The Other Side of Lurking Part Two, searching for explanations, digital imposter syndrome or digital self-efficacy?

9mage of a duck peeping over the edge of a cliff

In Part One of The Other Side of Lurking, I wrote about the #HEdigID #OEP discussion (13/07/18) on Twitter. Every day this week something new has been added to the debate. It’s good to talk.  Lurking risks being side-lined by the rhetoric of innovation and transformation. Let’s face it – digital shyness or resistance are usually less attention grabbing headlines.

Conclusions validate lurking as learning. It’s a valid strategy. So lurking’s not a problem, right?

…but if it’s your virtual environment and you’re dealing with silence, it can’t be ignored. Lurking flies in the face of everything we’re told 21st century education should be, namely active. We’re well versed in communities of practice and inquiry, zones of proximal development, social, cognitive and teaching presences, and so on – and they all require interaction.

Networks need people, don’t they?

We’re schooled to see communication and collaboration as the heart of active learning yet the data says otherwise. Whether we measure with Nielsen’s 90% or Pareto’s 80% non-participation rates – consumption without contribution is rife and suggests most of us are comfortable with digital isolation.

Are we creating a problem which doesn’t exist?

an office full of empty chairs

The scenario is familiar. I set up an online discussion, but no one used it, so I didn’t do it again.

Lurking can’t be ignored. Digital silence speaks but what is it saying?

Are the students ok or have they disappeared?

Are they managing their learning or are they struggling?

We wouldn’t run a seminar in silence.

image showing a group of sparrows

I need to know lurking better.

My research is about digital shifts. How staff who teach and support learning conceptualise their practice in a digital age. What influences individual attitudes and behaviours.  Data suggests the permanence of digital publication is frequently feared. Once words are in the public domain, they’re gone. No longer under control, let loose in an open arena, exposed to the responses of others and risking – many people believe – potential ridicule.

Damn Twitter’s lack of an Edit function. But its more than seeing carefully crafted ideas spoiled by typos. What if the ideas themselves are flawed in some way. What if you’ve used an incorrect reference, or inappropriate word or phrase. Worse, what if you’ve misunderstood the question or the reading, Suppose, just suppose, your thoughts are deemed incorrect and you’ve exposed your lack of knowledge about key concepts to the world.

image of a goldfish flying out of a glass of waer

From data collected over the years:

…what if I look foolish.

…what if I’m wrong.

…what if people think I’m stupid

The fear is once your words are out there you can’t get them back.

Sun, Rau, and Ma, (2014) categorise lurkish behaviours and under ‘personal dispositions’ they cite self-efficacy.  This is the inner turmoil which influences attitudes and behaviours. Jerome Bruner described it as ‘people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives” (1994: 2)

Self-efficacy is our individual motivation driver. High self-efficacy fires you into action, underpinned by the ability to push yourself forward, believing you can achieve whereas low self-efficacy results in fear. It will come as no surprise, those with low self-efficacy have more self-doubt, spending inordinate amounts of time imagining 101 obstacles and 1001 possibilities of error.

They feel the fear and don’t do it.

person hiding underneath cushions

A quick google search brings up connections between self-efficacy and technology. Where there’s tech there’s emotion. Liz Bennett at the University of Huddersfield has written about the emotional work involved when adopting digital practices.  Technophobia might not be a top ten phobia  but fear of public embarrassment before students is a common deterrent.

cartoon showing a person facing angry technology with the caption The Battle we all Face

I’ve heard of academics not using PowerPoint in case the computer won’t switch on, and how many times have you seen a presenter unable to open their presentation because the file’s on their desktop, 100 miles away, or they can’t find it on their data stick.

It happens. Don’t laugh. Fear is real.

Lurking may be a valid learning strategy for some, but for others it’s looking like digital shyness.

In popular psychology there’s a condition called Imposter Syndrome (IS). This is about successful people feeling they’re frauds, believing it’s luck rather than skill or ability that’s got them where they are, and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds out. People with IS live in continual dread of making mistakes which they fear will expose them.

triangle with the words Fraud Alert in the centre

Imposter Syndrome sounds like self-efficacy by another name. First identified in 1978 (Clance and Imes) there’s an Impostor Phenomenon Scale (test yourself here) and while not an officially recognised disorder (IS is absent from any psychiatric diagnostic manuals) a whole IS business has emerged based on self-help and therapeutic interventions. Imposter Syndrome appears to provide a popular conceptual understanding of the underlying psychology. The phrase is in common use and I wondered if Digital Imposter Syndrome (DIS) could exist.

