More on the nomenclature of identity/personality

Back on 26th July I wrote about this issue. I was at the time sticking out for using the term “identity” to refer to that complex of personal qualities and attributes associated with particular contexts, groups of people, roles, etc., and having strong implications for personal values.

I’ve recently changed my mind, and reflected that in my LEAP 2.0 work. (Translators of) Jung used the term “persona”, just like Nicole Harris. I had some problems with that. One of them is that “persona” is too close to the very frequently used term “person”. But what about the term “personality”?

Personality has plenty of common language meaning. Comparing the relevant Wikipedia entries for identity and personality, I’d say that personality as a term has a lot going for it. Though I wouldn’t want to base terminology on pathology, “multiple personality disorder” does seem to display the right kind of exaggeration of what I’m trying to get at, while the terms “multiple identity” and “multiple personality” seem to be used together quite often in the same context.

Development is a very important concept for me. “Identity development” seems to be used in a sense which implies one identity per human being (leaving aside the pathologies above). “Personality development” lives less with psychology and more with life coaching – not very far, I suspect, from the “personal development” that is better known to us.

But I like the greater scope for plurality in “personality development”. It sounds, to me, more like something that can be put on at will. It leaves nicely open the options, firstly to accept or cultivate several personalities suited to different situations, and secondly to work towards an integrated personality. The very fact that people talk and write about “well-integrated personality” or “fully integrated personality” implies that one can have something that is not fully integrated. If it is not integrated, there must be disparate parts.

I also particularly like the connection with personality inventories and such like. Whereas the assumption seems to be that we have just one “personality”, I think this is an idealisation. More likely, one’s responses to several personality inventory questions would be affected by the situation of the test, or the situation in which one is asked to imagine oneself when taking such a test.

Maastricht e-portfolio conference, 17th-19th October

Wednesday 17th October was the first of the three main days of the ePortfolio 2007 conference in Maastricht. It was a varied day, with the plugfest track for which I was billed as chairing, as well as work on HR-XML and ontologies, which I would have liked to attend as well. The practical plugfest work was mainly, as it turned out, on IMS ePortfolio. There was some success with exporting and importing files, though little details continue to cause problems.

One issue with IMS eP which was raised is about to what can be related to what. The eP spec suggests that relationships use identifiers inside the XML. Marc van Coillie suggested that relationships could be defined on the Content Package (things in the manifest). Several people suggested that instead of the relationships each being in their own file, they could all be put into one file. Various people have just implemented this anyway.

I suggested that the two final sessions of the day from the plugfest and from the HR-XML discussion be merged, and the resultant discussion was certainly interesting. There seems to be a consensus that the educational and employment domains should be brought closer towards interoperability. This could conceivably happen through building a common ontology. On the one hand, cooperation between IMS and HR-XML could be helped through organizations that are members of both. On the other, perhaps ontology could be developed independently, to guide both efforts. But who will resouce building such an ontology?

One of the things that came out in the day was that HR-XML 3.0 will refer to the UN/CEFACT CCTS and the OMG IMM approaches.

The Thursday and Friday were regular ePortfolio conference days. On Thursday there was an inspiring plenary about the Dutch car manufacturer, NEDCAR. They are using a portfolio approach both to prepare employees to move out or in, depending on the fluctuating need for employees, and for interfacing with the Dutch job system, which includes sophisticated matching services.

I chaired a session on “ePortfolio Challenges in Higher Education” on Thursday afternoon. I was somewhat disappointed. It seems that educators and agents of institutional change are different people: the continuing discussion on pedagogy and e-portfolio practice no longer inspires me. Yes, I know that various pedagogical theories can well be adopted in conjunction with e-portfolio tools, and that the resulting practice is often well-received. That is no longer news. But what of the challenges to institution-wide adoption? What about the issues of getting to grips with the institutional change that seems to be required? These were not, unfortunately, discussed in that session.

The main theme I followed on Thursday and Friday was, appropriately, to do with organisations and employability. To me, there did seem to be real progress being made and to be made, related to what we often call “employer engagement”. This ties in with what seemed to me to be a well-chosen theme for the event as a whole – “Employability and lifelong learning in the knowledge society” – and a move away from the token “e-portfolio” towards the wider implications of such practice in the economy.

