Looking back, looking forward

8 07 2010

As we come to the end of this module and I reflect on the key texts in relation to my blog. The issue of identity stands out. The name of my blog and the themes (confusing as they appear) are in congruence with my whole question of identity  – Who am I? How do I see myself? What and who do I blog about? As I discussed in my early blog – jack of all

Multiple Identities

Merchant’s paper on identity, social networks and online communication deals with how we play out different identities through  social interaction online.   Though most often (as was with me) there is consistency between both what he calls ‘virtual’ and ‘real world’ identities. So inspite of having the same identity in both spaces for me,  it is still an illusion as I do not really have one identity as I have discussed over and over. Is this just me or do other people have the same questions? This is in keeping with Merchant’s discussion

we have this illusion of being one person for all, of having a personality that is unique in all our acts. But it isn’t true. (Pirandello, [1921] 1995)

Throughout his work, Pirandello suggests that each one of us has many different possibilities of being and that, although we imagine some sort of unity, we are actually different in each different social situation

This made me reflect on my multiple identities that I have blogged about –  family, photography, writing, culture, expat living, parenting, educational theory, online culture etc etc

The ideas of anchored and transient identities he discusses were also inter changeable for me as I have been moving and changing roles and careers. Now all my many lives and identities both anchored and transient are colliding in the online space, as I am ‘friends’ with people from the different stages of my life – extended family, school, college, peers, colleagues, friends, children’s friends, children’s friends’ parents, online classmates etc etc. This brings me to who am I writing for? Who is the audience for my blog and in social media like Facebook? Who are we writing for? our peers and tutors on this course? My ‘friends’ on Facebook or the wider audience that the internet provides. Which brings me to issues of

Privacy and Identity threat

Merchant and McCullagh both discuss the fear and hype to do with issues of privacy and there being stalkers and ‘weirdos’ out there in cyber space. However they both agree that the bigger threats are in real life than online. In my online identities I have maintained basic privacy settings by not disclosing address, tel no etc. However I have tried to be more trusting of the audience for my blog in the wider web 2.0 world. Most likely no one is reading it other than my peers on my course and a few friends on facebook.

I believe the web 2.0 is about building community, sharing knowledge and ideas. It has empowered us to publish, share and learn from each other. I believe more in the freedom of expression reason for blogging where I have been motivated to blog to communicate. My blog is more about the issues Brady discusses as motivation to blog – building chronicles of everyday life, expressing opinions to influence others, seeking others’ opinions and feedback, thinking by writing, releasing of emotional tension. As I look back and reflect on my blog over the last couple of months, I have been motivated by each of those reasons.

However as I look ahead I am keen to explore areas of civic participation and online activism that we have discussed in our readings and which I mentioned in my early blog too. Lets see how that goes. Watch this space!


Our online lives

23 06 2010

These four articles I felt were relevant to some of the issues we have been discussing in our classes and readings.

The first was about Big brother watching. How large corporations are controlling the data and the information. Are they also controlling us?

The second was about our brains being rewired and re organised with the amount of time we spend online. Is family lifechanging and evolving as we spend more time online than face to face with friends and family? Are we addicted? Are the gadgets and the technology controlling us?

The third was about the whole idea of blogging, who blogs, why do we blog, who do we blog for? who actually reads blogs? Are bloggers blogging for themselves  or an audience? how do you develop an identity, an audience etc though your blog? This story is about the blogger who was predicting problems for the Euro and impending European economic doom.  He says he was just sending out messages into blogsophere no one was listening, when his predictions came true, he is now a celebrity and consulting on economic issues. Can we raise awareness? Bring change through our blogs?

The last one was a human interest story about how social media did help during the volcanic ash to reunite a desperate daughter with a stranded mother. It gives us hope that as humans (and bloggers) we can make a change, a difference, using new media and social networking.

Online Activism and Civic Participation

15 06 2010

When I read the article about Political Communication – Civic Engagement and Technology, the first thing that struck me was the date the article was published – July 2008. Hence it was researched just before the famous Obama online campaign reached fruition as it  discusses earlier US Presidential campaigns. In two years, the article already seemed dated to me, it was a ‘generation’ ago in terms of data and facts that are relevant. Another reminder of how fast the space is changing and how fast we as educators need to evolve and change.

Obama’s famous grassroots campaign managed to mobilise vast numbers of youth that got him to the White House in November that year. ( It is also now rumoured that he needs to continue to use the online space to inspire youth to support him as he battles troubled times – another whole issue that I don’t know enough to blog about here anyway!)

As I researched Obama’s online campaign which I felt had used the new media for civic engagement successfully,  I was struck by  how well he had  made it  all work for him, his own interactive website, his campaign on twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

This article summarises his online success with today’s youth, and also mentions university websites that are being used for civic participation and education.

