#AcWri, #phdchat, Learning Community, Learning Technologies, PLN, Social Media

Personal Connections in the Digital Age – A Book Review

Speaking of book reviews… there are a few texts I’m reading now that I will be submitting for #acwri projects and there are others I will blog about from my #SummerReading list, such as Personal Connection in the Digital Age by Nancy K. Baym

Personal Connections in the Digital Age #summerreading

This book was published in 2010 as part of the digital media and society series to share how new technologies are impacting our lives and altering our communication. As I research and compile information on digital media and its impact for learning and training for my literature review I thought this academic work provided a solid overview of digital relationships. By sharing the evolution of technology, mediated communication, and online community development, Nancy Baym presents both theoretical frameworks and historical perspectives about digital media’s influence on our society and personal relationships.

Baym provides an overview of interpersonal communication, and she threads both academic research and societal practices of digital media use in this book. As an academic text, there are a number of detailed references and theoretical underpinnings that I have flagged to follow-up as I edit my own literature review. For others who might not be researching and writing in this area, I think this book is still accessible and an interesting read as digital and social media consumes our lives. The technical jargon is kept to a minimum and the writing flows well with research, examples, and anecdotes intertwined in the text.

As I read this book, it was easy to reflect on my personal connections and how digital media shapes my PLN. I thought about how great it is to have peers and communities that I can interact with and play in – without being geographically close to them. I thought fondly of those relationships that have been either been initiated online or mediated digitally from a distance, and I am thankful for how digital media as evolved. I am able to communicate  and enage with a variety of networks/communities beyond e-mail, discussion forums, and IM (Thanks VoIP, video, web conferencing, photo-sharing, social bookmarks, blogs, Twitter, social networks, and much more!).

For anyone who is interested in personal digital connections and what it means to be “connected” to a learning network, I think you will enjoy this book. As  digital identities and online communities grow, it will be critical to consider the issues Baym introduces in each chapter:

  1. New forms of personal connection – identity of the self online and offline, interactivity on the internet, and reviewing social context for digital media
  2. Making new media make sense – emerging technology reflection, social construction, technological determinism, and how technology shapes the social
  3. Communication in digital spaces – how digital media influences communication and personal expression; digital mediums and modes; context of communication
  4. Communities and networks – online networks, shared practices online, social integration, relationship development, lurkers, virtual “space” and community engagement/civic action; networked individuals vs. the collectivism
  5. New relationships, new selves? – meeting new connections, digital identity development, authenticity, socially mediated/constructed relationships
  6. Digital media in relational development and maintenance – building relationships with those you met online, mediated relationship development – influences & effects, social norms and information sharing
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4 thoughts on “Personal Connections in the Digital Age – A Book Review”

  1. This is a good book and I’m very glad that you read an enjoyed it; it’s an excellent summary of much of what we know about CMC. Did you find it to be very dense? I did but I think it may be because I am familiar enough with the literature in this area to recognize that many of the words and phrases she used were laden with meaning and underlying literature.

    1. Absolutely. It was dense, but I think it provided a good overview of the literature for CMC and digital media for research – I suppose reading it was easier if you have a background and/or are familiar with it. I enjoyed it.

      1. On the contrary, I think it was more difficult having some background knowledge. I knew that many of the phrases she used have a significant body of literature underlying them so I was constantly slowed down by recalling that history and evaluating how this book fit into that history (e.g. “Is her summary accurate? Is that the best way to approach this complex topic?”). I would imagine that the book would have been much easier if I didn’t know that and wasn’t constantly slowing down to remember concepts and process the book in the context of the broad and sometimes deep bodies of literature being summarized.

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