Boop! (So you wanna be a nerd…)

The challenge of education today is only partly with the content. There is a lot more information to sort through in today’s time than for previous generations. In the academic discipline of “Communication,” the effects of constant exposure to media are explored in relation to the development of an individual’s consciousness, showing links between psychological awareness and societal customs.

Dialogue: Identities
Whiteness (Race), Gender, Culture…

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Our second dialogue on identity opened up difficult stuff.  We learned a few painful experiences these high school youth have had with some of their peers, and began to talk about college . . . what choices are available, and what effective communication strategies can they practice now to achieve success at college later? These bright and energetic high school juniors have a clear sense of why they want to go to college, but very little information about what college will be like. “I would rather have a career I pick than a job that picks me.” Lucii won Marissa’s congratulatory “boop” two times for making brilliant statements about the relationship between a college education and meaningful work. Natasha’s ambition to hang with nerds also met with approval. Noelani, Tiffany, and Lucii got in on the action:

“Nerds make all the money.”

“We’re putting a nerd monitor on you to check in five years.”

“They don’t go to NYC to go shopping!”

“They shop for books.”

On the spur of the moment, the only media image they could come up with about college was news-reporting about “what college students don’t know.” These are sensationalized stories that lampoon the Millennial Generation for not having the same knowledge base that was expected of their parents and grandparents. However, standardizing education in today’s Information Age is complicated. The challenge of education today is only partly with the content. There is a lot more information to sort through in today’s time than for previous generations. In the academic discipline of “Communication,”  the effects of constant exposure to media are explored in relation to the development of an individual’s consciousness, showing links between psychological awareness and societal customs.

do now_UMassWho do you want to be?

I’m wondering about identities, because they shift and change depending on who you’re with and what’s going on. For instance, I’m always a white person, but the ways in which I act white isn’t always relevant. I like the idea that I might be a nerd, too, but does a label that categorizes a certain kind of thinking carry the same weight as a label that categorizes an ethnic or cultural background? Again, it depends on who I’m with and what’s going on.

The important skill is knowing when and how to shift identities depending on what’s going on with the people I’m interacting with. If my friend who describes herself as half-Puerto Rican and half Black  is trying to figure out how to confront whiteness, I need to connect with my white identity in order to be able to share information and insight with her that helps her figure out a strategy. If my friend is struggling with chemistry, then I need to put on the nerd identity and figure out how to learn that crazy stuff too!

When it can get tricky is when we’re in our nerd identities and something, somehow, comes up sideways that has to do with ethnic or cultural or religious or national or sexual or some other identity that is a feature of the body more than of the mind.  The thing about learning (as opposed to teaching), is that when you’re learning you are aware that there is so much that you don’t know.  When you’re teaching, you can get fooled into thinking that what you know is all anyone else has to know, which can lead to a failure of curiosity. Just because a certain strategy works for me, doesn’t mean the same strategy will work for someone else.  This applies whether the topic is academic (like chemistry) or social (like which identity matters most right now).

The education young people need today requires more than balance between the social and the academic. They need skills of navigation so that they can know when to switch from one identity to the next in ways that move them further toward the goals they seek. Anyone who can do this socially can transfer that skill to academic or intellectual content, too. If you can make the identity switch that supports the kind of relationships you want with others, then you also know how to learn and problem-solve together on any topic – whether it is about learning in school, or figuring out a project at work, or helping your family and community find the resources needed to sustain itself.

8 thoughts on “Boop! (So you wanna be a nerd…)”

  1. Steph is correct when she says that’s identities shift and change depending on who you’re with and what’s going on; well at least that is the way it is for me. I have many different identities with myself that I portray to different people because I feel at that time it is the most appropriate way to act.
    MY IN CLASS IDENTY: While in class I tend to be quieter then I would be normally. I keep to myself and put on my “nerd goggles” realizing it is time to study and learn. For me, class in not a time to be the center of attention, its time to see things from other people’s perspectives and listen.
    MY FRIENDS IDENTITY: I tend to be a very loud and outgoing person all the time. I always feel like its my job that everyone is having a good time.
    MY SPANISH IDENTITY: Every year I take a trip to visit one of my best friends who lives in Puerto Rico. Every time I’m with her I act differently because I am in a different atmosphere where they speak a different language. I tend to be nervous when speaking ( and not speak as much) for fear of messing up or not understanding what they’re saying.
    MY PARENTS IDENITY: I’ve always been told that my parents are the funniest parents that my friends know. I have also been raised in a family in which I was able to be very opinionated without being judged or put down. So with my parents I tend to be very silly, outgoing, and loud.
    MY BOYFRIEND’S Parents though it’s a different situation. I seem to have a different identity where I am quieter than usual because I don’t want them to not like me.