I googled but nothing came up. Not even a googlewhack.  DIS returned zero.

word nothing written in chalk on a board

Woo hoo! Was this a conceptual gap? Should I push the digital imposter syndrome idea a bit further or return to Bruner?

I went back to Jerome. In the Narrative Construction of Reality (1991) Bruner writes about the situated nature of knowledge, via cultural tool kits and distributed networks.  Long ago, in a different university, I wrote about digital literacies being best understood as socially situated practices. They were personal, as individual as fingerprints, and determined how we operated online, but we all have differing amounts of digital capital, depending on socio/cultural/material locations. Maybe part of the solution to encouraging online engagement is to refocus on the development of literacies of the digital kind.

image showing the word start on a road

While competencies type training focusing on which button to click may have value, any change it effects can only ever be surface. We know learning requires deeper approaches so let’s start with building and supporting digital confidence in safe environments. Experiential digital practice can be transformative for both staff and students.

Where does this leave us with us lurking?

It’s a problem. We need to reduce the 90% and 80% consumption models.

Or do we?

If lurking is simply a reflection of ourselves, should we leave lurkers alone to do what they do best.

Assimilation in their own preferred way; to listen, watch, consume, absorb…. to learn.

Are effective online environments not about building and sustaining interaction after all? Should we rethink pedagogy and practice to support less active forms of learning? Or would that be a huge mistake?

This might need a Part Three, What do we do about lurking?


References

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press,  1998)  https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1994EHB.pdf .

Bennett, L. (2014) Putting in more: emotional work in adopting online tools in teaching and learning practices. Teaching in Higher Education 19 (8), 919-930

Clance, P. and Imes, S. A. (1978) The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”  Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice.

Sun, N., Rau, P. P. L., & Ma, L. (2014). Understanding lurkers in online communities: A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 38, 110-117.

The Other Side of Lurking Part One; a unique distance from isolation

black and white image of soiral staircase

What is lurking anyway?

I call it consuming without contribution and we are all great digital consumers.

Truely, here and now in 2018, we risk Amusing Ourselves to Death 

When Nicolas Carr (20080 asked Is Google Making us Stupid?  interest in cognitive data overload was high. What happened to the CIBER research? The collaboration between Jisc and the British Library studied information searching behaviours in young people. Findings included short attention spans and reliance on surface browsing, with clear implications for universities in the future. Ten years on, those young people are likely to be our students. Today, I can’t even find the report online.

Show me embedded critical digital literacies and I’ll show you a dozen examples of uncritical acceptance.

Tell me why digital skills and confidence of staff who teach and support learning is absent from the ed-tech literature. We know how students learn as e-learners but staff who teach as e-teachers? Where’s that?

…and what’s all this got to do with lurking?

It’s scene setting. Part of the wider picture which starts and ends with our digital codependency and online habits.

Return to Lurking began Friday 13th July, 2018. The 24 hour #HEdigID discussion facilitated by @SuzanKoseoglu was still going strong on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday…

The hashtag #OEP (Open Educational Practice) seemed a good opportunity to bring in digital shyness and the politics of participation persuasion. I introduced the concepts and before long lurking emerged as a theme.

I lurk. You lurk. We all lurk.

Lurking has intention and purpose.

Lurking as Learning is a path well-trodden.  On 17th April this year, following the Digital Researcher run by my colleagues Mike Ewen and Lee Fallin, I wrote a post titled Sounds of Silence which addressed some of the emerging issues.

To lurk is to loiter, with or without intent, and not post.

Why?

Dunno.

We simply don’t understand enough about non-participation. We don’t know what’s going on behind closed screens.

Most of the time it simply doesn’t matter. We’re not expected to comment on every news article or blog post. The facility is available but there’s no pressure to use it.

It’s lurking in online courses which bothers me. Like in blended and distant learning courses where students consume without contributing. You can see content has been accessed but discussion or other collaborative activity fails.

Social constructivism is where it’s at these days. There’s Siemens’ Connectivism and Cormiers’ rhizomatic learning, but the majority of academic practice assumes a Vygotskian approach to how students learn, one which support knowledge construction through collaborative activity rather than didactic transmission.

open book. glasses and movile phone from pixabay

Sometimes this takes place online and this is where digital silence worries me. Maybe it shouldn’t. But if students don’t talk, how can active learning progress?

