What strikes me about these activities in light of our ongoing dialogue in our working group is that students have a fairly fleshed out understanding of when and why we cite something when they participate in this social space Boyd describes. Exactly what they're doing and why they're doing it elude me (thus, the reason I'm reading the book); I suspect it has more to do with digital identity construction than I'll ever fathom. But the currency that they exchange in this environment is clear enough: hyperlinked information. Whether it's a tag, a shortened URL, or a thumbnail on a wall, the essential thing is that a reference is made to something else that matters to them. And this seems to me to be quite close to the reasons why we cite in the academy. Ideas matter to us; they help us to erect our own theoretical frameworks on which we hang our meaning.In this comparison, participating in social media is a very low threshold environment where students publish their thoughts, often in reference to others', and in so doing create a digital presence that at some point becomes an identity.
If these are as similar as I'm proposing, we should expect students to come to terms with the scholarly cycle relatively easily. And yet I'm still unable to overcome the fact that a number of our FYS students struggled with fundamental aspects of the research process, especially where locating and citing sources was concerned. Despite our best efforts to calibrate our instruction over two years and the FYS instructors' use in class of the handbook we wrote, it feels as if there's a roadblock that's preventing some students from experiencing the shift in perspective from a world of sharing to a world of citing.
Reading the characteristics that Boyd lists as common to networked publics is akin to listing many of the characteristics of scholarly citations in a web environment:
- Persistence: the durability of online expressions and content;
- Visibility: the potential audience who can bear witness;
- Spreadability: the ease with which content can be shared; and
- Searchability: the ability to find content. (11)
If, as Boyd argues, teenagers exist in a social world that is removed from what previous generations knew, is it fair to ask whether they have mental models they have developed in their digital lives that are both parallel and contrary to the citing and synthesizing process? If so, could this antinomy between sharing/referring in social media and citing in the research process interfere in ways that prevent them from entering the scholarly cycle and finding their role in it?
I'm in no position at the moment to begin addressing these questions in this space, should they even be valid, but they leave me feeling somewhat unsettled nonetheless. On the one hand, digital identity formation feels important enough that we should be having a critical discourse about it as it relates to how students engage their world. I imagine that we will be soon as a whole in higher ed. And, on the other, what is needed is a transformation where 'the student experiences a total shift in perspective' but our strengths seem to lie in the realm of integration where we guide students down the path to "bring[ing] disparate concepts into a unified whole" ("The Future of the Standards"). The new model that I've attempted to elucidate above simply lacks room for a co-pilot from the student perspective so I'm left questioning what our place at the table might look like going forward.