It says:

A lot of young voters much preferred Obama (68 per cent) over John McCain (30 per cent).

Obama captured more than 50 per cent of the vote of 18 to 29 year old in nearly every primary contest to date.

One could say that Obama’s campaign was accurate in focusing on the youth and moved them by showing them that they could be part of the change he advocated for.

I was reminded of a personal experience of Obama’s successful use of web 2.0 technologies. He used YouTube to wish Hindus and Indians a Happy Diwali. It had appealed to me when I saw it shared by my friends on Facebook.

The other issues I struggled with – was the Civic Engagement article seemed to stress ‘teaching’ instead of ‘learning’. As a student of contemporary education theories, I have realised that for education to be relevant, students need to take control of their own learning. This article again was using an earlier paradigm of educational theory  i.e teaching v/s learning. The article lists strategies and theories for pedagogy and participation which I felt were irrelevant as students needed to take control and use the web effectively for civic participation.

Having been recently converted and a new believer to social-constructivism theories in education for learning and assessment. I believe students need to take control of their own learning and become ‘active learners’, learning with and from each other in social groups to deepen their understanding by sharing and questioning each other and their teachers. In fact social networks already provide them with a platform for creating groups, identities, getting feedback and support from each other that can effectively lead to civic participation. As we have discussed earlier, students are already living a large part of the lives online and felt it was the first place they would go for civic participation as well. Students can so easily use current online tools and social networks to make a positive change.

In conclusion, I thought this article was well written, however the research focused on sites that were more teacher-led where students needed to be taught. It focussed on ‘active pedagogy’ instead of  ‘active learning’ which I felt would be more relevant.  I found it incomplete in some ways as they consciously eliminated  social networks from the research study, which I believe offer powerful tools for students  for civic participation.  Hence I felt it was written in a different paradigm that I did not find relevant to my current beliefs about student learning – online and in the classroom, as well as, bigger relevant issues about how we can use the web to inspire students to engage with  civic issues to make a change that can affect them – they need to believe they can!

Still miss you everyday Daddy – to my father Albert Mendonca 4 April 1925 – 5 June 2006

8 06 2010

It has taken me four whole years to the day, to begin to write this. I think of him and miss him everyday. I did manage to blog about Mummy on her first death anniversary, but  have not been able to write about Daddy, till today. I have so many  good memories, so many good things to say, but have never been able to find the right words to say them. As I think about him again, today, as I do everyday, for the last four years, I think maybe it is time… I wonder when the hurt will go away?  Even as I bang away on the keyboard of my laptop, four years later, I can barely see the words as the tears keep streaming down my cheeks.  I keep telling myself, as I did, everyone, when I spoke at his funeral – to celebrate his life and not mourn his death. I have been trying to do that everyday but I do still miss him.

I think I miss him the most every time I watch sports, especially cricket, football and tennis. I could call him at any hour of the night and knew he would answer the phone on the second ring and talk about the game. He loved sports. He was a phenomenal sportsman himself (from all that we have heard and read about from all his year books and prizes and certificates) and very knowledgeable. I even lost my interest in following those sports for a while there, since Daddy was no longer there to chat with about them. I think of him every time I do watch a game, and wonder what he would have said about it. He taught me all I know about understanding those three sports – the rules and nuances of the game. My husband and son are fanatic sports fans too and do welcome  my company when they are watching games, they even generously  humour me with my incessant questions and suggestions.

I will never forget what a friend said the day Daddy died: “I wish he could have lived just another couple of weeks, he could have watched the French Open finals and the World Cup“. We agreed then, as I believe now, that he is watching it anyway, on a bigger, better screen in heaven or maybe even live at the ground. Daddy had watched the French Open through all his pain till the very last day. I think of him every year during the French Open and then this year of course the World Cup is round the corner again. I wish he could have visited me in London and seen Lords and Wimbledon and the Emirates stadium and all the other big football  grounds. I hoped he was there while I was thinking of him on my tours and watching the games at the grounds.

The other big hole for me was I missed him through my long and torturous journey of building that house in Goa. As everyone, who knows me, knows how painful that whole experience has been. It was pretty much all I ever talked  about for the last  four or five years. Was it more  painful because Daddy was not there to help me and I was left to figure it out on my own. Daddy enjoyed seeing the plans and was excited and keen to supervise the construction. That was his passion, his livelihood, his calling – building! As much as I hated it, he loved it, I needed his help to supervise that construction, but it was not to be. I was on my own. It was awful. As I often say it was Bharat’s dream that he hung on to, and I tried to share, while I lived the  nightmare. I hated it, hated every meeting, every decision, every challenge, every disaster, every plan and revised plan. I wonder if i hated it more because Daddy was not there and i was stumbling along on my own? I guess he was ‘supervising’ the construction as the house is almost done, we are 98% there and I have survived. The first thing everyone who visits or sees the pictures and knows Daddy says” wish he was here to see it, he would have loved it.”