    So as you can see I tend to be different to everyone and everywhere I go. I just feel at that time it is the appropriate time to act the way I do. Who you are with, the atmosphere, and how comfortable you are around people affects how one acts. Well if affects how I act anyways. 🙂

  2. I like how Becca shows that she has many different identities! Its just like me with my social world, in different environments I tend to act differently in certain situations. I feel like everyone does that, with it either being the work place, family, friends, we all have a certain criteria that we have to live up to or expected to do. In the article when it talks about college had different expectations when it was our parents and grandparents than us I think thats totally true. I think we are a spoiled society. Back when my parents and grandparents went to school it was all about getting a job not a career. My grandparents didn’t go to college and my parents did. I also think its funny how much college has changed since my parents have been to school. My mom always tells me how she just stood in line and signed up on a bulletin and BAM she was in college. Now we are applying and waiting for the suspense of getting in. It is very aggressive and nerve racking. I wish I could have done what my mom did and just signed up on a bulletin board, life would have been a lot easier. I also think its funny when the article talks about how when your learning you are thinking that you don’t know everything but when your teaching you think you know everything you need to know, or know it all. It reminds me when I would be in advanced classes and a really smart kid would out smart the teacher and the teacher would either get mad that they were correcting them, or they would be embarrassed. I felt bad when people would gang up on the teacher and make them feel bad for getting it wrong but thats just how kids are now a days, no respect. I also think its weird how everyone has different learning skills. For me personally I learn better when I see it and hear it. Taking notes doesn’t really do much for me because I’m copying all the work down but it just doesn’t register in my head. I also like the quotes, “They don’t go to NYC to go shopping! and“Nerds make all the money.” I love those quotes. I wish I applied myself more in high school, because it is true nerds do get the good paying job, and obviously make more money than the regular student. I really liked this article because I actually understood where the author was coming from and I agree with him fully! People in society all have roles, and in the roles can either show our personality, or our future.

  3. Identity is, as Steph said, a complicated subject. It is never stagnant; any day you might learn something new or meet someone that changes you a little bit and questions your identity. These experiences shape us and mold our identities, but what happens when we don’t let them? Forming an identity can be like trying on clothes. We usually try on what we think looks good and suits our style. But sometimes there is that item that looks horrendous on the hanger, and when you put it on it looks amazing. If we never considered that weird dress or shirt in the first place, we would have only left the store with the clothes we are comfortable in, and would miss out on an exciting new outfit.

    For our COM121 midterm videos, most people chose to include a song/soundtrack. Many different genres were showcased in these song selections… could this speak to identity? Some people chose songs because they were fitting to the themes involved, but most chose ones that they enjoyed, but that also said a little about them. Their song choice would reflect on themselves, so they chose wisely, as did I. For example, I wouldn’t have chosen to use a rap song in my midterm video because I don’t identify with the indications and connotations that would follow it.

    This summer, my identity will definitely be called into question. I will be volunteering in a country where I have never been and know little about, where I will definitely be different from the native people in many ways. The bubble of my identity could possibly pop, spilling out some parts while letting in others. I am completely open to change and being thrown out of my comfort zone, which I suspect is a good quality when volunteering, but I can’t predict how this might influence my identity. One obvious change would be that after I get back from the trip I would identify as someone who volunteered in that country. But the way my “deeper” identity will be shaped is the part I cannot foresee.

    Steph said, “The important skill is knowing when and how to shift identities depending on what’s going on with the people I’m interacting with.” Because I won’t know the people I’m interacting with and how they identify, I think my purest identity will come forward, which I am looking forward to. It will be a self-revealing endeavor for sure. What’s more is that I might be teaching in this foreign country, which ties into Steph’s comment about teaching vs. learning. For me, both processes will be happening simultaneously, but I’m worried about thinking that I know how to teach these people that I know very little about. How could I be qualified to do such a thing? Isn’t it inevitable that my American ways of thinking will play into it? Identity is a complicated topic, yet it is so central to who we are that it deserves to be explored deeply.

