Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Online Lifestyles and eQuest

Now that the fall semester is underway, I'm again working with students in my online psychoeducational program "eQuest." It's a comprehensive collection of exercises and online activities that assists them in addressing some personal issue that they wish to understand better and perhaps resolve. The eQuest philosophy holds that exploring online resources - and developing an online lifestyle - can enhance personal growth. As a participant in the BRIDGE faculty development program here at Rider University, I've begun work on developing a method to assess students before and after their eQuest project.

While working on that assessment instrument, I often find myself thinking about people's lifestyles in cyberspace. In fact, this is something I like to ask about during conversations with friends, family members, colleagues, and even new acquaintances. What do you like to do online and with your computer?

People often hesitate at first, seeming almost reluctant to reveal that they're really "into" something in cyberspace, but with a little bit of encouragement, they set aside any apologetic tendencies and open up about what they enjoy doing.

I find it fascinating to see how a person's online lifestyle and identity reflect their offline lifestyle and identity. In some cases it even supplements or extends their offline self, which is even more fascinating, although it's a phenomenon that some cyberspace researchers and theorists tend to exaggerate and overly idealize. Even though cyberspace offers new possibilities of which some people take advantage, people tend to be who they are regardless of the many opportunities available on the Internet.

That fact goes to the heart of the questions that come up as I try to develop the eQuest assessment instrument. What are the skills, preferences, attitudes, and experiences that determines a person's lifestyle in cyberspace? Do they like to read and write? Are they more visual or verbal thinkers? Do they prefer spontaneity or control, fantasy or reality, or something inbetween? How much do they accept information versus evaluating it?

Then comes the issue of personal growth and the possible therapeutic changes that occur as people develop an online lifestyle. I find myself thinking about the factors that lead people into trying something new in cyberspace, including making media transitions, as I discussed in earlier posts. I wonder if their preexisting skills, preferences, and attitudes change much as they develop an online lifestyle, or if they simply find new ways to express what they already have.


Post a Comment

<< Home