The other time i always miss Daddy and  this may sound trivial, but is important to me is when I have to pack or unpack a suitcase, a box,  a carton anything. I hate packing and am just useless at it,  Daddy always packed for me. Bharat did takeover the responsibility the day we got married and recently Kunal has been stepping up to the plate and packing my suitcase but i do still miss daddy. I could go on and on and list a long list of pathetic things I should be able to do on my own as a forty – something woman without the help of my father but i can’t and i don’t and i hate doing them and wish daddy was there to help me.

As always, I have gone on and on about me. This was supposed to be about Daddy. My father was a  quiet, charming, gentle man, but that was only on first glance, once you got to know him better, he had a fabulous dry sense a humour, and  could be an incorrigible tease. At the same time, he was a sage, he always had great advice, a listening ear and a warm heart. He was extremely knowledgeable about so many things and though he was a man of few carefully chosen words (What chance did he have poor man, really, living with three outspoken women!) He was a great friend and so many people tell me  stories about how they remember him, the good times they shared, the laughs, his wicked sense of humour and dry jokes.  I guess he had a universal cross generation appeal as he would not just tease his own family and friends but all Ingrid and my friends and also the younger kids Mithika and Raahil’s friends, who all remember him fondly. He thoroughly enjoyed his glass of whisky and a good party. He was a strong family man, a pillar of society, the church and the community. He did more than his bit to help everyone he could.

If he was a great father and a fantastic friend, he was the perfect husband. And I do not say this lightly as I saw my parents live through almost 50 years of happily married life. No man will do for his wife and look after his wife the way daddy looked after mummy. This is not just me speaking as an idealist, over indulged and indulgent daughter. I have been told this by family, friends, neighbours, well wishers, strangers. While Mummy battled with the worst form of disease – Alzheimer’s for almost 15 years (I recently read this article which hopefully could give the rest of us survivors, some hope), Daddy nursed her with undying love. He looked at her with the same love and attention even when she was no longer the same person. He cared for her, spoke to her like she knew him. He loved her. He was not human he was a saint. I have heard Daddy called a saint by so many people that I know it is true. It was so hard to watch her suffer, and yet reassuring to see their love endure. He was true to her for better and for a lot worse. Though we will never know if she knew us and him for many years before she finally passed away, she deteriorated very fast  after he went. Maybe through her Alzheimer riddled brain she could still feel the love, he was her anchor and once he was gone, she withered away and joined him just a few months after. Emotionally there was a connection, a bond, between them that was so special.

Daddy suffered everyday as Mummy deteriorated  before his eyes.  That was certainly more than enough suffering and pain for such a good man. That’s why I find it so hard to understand how a caring and forgiving God put Daddy through so much more physical pain. He did not deserve to suffer physically anymore than he had already suffered emotionally. Daddy was diagnosed with the most painful kind of cancer pancreatic cancer in early 2006 and was gone by early June. It was an awful, painfully long five months. Pancreatic cancer is terminal and so terribly painful and hopeless as there is virtually no treatment or cure  that  Randy Pausch made famous for his Last lecture said it would have been better news to hear that he had AIDS than pancreatic cancer

(This video is worth watching for a number of reasons not just in the context of pancreatic cancer as it can give some perspective to our lives)

I could go on and on lamenting my father’s painful end, but it would be just self-indulgent. I am writing today in celebration of his life. I have been blessed with a wonderful family. I am eternally grateful and forever indebted  to my incredible big sister Ingrid  who took both our ailing parents into her own home and nursed them with love and care through so many tough times, hospital visits, failing health and daily disasters. She and her wonderful, patient husband and two kids were a unbeliveable support to both my parents. Daddy was lucky, he died at home, surrounded by loving family and friends,  as he wanted, not in a cold hospital bed with strangers,  poked and prodded with tubes and needles. I believe Daddy died a content man knowing he was well- loved and well- respected within his own family and across the wider community he influenced. He is fondly remembered and sorely missed by his extended family and large circle of friends. His legacy lives on in all his four grandchildren, each of them have a little part of him that is an everyday reminder of a wonderful man. And his legacy lives on, as Divya reminds me in his formidable eyebrows too, that sadly, both my children have inherited!

Family and Friends v/s Friends on Facebook

31 05 2010

When the reading for this week’s class was about teenagers finding themselves and their friends on facebook  and the article in this morning’s IHT was about friends on Facebook, I felt i needed to blog about my own experiences and feelings about Facebook. But I know I do go on and on, so am just making two points here.

