Social Technologies are becoming strongly integrated in modern life, So much so that we can tend to take them for granted. Social Media is a great way to stay up to date with friends, family, and current news events. It’s also a great way to keep in contact with people who are geographically distant. To many people my age, Social Technologies are second nature and sometimes I can tend to post and interact on these technologies without considering how I am portraying myself. This assignment gave me the opportunity to take a step back from myself and analyse how I use online platforms and the identities I portray myself as.
The first task was to create a Persona Poster based off our own personal information. I’ve made persona posters before but apparently not well as this was a huge learning experience. Throughout the process I learnt a lot about myself and how my use of social technologies is strongly dependant on my personal goals, likes, dislikes and usual day. This was interesting because prior to this activity I wasn’t even consciously aware of my personal goals.
In my persona, a constant pain point was getting information slowly. This was referenced in my hatred of slow ISP and slow buffering. But it didn’t stop there because I also prefer graphically designed sites, sites which are intuitive to navigate and sites that utilise infographics; all of which increase the speed of information absorption. Lastly, I frequently consume information in video format. This is partially because I’m a very visual person and videos can include animations or imagery that helps to illustrate the point, but also because listening to someone explain something is faster than reading something. I hadn’t previously realised how concerned I am with time. I wonder if this need for immediacy of information is caused by actually time constraints or just because I’m used to an information rich world.
Another lesson I learnt about myself is the way I use technology. I realised that I habitually check Facebook and Twitter on my daily commute. I check more out of boredom than curiosity and I realised I check these two platforms because they are the least data intensive (as I have a tiny prepaid plan). This habitual checking is causing me to use my phone significantly more than my other devices and possibly more than necessary (I’m going to try to look out the windows more). Having realised this behaviour, I find that the following tweet really speaks to me.
Social networking feels like when you open the fridge, see nothing, close, and re-open a few seconds later, expecting something different.
— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) April 16, 2015
But my Persona is a look at myself as an offline identity and how that translates to how I use technology. Online I have multiple personalities depending on the context. These personalities were explored in my Identity Map. In certain spaces I act as ‘Myself’, I speak casually and post updates about my life or link to videos and articles that I find interesting. The Melissa in these spaces is pretty much the same as the Melissa you would meet in real life; enthusiastic, dramatic and funny. The only slight exception to this is Twitter, where I am still myself but I give out less personal information so I’m more of a faceless stranger.
In other spaces I am a “Professional”. In my art spaces I am an ‘Artist’. I describe this Melissa as professional because she takes her work seriously. Conciously participating in the community to learn and improve, also sharing her knowledge to help other artists grow. This Melissa acts as an art student and an art teacher and talks in a more relaxed and familiar manner.
Lastly, I act as a ‘Professional Student’. In these spaces I’m not as casual. I communicate in a more proper fashion and interact with other students. Interestingly I categorise my use of Vimeo under this identity while YouTube is a part of my slightly more relaxed ‘Professional Artist’ identity. Although I post similar content to Vimeo I view it as a more official site than YouTube and use it as a more professional tool.
After completing my Identity Map I noticed something I didn’t expect. I listed my role as an employee under my ‘Personal’ identity. This is because I have some people I work with ‘friended’ on Facebook, additionally I generally like to keep my content pretty clean and employment friendly. Interestingly, I didn’t have myself listed as an employee in my ‘Professional work’ identity. I believe this is because I do not have a LinkedIn account and I’m not marketing myself for business on any of my networks. As I am hopefully graduating University at the end of this year I will be aiming to change this, however not with LinkedIn. I have purchased the domain MelissaKroes.com and I will be converting this into an online portfolio at the conclusion of semester. This will be a completely professional space and the start of a new Online Identity.
Apart from the personal discoveries I made throughout this assignment, I also learnt a lot about the production of Personas and Identity maps. I had previously created personas before as a part of my Creative Industries studies, so heading into the assignment I felt confident. However, after beginning I realised I really didn’t know anything about how to make a good persona. Previously I had been taught to imagine an ideal user and a more realistic user, and to then make up personas about them. While it is true that some details can be fabricated (Name, photo, some demographics, etc) it’s mostly incorrect. Personas rely on a large amount of research into the product audience to ensure the persona you create will actually be helpful in your development phase. I also learnt more about how personas are used in development teams. Previously I had been told to create personas for my projects, these personas would be delivered as part of the documentation but I rarely referred to them during development. I learnt that if you aren’t going to refer to your personas it’s largely a wasted effort. Personas are like mood boards, they are created as a reference tool for what you are working towards. If you are working in a large development team personas are an important tool to ensure all members understand the functionality that the intended user wants and needs, and to ensure they aren’t basing decisions off their own personal requirements.
In terms of the Identity Map, I was completely inexperienced. I’d never heard the term before and it had never even occurred to me that identities were something that could be described visually. I had previously considered how I acted differently on different platforms; Sometimes this was a conscious choice to act a certain way, though not always. However the act of sitting down and categorising all of my behaviour like this was refreshing. This has been an invaluable experience because it allowed me to see how I can better structure my online identities. This will impact how I use online technologies when I am managing a “Professional / Freelancer” identity.
As I am looking to enter the Graphic Design industry, the learnings I took away from this assignment are priceless. I now have a stronger understanding of how personas are actually used in the development industry and I am now confident that I can create personas that would be helpful to a project. Additionally, I have an increased understanding of how people use social technologies and how this use can vary dramatically between people depending on their personal motivations. I also, have a greater insight into my own use of social technologies which I will be able to use to my advantage when marketing myself online.
It is because Social Technologies are becoming so strongly integrated in modern life that is is important to understand how different people use them. I feel like this assignment has been the start of a crucial learning experience for me and I will continue to consider the effect social technologies have on everyday life and how they are used.
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