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This content is taken from the University of York's online course, Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds So these days when we want to present ourselves, we make friends, talk to our families, engage with our communities, we very often do it through modern communications technologies. The way that we use technologies – the technologies that we have – are all important parts of our identity. But a key issue is that we do a lot of what we might call our identity work online. We present ourselves in particular ways. We engage with people, perhaps locally or perhaps around the world. We might talk about the performance of identity, and in sociology there’s a long line of research into the performance of identity. And these days we perform ourselves, we might say, online.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds So when we talk about digital literacies, we’re really talking about the skills to present ourselves in particular ways; to convey ourselves as certain kinds of people. We’re also talking about the kind of social networks that we have – our identity in relation to other people; the groups we engage with; how we present ourselves politically, let’s say, for example. So digital literacy is very much wrapped up into contemporary forms of identity and performance. So we could say it’s absolutely important – very important – that we have those necessary skills. And we might feel left behind – introverted (in those psychological terms) – if we don’t have those necessary skills.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds And so digital literacy is becoming more and more important in contemporary society. It’s noticeable that people of a certain age, for example, who don’t have those contemporary skills feel that they are not included in contemporary life. And that has some very real consequences for society.

Digital identities and capabilities

As we’ve seen from the Visitors and Residents analogy, digital technology and identity can often be intertwined. But does our online identity differ from our offline persona? We present ourselves in particular ways in different contexts, in what might be described as the performance of identity, and this extends to the online world. Indeed, our digital literacies are being employed to better present ourselves in a particular way to our online social networks. In this video, Dr Darren Reed explores this topic in more detail.

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This video is from the free online course:

Becoming a Digital Citizen: an Introduction to the Digital Society

University of York