Academic journal article International Education Studies

Facebook-Infused Identities: Learners' Voices

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Facebook-Infused Identities: Learners' Voices

Article excerpt

Abstract

The National Higher Education Strategic Plan of Malaysia focuses on graduates who are innovative and knowledgeable to meet the standards and challenges of 21st century. This paper, then, explores how an innovation practice has taken place in a course entitled "Gender Identities: Malaysian Perspectives" where students scrutinize gender across Facebook "texts," as opposed to using literary texts. By using Facebook as baseline data to analyze online gender construction, students have learned the ways in which cyberspace deconstructs certain parameters of identity construction. Following this premise, this article discloses how students analyze gender identities. They analyze Facebook accounts of a male educator in United States, a female Malaysian college instructor residing in United States, and a law/politics Malaysian undergraduate. Firstly, the students revealed that identity in Facebook spaces is shown through genuine names and profile pictures; rightfully so for job, networking, and relationship purposes. Secondly, by selecting specific audiences, negotiating identities of a friend, co-worker, lover and most importantly future employee in Facebook is a difficult task. Conflicts usually occur while "masking" certain information on Facebook as they go about connecting with friends, students, parents, and prospective partners. Thirdly, societal constraints limit opposite gender's approval of friend requests. Lastly, identity construction reveals that having voices and emotions on Facebook have both positive and negative implications. Pedagogical recommendations are also presented as a result of this inclusion of Facebook in literature classrooms.

Keywords: innovation, Facebook, higher education, gender identities, literature classrooms, action research

1. Introduction

One of the aims of higher education across the world is to innovate teaching and learning. In Malaysia, efforts are made to ensure graduates are innovative and knowledgeable to meet the standards and challenges for 21st century learners (Ministry of Higher Education, 2012). This paper, then, attempts to demonstrate how an innovative practice has taken place through an undergraduate course, "Gender Identities: Malaysian Perspectives" where students study gender across Facebook spaces. It has become a requirement to innovate the course since online spaces have dominated the higher education arena and in order to reveal to students the complexities and fluidity of gender constructed online, Facebook as a "text" is introduced. It is also our mission to study Facebook as the occurrence of gender issues is prominent within any text and context.

Internet, through Facebook, is a place to deconstruct communication in the contemporary world (Flichy, 2007). Flichy has described that initially, the internet allowed for "communication with people in different localities and, above all- as we are about to see- puts all interlocutors on the same footing behind a mask. (82)" Over time, Youngs (1999) has further argued that the internet and its network provide a "safe environment" for the users to confront "embedded male domination of technology and its social purposes." These indications hint at two assumptions- firstly, the internet advocates democracy and secondly, it provides a dependable outlet for women and men to feel less inhibitive about themselves. Thus, by developing the course through Facebook, students can compare the gender construction they read about online and in literary texts.

This innovation of the course is also the way forward to the faculty members. Firstly, having taught the course for the third time, they feel that the traditional ways of examining gender through literary texts in a literature classroom is too stilted, as if sex roles and gender politics are constant over time and space. Secondly, since students have been taught the skills to analyze texts through plots, points of view, narrative styles, characterization, use of symbols and themes, it is felt that these critical analyses can be incorporated into the current contexts of virtual construction of gender. …

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