The differences between friends on FB for adults and for teenagers

Both the articles raised issues that I have been grappling with (along with the rest of the world, I suppose), about how Facebook has redefined what you call a friend and who you call a friend. The Boyd reading defined friends as an “intended audience” which I think is relevant to both teenagers and adults. And the IHT article spoke about friends on facebook being conversations you strike up at both a cocktail party and a dinner party. They each have a different role and a different value in your life.

Though I do sometimes worry about the things we say and do and who are our friends on FB, as opposed to “our friends” in our real lives! This BBC video does make a valid point.

As an adult, and as I have mentioned before, living as an expat, facebook has been wonderful. It is an easy, fun tool that has allowed me to get in touch with and stay in touch with friends from different stages in my life. From school, college, colleagues from my first second, third and every subsequent job, the parents of my children’s friends etc. I have always tried to embrace technology and have been an early adaptor.

Issues of power and control

The Boyd reading raised questions about how educators are still grappling with the use, if any, of social networks in the classroom. Are they a natural fit? or are we trying to force fit them into the classroom? Maybe they are just that – social networks, not another technology tool for educators to bring to the classroom.  Can we use social networks in the classroom or do they  bring social issues into the classroom that we don’t really want there?

Boyd also talks about how social networks are not all bad. Not something we as parents and educators need to control and manage. It is about teenagers being teenagers and finding out who they are and who they want to be. It  is about living, about manoeuvring the space to their social advantage, the same as a high school cafeteria. Can we as parents and educators allow them to manage it themselves and step back? Not try to control and force our paradigms and our boundaries and rules on them.

In conclusion,  as I said before, my husband and two teenage children are all technologically savvy, we are all on FB. However we are all not eachothers friends on FB, inspite of FB using every tool to get us all to ‘friend’ and ‘familise’ each other on FB, we have stayed away. It started off with my kids not wanting me to spy on them and control them. However, it has ended up with me  being able to let go and let them manage and manoeuvre the space themselves, allowing them to hopefully  find themselves, their friends and try on their identities in the world, and in the FB world, without my stalking them. I do believe, we are a family, even if we are not a family on FB.

Even though I don’t agree with Dunbar who says you need only 150 friends I do agree with him, as quoted in the IHT article, when I think about my own family “that digital resources help us keep in touch but fail to substitute for face-to-face relationships with loved ones who are sources of mutual support in a flesh-and-blood world.

As Fransecky says, I want to smell and sniff them.

About education, about identity…

26 05 2010

I do love TED Talks and I do love Ken Robinson’s TED talks. I sometimes worry if TED Talks could be my ‘addiction’ that Brady talks about.

Robinson again ( I loved his 2006 TED talks do schools kill creativity), made me both laugh and cry. He discussed two issues that were close to me.

1. Identity –  I have blogged about before, what am i passionate about? What are my talents?  what do i really want to do be?

2. Education – How our education system is not helping us or our children. I reflected on how my own education was totally wrong for who I am and what I want to be. But he made me even more concerned about my own children’s education. Robinson uses a food restaurant analogy and talks about how our education system is the ‘fast food’ version, instead of the gourmet customised version, that we need for our children.

How can we work/help to revolutionise our education systems so not to tread on our children’s dreams?

Reflections on Blogging

22 05 2010

As I reflected on the readings this one spoke to me about why I blog, all the issues stated below were true about why I blog. It  helps me to think and reflect. It is about both communication and self expression. The feedback and comments definitely give me recognition of both my ideas and thoughts but also about myself and my beliefs.

As I mentioned in an earlier  ‘identity‘ blog I have lived away from ‘home’ for 17 years now and my blog helps me to stay in touch with family and friends  across the world. It also helps me to question issues and to make a statement about things I feel strongly about.

I know what my blog posts lack are developing links to others, photos, visuals, videos, websites etc and hence have lost this opportunity to build community. I hope to develop those through this class.


CWP-2006-17-blog-motivations.doc The motivations listed in Nardi et al’s paper were:

• Building chronicles of everyday events that serve to update others on bloggers’ lives

• Expressing opinions to influence others

• Seeking others’ opinions and feedback

• Thinking by writing (which Nardi et al. point out is a social exercise)

• Releasing of emotional tension

These motivations highlight both the intake of information as well as the output of information from the blogger, showing that sharing is an important theme in people’s motivations to blog. These social motivations to blog have a basis in Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy. The third and fourth-level needs in the hierarchy focus on relationships with others. The third level is about maintaining emotional relationships with others and this is a large part of blogging, and of the motivations listed by Nardi et al (2004). The fourth level is about gaining recognition from others in an effort to promote one’s self-value. Again, Nardi et al’s list of motivations match up. Building chronicles of everyday events is a way to keep in touch with people which serves to maintain relationships and bolster self-esteem. Expressing opinions as well as seeking other’s opinions and  feedback are also ways to strengthen self-esteem through gaining recognition.