Perceptions of Identity and Expertise in Heavy Metal Fans within One Online Community of Practice

Perceptions of Identity and Expertise in Heavy Metal Fans within One Online Community of Practice

Kathryn Urbaniak (Concordia University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5206-4.ch020
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Abstract

Identity is central to learning (Wenger, 1998), and identity in online forums can be represented verbally in posts and comments as well as non-verbally through choices such as username, user picture, and signature. How a forum user interacts with others based on their perceptions of another users’ identity and expertise impacts their experiences. This chapter examines informal learning experiences and behaviour based on the perceptions of others for three heavy metal fans within an online forum through a cyber-ethnographic study. This study explores participants’ interactions with both verbal and non-verbal content to form their perceptions of others, including perceptions of expertise. The participants controlled how they interacted with content and other users in a Web 2.0 environment, which impacted the shared construction of knowledge based on their perceptions of identity.
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Introduction

This chapter discusses learning in online environments, specifically forums, and then focuses on the study of sub-cultures within communities of practice, namely the sub-culture of heavy metal. Identity is central to learning (Wenger, 1998) and interaction is central to identity, as engagement between actors creates meaning for the site of the interaction (in this case an online forum) and the forum participants themselves (Norwell et al., 2006). We can learn and potentially improve instructional design in formal settings by studying informal learning and participants’ perceptions of others’ identities. How a forum user interacts with other users based on their perceptions of another users’ identity and expertise impacts their experiences. In addition, since sub-culture groups and some communities of practice have strong identities (Desanctis et al., 2003; Hill & Hughes, 1998) this research sought to examine informal learning experiences and behaviour based on the perceptions of identity of others for three heavy metal fans in online forums through an ethnographic study.

Research Questions

  • What does identity mean to heavy metal fans in online forums?

  • What is the role of online identity in community acceptance?

  • What is the role of online identity in perception of expertise?

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