Sunday, April 3, 2011

Creating and expressing online identity

Online Identity

The Internet and many online tools have created a new identity. This new identity is famously known as online identity. Usually, the discussion of online identity was interrelated with online community (OC). Donath (2007) explained this identity by looking to Social Networking Websites (MySpace, Orkut, and LinkedIn). Liu (2007) was looked at MySpace as well. Hodkinson (2006) contributed on analyzing used of LiveJournal by UK Goths community. Furthermore, Ploderer, Howard, and Thomas (2008) identified online identity of Bodyspace members. Based on thes readings, in my opinion, an online identity is a type of social identity generated by the internet user with: 1) forming profile’s information to be known by other users, 2) creating an image to represent the existence on the community, 3) establishing connectivity and friendship, 4) sharing some common interests, and 5) enhancing popularity and trustworthiness.

All of these five elements could be found on the Mendeley’s Groups which is our final project focus. Registered users on Mendeley have a personal profile pages. In this profile pages, users can posted their contact information, education background, photo, list of publication, etc. Using the profile page, users could enhance personal popularity and trustworthiness as a member of the community. In short, profile page of Mendeley looks like a mini resume of the user.

The primary function of Mendeley is for scholars (researchers, professors, and graduated students) to develop references. Extending from this primary function, Mendeley is used to develop online learning community and form scientific collaboration projects. There is a section in this tool for scholars to create and join group based on their common interest on sciences. In the group, scholars shared opinion and resources, popularized their publication, formed communication and collaboration on scholarly projects. In my observation, it is also been used by some college professors for their research classes purposes.

According to Wellman, Quan-Haase, Boase, Chen, Hampton, Diaz, & Miyata (2003), Internet and OCs provide a new alternative to communication. Indeed, “the Internet decreases community, transform community, and supplement community.” Connectivity and communication through the Internet available for human to connected but at the same time develop individualism. For me, hardly to contrast what stated in this article with my definition. Wellman et al (2003) ideas parallel with the social networking that I am focusing as well as my experiences on joining learning community. Internet and online communication online have enable people for having virtual conference and second life conference. In fact, present in a real-life conference is more likely chosen by professional and learning community. During the conference, participants success on maintain switch from the real-life present with their activity online. Their bodies are present in a place with the real-life conference community. At the same time, through their thumb and personal devices, they remain available for others through the Internet.

Interaction on Mendeley

The Mendeley existing users consist of graduate students, professors, and researchers. These users primary use tool for finding resources to support their scholarly work. Online and offline version are particularly useful to manage their references collection. At least there are three forms of interaction on Mendeley and its group. First, users create a profile pages and get their publication listed on the site references list. Second, users used the application create personal and share references list. Third, in a group, users have discussion, share information (references, citation, annotation, etc.), and collaborate on projects.

Using profile page on Mendeley, users introduce their scholarly journey to other users. Publications and education background listed on the profile page can be updated anytime. For earlier career scholars, this profile page is essential for developing trustworthiness of the scholarly community to them. A graduate student has a better impression for new employee when he/she applies for a job. Publication listed on the site can broaden opportunity for the work to be read and cite by other scholars. This is also another way for learning community members to increase their popularity and professional status. The first scenario has certain motif like Bodyspace community (Ploderer et al, 2008) and the Goths community (Hodkinson, 2006). The Bodyspace community could be used by members who want to attend a competition to get support. This can be assuming as a support of Mendeley for increasing their members’ professional image for a prospective employee/grantor. The Goths community support for f2f – online relationship or vice versa can be analogized to how Mendeley community form an annual meeting f2f and online.

Reference list on Mendeley can be grouped into topic. Using folders and categories, users can created reference list as convenient as they want it to be. This reference list can be created online or offline. When users go online to Mendeley, they can synchronize their online references with their offline references. Reference list created by an individual user can be shared to other users who connected as friends. By having this function, users can save time for creating their own reference list. This activity in some sense has a similarity with how SNSs members on Orkut, MySpace, Friendster (Liu, 2007; Donath, 2007) shared their music or movie collection lists.

The third scenario is about how the community members created or joined groups, have communication, shared information, and collaborated. Most of these functions are appeared the OCs discussion of prior researches. For some Mendeley user, typical motif on LiveJournal used in the Goths community (Hodkinson, 2006) is also very obvious. Probably, relationship form between users of Mendeley which has motif like relationship on the LiveJournal is used by a professor for their class purpose. There are two types of group on the Mendeley. The first type is a non-restricted membership groups. All registered members can join the group by click on “join this group” tab. The second type is restricted membership groups. A registered member has to click on “ask to join this group” tab to join this group. Approval from the group creator to become a member has to be achieve before participating on the group. On doing my research for this project, until this post up, I have not succeeded on getting approval to join any restricted-membership group. I have gotten three rejections to join groups. No reasons were given by groups’ creators for these rejections.