The sense I got was that people felt the conference overall was a distinct improvement over last year. Maastricht is a very pleasant and interesting town, with a fascinating history.

A Centre in search of a centre

Yesterday, 2007-10-03, Wednesday, we had an “all of CETIS” meeting in Bolton. The theme that seemed to come across throughout was, where is CETIS going? Perhaps towards being the Centre for Educational Technology, Interoperability & Standards (note the moved &)?

And, is the role of CETIS to support, to advise, to lead, to explore, or what? One view is that it is to provide enough information for people to make informed choices. Then we looked at the CETIS mission statement, which wasn’t all that helpful. It doesn’t say anything about our values – these are often included in vision and mission statements, so maybe we ought to be thinking about them?

One matter that is clearer to me is the role of CETIS boundary management, gatekeeping domain coordinators’ relationship with JISC. I’d say this has improved over the last year, and that good work needs to be kept up. Perhaps there is space to keep high in JISC’s awareness that while accountability is accepted, excessive bureaucratic demands sap morale as well as eating up time.

The newly-appointed JISC expert consultants came up in discussion several times. Perhaps the distinction is that they will work more directly to order from JISC, whereas CETIS still aspires, rightly in my view, to an independence of initiative. We could decide, for example, on the subject areas where technology intelligence reports could be written.

Having a consensus process to create such reports could be a great unifying factor within CETIS. We could:

  • decide on a set of current / developing technologies, and review them;
  • review the current evidence base (we don’t want to be “faddist”);
  • circulate review for comments around CETIS, to ensure we have “all based covered”;
  • set out what our view is now, and why;
  • decide what evidence will be appropriate for future re-evaluation, and when it is expected.

These reports could be a vehicle to express and embody our “strategy for technology” (not “technology strategy”). Though this wasn’t mentioned explicitly on the day, a systemic approach – perhaps even a Soft Systems approach – would fit well. We need to implement a strategy of responding to technological advance (actual or envisaged) by considering their systemic effects, including whether institutional culture is, or can be, adapted to their use. We need to think even of the political effects on learners as well as educators. And we need a holistic approach to developments across the educational technology space: what interrelationships are there; what parallels; what side effects, in different domains?

Writing technology intelligence reports would be one way of having influence, but maybe there are others? Firstly, could CETIS act as agent of institutional change? We could imagine starting a Technology and Institutional Change SIG, though perhaps this is first better thought through as a thought experiment. But we ourselves are not experts in organisational change, so if we want to get into this area, we would need to do it in partnership with others who are expert.

Secondly, where are the levers to influence, and which ones are most within our grasp? Paul seems to have some good ideas on this.

Thirdly, how do we most effectively influence development of standards and specs? We have to be wise about what is achievable. Where the juggernauts of commercial interest are rolling, there is no point in, umm, going against the flow (I was thinking of a more graphic, but less polite and less gender-neutral phrase here). We need to watch for opportunities to act, when the commercial forces have released their iron grasp. But there are always going to be areas where we can have influence, at the leading edges. Developing approaches following the Dublin Core Abstract Model sounds like a very promising way to go. XCRI has had that in mind, LEAP 2.0 is going there as well, hopefully. Along with DCAM, there are closely related Semantic Web approaches. This is surely an opportunity to lead, and to lead clearly and strongly.

At the other end, how do we disengage from approaches that we feel are no longer fit for purpose? Can we do that at once honestly and gracefully? It’s an open question, but I don’t think we want to just sneak away.

There is another aspect of dealing with commercial interests: engaging with employers, which is a big theme in many places including HEFCE at the moment. Employers, particularly SME employers, in some ways have a diametrically opposed point of view to ours. They want technology that works, simply, intuitively, now. Can we give leads on that, can we influence the development of that kind of technology, and can we actually help seed developments where no plausible ones have been started? Yes, we have an academic and intellectual function. But can this knowledge and expertise be pressed into the service of this kind of practical requirement? That would give a good basis for playing our part in the quest for employer engagement.