  4. I really do believe that everything around you has an effect on who you are. Maybe its a song you just heard on the radio, maybe its a person you just met at the store, but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, has an effect on who you are. When you see or hear or taste or think about something, the person who emerges afterward is not the same person that was there before. Even if you disregard what you had sensed, you may still go back to it later throughout the day, the week, or even later in life and think about it or reminisce or even recognize it somewhere else.
    Take for example a song you may hear. You hear a song on the radio and it reminds you of the music you used to listen to in high school. Your mind starts firing off thoughts and you find yourself thinking back to the friends you used to have that maybe you’ve lost touch with. Maybe later in the day, you reach out to that person because of it, maybe on Facebook, or whatever. That simple song has just changed who you were before into who you are AT THIS VERY MOMENT. It sounds a little abstract, but you are not the same person for a long period of time. Your identity is always being created by what is around you…what is COMMUNICATING ideas to you.
    You could see in many of the videos we made for the midterm shots of our dorms. What is in there effects you EVERYDAY. Your posters, your books, your clothes, all shed light on who you are and help you to define yourself to others, and in reality, to yourself as well.
    In a way its sort of like a butterfly effect. One small thing halfway around the world could eventually have a life changing effect on you or people around you. We all perceive the world in different ways as different creatures, and it is through those perceptions that we build our personalities, our characters, and our own self worth.
    I think its really interesting that Steph points out that “the thing about learning (as opposed to teaching), is that when you’re learning you are aware that there is so much that you don’t know.”, but I think its a more co-dependent relationship than that. I think that a lot of kids are cynical towards teachers these days, and feel that they may even know more than the instructors do. Even in that notion that you tell yourself: “this teacher is so dumb..” or “I shouldn’t have to take this class I already know all this stuff,” etc., you are giving yourself instructions on how to behave and think and act, and it just goes to show, that every action, every thought, every sense, really does have a consequence.

  5. Every person has their own set of identities, each one comes into play in different situations. for all the videos for our midterms each person viewed their everyday life differently and had different ways of looking at communications. putting all the videos together show is going to show the identities of college students and the way that an average student lives everyday. the songs that each person used also shows a little bit about their personalities. my identity changes all the time depending on who i’m around, where i am, and when i am there. you alway are changing your identity so that communication between others go well. from when i was a senior in high school till now i have changed a bunch because i switched states and stared a new life with no one that i knew. people change their identities to fit in with the norms.

  6. I think Wally and Becca are completely right by saying each person has their own identity for each situation they may be in. For me it depends not always on who I’m with, but also my social setting. Obviously just like anyone else, I’m very proffessional around my boss’ and customers at, though around my co workers I goof off and make sure everyone’s having a good time at the miserable workplace of retail. Yet at my internship, it’s something I want to do for a career and the people are great so it’s a much more laid back environment where I might be professional with my boss when it comes to getting work done but at the same time we will joke around and have a good time. my friends will be the first to say i’m very different in many different settings even though I’m with the same people. I may work out or hit the batting cages with my best friends from home but I’m not goofing off, the mood between us is serious, we’re trying to accomplish something. On the field I play with my best friends and it’s all business. In the locker room and outside of sports it’s all about having a good time. At sporting events I tend to be the loud and obnoxious kid talking trash to players, officials, fans, etc. But if I’m with my friend Gilley who is the same age but a little more mature than my other friends, we may be enjoying the game itself and talking about the game at an educated level rather than the stereotypical fan who enjoys the atmosphere and goes with the flow of the game. With my parents I’d say i’m the way i am with my friends.

    When introduced to new people, or a new environment I’m a complete different person. I clam up, I’m a very shy individual when it comes to someone or something new and this is usually missinterpreted as me not having a good time. For example, when seth gore came to class I barely talked the first session. I didn’t know him, I had no idea what to say to have an intelligent conversation with him so I sat back an watched and tried to get a feel for who he was. By the time we went to dinner steph, demi, seth and i were having a great friendly conversation about whatever. It definitely takes me a while to warm up to people. that’s always been a fault with me, it has a big impact on my identity especially when meeting someone in a social setting.

  7. I too agree with each comment above. Our personal identity is something that is constantly changing, depending on our environment and those around us. Well at least for me this has always been the case. Until I was 10 years old, I lived in Boston, where the lifestyle was much laid back. Many of my friends parents would often stay home, either unemployed, laid-off, or fired. There was never a real need to have a intellectual conversation with anyone, mainly because people around you did not complete much schooling. However upon moving to the suburbs, my identity changed in order to fit in with my surrounding environment. Conversations now stemmed to “what do you want to be when you grow up”, “what colleges do you plan on applying to”. Coming from a schooling system which did not produce many graduates, to one which produced more college graduates than Boston did high-school graduates, I would say my identity changed dramatically and maybe for the best. Being the most Americanized Hispanic, also meant when it came time to identify with relatives and family, my identity would also have to change, to incorporate an Hispanic culture which has not been present for several years. I’ve learned that identity is how we perceive ourselves at a given time, because with each environment that we enter, our identity changes to better support our surroundings or how we want to be perceived in that particular environment. True identity is knowing who are actually are at the end of the day, after your identity has changed multiple times throughout the course of the day, month, year. This is ultimately the identity that you identify yourself with.

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