So what next?

Well, maybe we’ve got it wrong.

The assumption (to borrow from Orwell’s Animal Farm) is participation good – non participation bad.

Yet we know from discussions, like those reported in Sounds of Silence  and elsewhere on Twitter et. al, there’s lots of positives to lurkish practice.

Some were highlighted during the #HEdigID discussions.

Yet we know from discussions, like those reported in Sounds of Silence  and else where on Twitter et. al, there’s lots of positives to lurkish practice.

Some were highlighted during the #HEdigID diccussions.

However, lurking as negative remains a common perception as shown in the tweet below

while a 2018 paper by Sarah Honeychurch et. al., Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners, explores the lurking research literature. and makes some interesting suggestions. For example, the dominant mode remains that suggested by Neilsen in 2006, namely the 90-9-1 rule.

This rule posits that approximately 90% of group members consume content, 9% participate by contributing from time to time, leaving 1% to contribute a lot on a regular basis (Nielsen, 2006).

Then there’s the Pareto Principle, known as the 80/20 rule. Applied to online participation this translates as 20% of participants creating content which 80% consume.

It seems likely that to lurk is to inhabit safe space. Places of safety. Silent participation without risk. If so, then constructing lurking as a wrong to be righted is inappropriate. It may cause guilt and exacerbate fear of contribution rather than encouraging it.

The majority of Lurk-Lit focuses on change. The use of language like ‘converted’ and ‘persuaded’ suggests students need transforming from no-shows to show-offs, from passive to active.

But is this correct?

If 90% don’t contribute, or 80% consume, maybe we should look at non-contribution and consumption more closely.

Learning online is fundamentally isolated and lonely, but rather than stressing digital participation as a solution, maybe we should celebrate digital singledom instead.

dandylion head from pixabay

When Philip Larkin wrote about the ‘unique distance from isolation‘ he was referring to a couple next to other in bed. The context is a difficult relationship, Something Larkin is so painfully good at.

If people can be so physically close, yet so far apart, maybe assumptions that distance means separation can also be challenged, Perhaps the isolated learner is more closely linked to a holistic experience of the module or programme, through the medium of digital resources, than we might think. It comes back to my introduction tweet to the #HE digID community.

We need a better understanding of digital shyness. Stop demonising those who choose not to express themselves, be it the digital public sphere or password protected university network. We need to look at lurking from the other side.

This was The Other Side of Lurking Part One; a unique distance from isolation

There is more in The Other Side of Lurking Part Two; dabbling with digital imposter syndrome which delves further into understadning lurking as a pedagogic strategy neding to be addressed in learning design.

taster below….

So lurking’s not a problem, right?

…but if it’s your virtual environment and you’re dealing with silence, it can’t be ignored. Lurking flies in the face of everything we’re told 21st century education should be, namely active. We’re well versed in communities of practice and inquiry, zones of proximal development, social, cognitive and teaching presences, and so on – and they all require interaction.  Networks need people, don’t they?

visit The Other Side of Lurking Part Two; dabbling with digital imposter syndrome for more….


Images from #HEdigID discussion on Twitter or pixabay.com

 

Reinventing lurking as working #socmedHE16

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Last week I attended The Empowered Learner; the 2016 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference (#socmedHE16) at Sheffield Hallam University.

The Keynote for last year’s conference was Eric Stoller with his amazing Star Wars effect opening.  You can make your own this Christmas.  Eric was always going to be a hard act to follow and the conference organisers didn’t try. They offered a Key-Not instead.

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A Key-Not translated as an activity. We were divided into four groups depending on the colour cup we’d chosen. Sneaky – I didn’t see that coming! The task was to use a social medial tool(s) and collaboratively build a resource for the ’empowered’ learner. My group – the Yellow Custard Stirrers – used Adobe Spark to show how to set up a Facebook Group and invite participants. We won! Well done fellow Stirrers – may your custard never go lumpy!

img_1989 img_2017

The Key-Not was followed by two traditional style presentations. After the frenetic activity of the previous hour, it felt strange to be back in passive audience mode. The mobile devices came out and people slipped back into isolation from each other while remaining connected to the virtual. What saved it – for me – was these were two of the best presentations of the day.

I want to blog about Andrew Middleton’s presentation separately. ‘Social Media as a Critical Future Learning Space’ resonated on lots of different levels.

