Several people in the CCK08 massively online course on Connectivism and Connected knowledge have been discussing online identity, self and reputation. One of the interesting points is about how engaged you can feel when dealing with an avatar (graphical or textual) which has obviously been designed as an ephemeral presence purely for a particular purpose. If there is no back history available, can you feel a sense of trust? How does this work with people who are invisible online - do you feel you can trust someone who either has no online presence or who has set privacy settings "to the max" so all you can see is that they exist? How much does this vary between different knowledge domains and social circles?
I am heavily "in" to online communication and eLearning. I have a web presence (a fairly strong one) in which I am deliberately quite open. Some of the things I say probably make some people think I am stupid/arrogant/rude (take your pick), but other people seem to appreciate me for who I am. I actually made a decision a long time ago to 'adopt a mask' which was a bigger version of myself. Originally this was to cope with being really quite shy, and it was before personal computers, let alone the internet. It is an aspect of roleplaying and of personal development which has served me quite well - but interestingly, although I am open on the web, I tend to adopt a slightly smaller mask. Though some may not believe it, I hold back quite often, and keep some opinions to myself.
I have multiple online identities and although most are not as well tended as they once were, I do 'keep in touch' with them - to me they are all small parts of my identity, and I don't abandon them or the connections they have made with other people. At least, for the most part - a couple of ones have truly fallen by the wayside as my interest in the area waned - none of them have been particularly 'short term'.
One of the things which lessened my interest in CCK08 was an influx of people (or person?) using versions of names of ancient philosophers. Now, I am perfectly happy with people assuming avatars in online environments, and more than happy to chat to both philosophers and dead people, but somehow this, coupled with (to me) rather predicatable nonsense posts put me off somewhat. There was never going to be a connection with these people, such as I might find in an online game (even a brief hour long 1:1 battle in some RTS provides more connection with an opponent than these people are making possible in an educational setting, in my opinion)
Originally posted at http://thisisme.reading.ac.uk/pg/blog/PatParslow/read/47/discussions-on-...