So far, there are four goals/interpersonal interactions which I could identify from Mendeley:

  1. Obtain appropriate resources for their works
  2. Get support from community to their project/research
  3. Know new scholars who have a same interest
  4. Popularize them self

The raising number of friends/connections and the increasing statistic on user’s page have potential to be the sunny day for Mendeley user on reaching their goals/interpersonal interactions. Generally, users who have these trends are also having regular update on publications and conference presentations. It means, besides representation online through the community, offline and real-life representation of scholarly works is also an important indicator for obtaining “sunny day” result on joining community. On the other hand, I can also observe, their failure on become success members on the site. This can be identified from members profile page which have no update at all. From an informal communication, a friend of mine has an experience losing all reference she maintained on Mendeley when she tried to synchronize the online and offline collection. This is also can be pointed as another “rainy day” of joining and using Mendeley.

How is online identity shaped and expressed through interactions in this community?

Forming professional connection and friendship though LinkedIn mentioned by Donath (2007) and sharing a common interest on Bodyspace mentioned by Ploderer et al (2008) apparently found on Mendeley. Users on the Mendeley specify distinguished into three types. These three types of users are professional who concern with scholarly activity. Friendship develop can result from offline through online or vice versa. Groups based on subject or area of interest is a sufficient evidence for showing that becoming a member of the groups has valuable chance to obtain the update of information and sharing concern and interest in the same fields or area of research.


Donath, J. (2007). Signals in social supernets. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1).

Hodkinson, P. (2006). Subcultural blogging? Online journals and groups involvement among UK Goths. In Burns A., and Jacobs J. Uses of blogs. New York: Peter Lang, 187 – 199.

Liu, H. (2007). Social networks profiles as taste performances. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1).

Plodeerer, B., Horward, S., Thomas, P. (2008). Being online, living offline: The influence of social ties over the appropriation of social network sites. Proceeding of CSCW 2008.

Wellman, B., Quan-Haase, A., Boase, J., Chen, W., Hampton, K., Diaz, I., Miyata, K. (2003). The social affordances of the Internet for networked individualism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8(3).


Chris said...

Nice post & thanks for introducing me to the SNS Mendeley. It seems like a useful tool for academics -- these circles are generally small and I can see how it would be useful to be part of an online learning community in a particular field of study. I can also see how it is useful to post a resume online that links to publications (esp. for academics who publish all the time!) - what's the point of handing someone a hard copy of your resume with a list of publications? Sort of outdated & pointless, I'd say. I also like how you characterized this site as a blend of 'linkedin' (forming professional relationships) and 'Bodysculpt' (interfacing with others who share a passion) - this seems to make a lot of sense for this SNS. Great job!

Rich Gazan said...

You distinguished the Mendeley community very well from Bodyspace and the Goth community in the readings, but pointed out some useful parallels as well. It may not seem natural to think of UK Goths as a learning community in the same way Mendeley is, but the types of information people seek and share do express identity in comparable ways.

A note about your rainy day scenario--while abandoned profiles and technical breakdowns such as difficulty synchronizing online and offline collections definitely qualify as legitimate use scenarios, those are the sorts of things that can happen on any site. It's generally more useful to focus on something people hope to get that is more unique to the site your studying--perhaps for Mendeley that's a measure of trustworthiness--and build your scenario around this. Still, fine post!

Andrea said...

I use Mendeley Desktop to track references, but I didn't realize what an extensive SNS it had behind it. I'll have to check it out - I agree that building relationships among scholarly peers is important but difficult to do when you are at different institutions. I wonder if people spend more time perfecting their profile identity on professional sites like this and LinkedIn or on social sites like Facebook? Thanks for the post!

HansomeAvatar said...

@Chris: For people who have carrier in education like me, publication list in a resume is important to show your project and your commitment to the point of interest in your field.

@Rich: Thank you for the suggestions. It's help me a lot on doing the final project.

@Andrea: serious SNSs will move slower in reaching participant than leisure SNSs. This is also a challenge for serious SNSs to make it site interesting for users. Looking forward to hear your experience on joining Mendeley SN.

There was an error in this gadget