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I blogged about space earlier this year in a post titled Simultaneous Existence and want to go back to the subject, in particular the ssignificance of interstitial space.

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The first presentation by Sarah Honeychurch was about lurking. Now I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk but the word has negative connotations. Traditional definitions include sinister, threatening and unpleasant while its latest linguistic incarnation in relation to discussion forums suggests to lurk is an incorrect or inappropriate thing to do.

I want to re-imagine lurking as working.

In these days of information overload through TEL, email, cloud computing and social media, we are mostly not waving but drowning I would suggest just being there online – long enough to register what’s happening before moving on to the next task – is about as much as anyone can manage.  If we re-invent lurking as less something negative, more a positive affirmation and recognition that we managed to get there in the first place, we could then change attitudes to ‘didn’t we do well!’

There’s lots of ways learning and teaching in HE use social media e.g.#lthechatTLC webinars#creativeHE community – and I’m sure these are all places where lurkers lurk, simply to keep up to date and check they’re not missing anything useful. Social Media is the single most valuable network of curated content which can be customised by choosing who to follow and which events to attend – even if it is in a lurking capacity. To lurk is better than not being there at all. It really is time for a linguistic turn.

laguage matters inside a blue speech bubble

Language matters. I don’t like to hear training or skills being used in relation to my TEL work and try to avoid the words lecture capture. Words like these carry connotations which don’t sit well with the objectives of enhancement and innovation which sit within my own interpretation of TEL.

So here’s to lurking as working. Remember – I lurk, you lurk, we all lurk. To lurk is a coping mechanism. It means we care enough to make the time to log on and check what’s happening in our own spheres of interest while also – apart from anything else – not everyone wants to be in the digital spotlight. Lurkers should be proud of their background activity and online bloggers, tweeters, and activity creators be pleased to have them there. A silent audience is better than no audience at all. Remember – as the email goes quiet and the festivities begin – it’s good to lurk and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


postscript

On the BBC News today people are advised to take a break from social media over the Christmas period as lurking may make them miserable and depressed <sigh>


 

Lurking as valid learning

Lurking can be a valid form of learning. During @openeducationweek the #creativeHE team have been busy. As well as facilitate the #creativeHE google community I wanted to do all the activities. I took the ideas away to ponder on but that was as far as it went. I’m not sure if I’m a creative failure but I learned a lot from just being there.

Creativity uses all the senses. It can be cognitive like poetry and music or kinaesthetic like making and modelling. The C Word is often associated with producing something tangible. #creativeHE used jam jars and shared activities like ‘paperclips and rubber bands’. A simple idea with great results and non-messy so minimal clearing up was required afterwards!

A conversation developed around the role of messiness as an integral part of the creative process. Many crafts are messy occupations. Painting, potting, sculpting, cookery all involve splashes and spills. I don’t like mess and hate tidying up. One of the lessons I learned this week was how goal orientated I am. The concept of play with a specific output is fine. I’d be the first to advocate a different approach, to experiment and try something different – but am less likely to take on a free style activity myself.

Digital creativity is ok though!  For example Pic-collage  (App) and Photo-collage (Desktop) make it easy to be creative with photographs. Bitstrips is a cartoon strip maker  with enough options to make a recognisable avatar for yourself. Toondoo and Pixton also offer free cartoon constructions. It’s worth adding Powtoon to the list as well. I could play for hours with these (theory v practice!) and have recently been exploring the concept of Lego Serious Play, in particular the transfer of problem solving from head to hands. Thinking with your fingers is a lateral approach which appeals to me. I need to learn more.

I’ve taken a lot from the #creativeHE week. As a facilitator I read and commented but as a creative activity maker I lurked. The definition of lurk is two-fold; to wait, hidden, in order to ambush or as a ‘profitable stratagem’. With regard to online discussion forums, the word has developed negative connotations yet lurking can be a valuable on many levels.

The invisibility of online participation is something to accept as a valid learning mechanism, like the quiet student at the back of the class who produces 1st class assignments. Not everyone is comfortable with being centre stage. It’s no different online, where the permanence of digital contributions can be a deterrent stronger than the advantages of taking time to craft a thoughtful and meaningful response. Like face to face seminars, participation needs to be encouraged but reluctance can be justified.

Like the late laggard in Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Model, the lurker has been unfairly maligned. Learning should not be defined by presence and there may be many good reasons motivating lurking and laggarding behaviours.

It may be  better to be there quietly or arrive late than not be involved at all.