My father was always fascinated by technology, and so my family always had the latest tech gear for work and entertainment. Our first home computer in the early 1990s had a monochrome monitor with which I played text based survival games. Shortly after, we owned an Intel x86, which I would occasionally use to play MS-DOS games. Since this computer’s primary purpose was to aid my mother with managing the household and her job at the local hospital, my father and I had limited access to play “personal computer” (PC) video games. Most of my early video gaming was with consoles like Nintendo and Sega.
By the mid-1990s, my elementary school raised enough money to build a computer lab. Twice a week, students were allowed time to work with 2-D educational software on Macintosh Color Classics. These computers were also installed in the school library for students to research on encyclopedia software or to take an Accelerated Reading tests. At this time, I still viewed computers as tools for education and work, while consoles were used for gaming.
My opinion on the PC did not change again, until my family purchased a Gateway 2000 which supported Windows 98 and allowed access to the World Wide Web through America Online (AOL).
The Internet’s potential for endless social opportunities, access to information, and the ease by which an ordinary person could access these luxuries, not only altered my perception of the world, but changed the dynamic of my household. Suddenly the entire family had legitimate need to schedule time for Internet usage. What I once perceived as a tool for adults, became a social necessity for the younger generation. For me, the exploration of chatrooms, Yahoo groups, and data searches were addicting.
As the form and shape of personal computers altered, so did my usage of its software capabilities. School began requiring that students use personal computers to submit homework and projects. By the time I entered high school, I was using the AOL interface for school work, communication, news, music, and to create my first online presence. My first website was created through SiteMonkey, using a prebuilt template provided by the site. I was determined to learn HTML and CCS, which led to experimentation with a free Angelfire personal website. With limited opportunity to study digital language or PhotoShop, I was never able to consider myself an expert with website design. I resolved myself to online journal communities such as Blurty and LiveJournal. I even dabbled in posting short stories and poetry on writing community sites, like FanFiction.net.
My exploration into online fandom communities truly began with fanfiction. Due to the Internet’s coverage of media for the new Star Wars film prequels, I stumbled onto Fanfiction.net. As popular culture demanded more online content for television shows, movies, books, comics, sports, etc., fandom communities began popping up overnight. I played various roles within the early years of fandoms on the Internet: fanfiction writer, beta reader, discussion group moderator, gif artist, fan site and content writer. At that time, my email addresses were only used as a means to communicate with listservs devoted to fandom communities.
My interests in online fandoms dwindled during my undergraduate college career. I mostly used the computer for classwork. The Internet was used primarily for research or Myspace, and then eventually Facebook.
It also was during my undergraduate years that I switched from a PC to an Apple user. Once I graduated with my BA in English and began working an office job, I started using various database software like Banner and SemTek. Email suddenly had a significant purpose outside of communication with fandoms or teachers. On a personal level, I discovered online dating and committed two years of my life to a long-distance relationship, that was only made possible due to the technology of Skype.
I began my graduate school career in the fall of 2010 at the University of Alabama’s Library and Information Studies program. In this program, I studied database systems, library software, online research methods, website design, digital popular culture, and social media. My former interest in online communities and fandoms returned with my introduction to newer social media sites, such as: Youtube, Reddit, Imgur, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and AO3.
Over the past five years, my spare time has been spent in pursuit of various new roles within online communities. I am fascinated with the various Discourses within online communities, especially when these communities or fandoms find ways to successfully transition back and forth from a digital space into the physical world.
Currently, I’m working to build a digital identity within the YouTube and Gaming community. It’s a slow start, because I don’t have much time to devote to it, but I hope to do more soon.
(This example of “Digital Literacy Narrative” is shared with permission from anonymous author.)