watch of ABC Four Corners from tonight on iView- the damage to the Lance Armstrong brand……so sad

  2. October 13, 2012 10:33 PM

    Interesting insight Roxanne, the whole idea of the Self and creating of this Self. I could certainly agree that social media has put a fresh perspective on my personal relationships and my life. I feel like I am constantly telling the story of my life online! To be honest though, sometimes it is only my projected Self and not necessarily the “real me”…and I find that this is how some of the people I know choose to create narratives with their groups. It offers you the power of choice to be able to discuss what is and what is not relevant to you.

    • October 14, 2012 3:10 AM

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Priya. I agree with you about being able to chose what is relevant or not. Also like your point about the projected self. I am certainly sharing some things about myself by doing the blogging and the posting for the course but I know I am still a little cautious about it, not quite sure why. Maybe comes back to the introvert thing. For example sometimes I don’t comment or comment much because I think others have already made such good points what could I add?

  3. October 14, 2012 1:14 AM

    Hi Roxanne, my social media use has crept up on my over the last five years and become quite a natural part of my life, so I hadn’t really experienced what I would call any profound revelations! I remember going to the easter show a few years ago with a friend and we were wandering past the scrap-booking displays in the craft pavillion. My friend, Alistair made the comment that the books were like an offline version of myspace (yep this was a long time ago). I’ve always thought that was a funny little observation of how social media is embedded in our lives.

    • October 14, 2012 3:02 AM

      Nice analogy to the scrap book Louise. And I can tell social media is a natural part of your life now as that is how you use it ..very naturally ..your posts remind me of the three RRRs we heard from the guest speaker the other night, relaxed, real and relevant .. I think that is what the were ..something I aspire to.

  4. October 14, 2012 9:17 AM

    Hi Roxanne, great topic! I do love a good illustration or visualisation – and I think for me personally, choosing Facebook over Myspace in my teen years was in large part due to the control I could exercise over it, the aesthetics (much less cluttered) and the varying facets of my personality that tied into it – tagging/untagging, groups, pages, ‘likes’, etc. Superficial though it may be, that control (though of course one needs to be very vigilant with that nowadays, with privacy settings changing constantly!) was very much a part of how I structured my own persona and narrative, or dictated how I’d put my best face forward.

    • October 14, 2012 9:57 AM

      Excellent example Tabitha. It sounds like you have a very good handle on your own online persona as you say. Bet you are glad you chose facebook. Thanks for taking the time to comment

  5. October 15, 2012 3:18 AM

    Hi Roxanne – have really enjoyed the exploration on branding and social media, so much so that I wrote my first assignment on the topic! (Specifically, I looked at Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to explore both the liberative potential for empowerment and self growth, whilst also interrogating some of the critical views including the perceived lack of authenticity and increasingly commercial motivations that are influencing the crafting of online identities.) If you have not had enough of the topic and need more journal articles to read, let me know and I’ll shoot across the reference list! I should also thank you for sharing the online article “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism” by Christine Rosen in this blog. Although ultimately I did not agree with some of the conclusions drawn in that piece, there were some really interesting observations in the paper such as when Rosen questions whether social media is delivering on its potential to provide us with a “surer sense of who we are and where we belong”. One highly contentious article relevant to your blog that I found was written by two marketers Harris and Rae who claim that “The ‘digital divide’ between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in the developed world is now less about access to the web than it is about understanding how to actively participate in the networked society. Someone who has the skills, time and confidence to navigate and manage the online chaos and develop a personal brand will gain access to new career opportunities, find audiences for their work, or enrich the lives of others. Those without such initiative risk being marginalized or left behind”. I’m sure if we had more time this would further enliven discussions and debates on the construction of personal identity online and the digital divide for many more weeks and months!

    • October 15, 2012 5:43 AM

      Excellent points as always Kerry. I must say before this course I was in danger and still am to some extent of being marginalised and left behind. Not because I don’t have access but because I was not particpating and your don’t develop skills, and confidence by being a spectator. So I’ll defintley read the article and thanks for stopping by to make your comments.

    • October 16, 2012 11:38 AM

      Hi Kerry (and Roxanne). I just couldn’t resist commenting on your digital divide reference Kerry, where there is danger in being marginalised because of not knowing “how to participate in the networked society”. If this assignment has taught us anything it is how to use the tools and how to engage, so that’s a bonus. And I have really impressed by both of your blog topics and inspired to think about my own narrative. Which is sadly lacking in the social media sphere!

      • October 17, 2012 4:10 AM

        I am sure that a number of us are going to be at a loss in a couple of weeks when we finish up our Masters! I am sure that with our collective intelligence we can come up with a great research paper on the topics we’ve covered – I certainly noticed when I was researching the first assignment there is a dearth of literature looking at LinkedIn for example!

  6. October 15, 2012 3:45 AM

    Roxanne – here is the link to the Harris and Rae paper, well worth a read it’s only a few pages. Harris, L., & Rae, A. 2011, “Building a personal brand through social networking.” Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 32, no. 5, pp. 14-21

  7. October 17, 2012 11:46 AM

    Hi Kerry and Maree you’ve got great ideas there about continuing the journey we have started. I ‘m very happy to do so and in some ways it would be sad not to. Also I’m very sure I need the practice and experience. Roxanne 🙂


  1. Writing the self « rethinkingmusings

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