You are online even if you think you are not…

By Mar.08, 2010

Dr. Lorrain Warren has just published a very interesting slideshow on Digital Identity. I will be offering a new workshop on Digital ID next Wednesday at the university of Manchester and next  week you can also attend one here at the University of Salford.

I think this slideshow illustrates well how Social Media can be present in our academic practice. Or should I say the other way around? The kind of presence we are able to establish via Social Media.

The advantages of using the participatory web are numerous, from sharing our work, to widen our sphere of influence or participation in discussions relevant to our field that are happening. Disadvantages?  Well, like I posted before, there is always two side to the same story. But I wouldn’t really like to call it disadvantages, but rather implications. And the implications are related to the way we cultivate our online presence and how it influences the way others see ourselves and rate our work. That, however, should not be that different from what we experience face to face. Our behaviour is socially and culturally modelled, and socially and culturally judged, to put it in a very plain way…

The issue with it being online, is that there is a record of it…and that frightens people because it  may work to their advantage as well as to their  disadvantage…It all depends on how we establish ourselves in this environment. Hence, there are things to consider when entering the online world…such as whom we connect to, which information to display, the way we put our ideas across, what we share and contribute… but this should not put us off from doing so. We just need to be aware of the circumstances, and make informed decisions about the options we have. In the end, it is all about how we manage the freedom the web gives us to extend our academic and social presence in a responsible way.

I have written something very similar to the next paragraphs somewhere else, but I think it is worth sharing it here:

Not having a digital presence these days starts to be complicated, especially because even if you decide not to add information about yourself on the www, that does not means others won’t! And I’d say that having a less reliable digital profile, or one that is not maintained by you, is probably worse than not having one at all! But the fact is that ‘you can run, but you can’t hide.  This is, after all, the read and write web as O’Reilly called it. If you don’t do it, someone else will, be it through remarks about your works, pictures they publish, etc
How many of us have experienced being part of virtual spaces we have never joined? Facebook is good at that, isn’t it? People can tag their pictures and all of a sudden you are part of a bigger world, even if you expressly chose never to be part of it. But it does not mean you will not! So in my opinion, it is better to start cultivating one, because at least you will have something to counterpoise what others may say and publish about you, in case they decide not to convey the most reputable image of you. And that might happen, but if you choose your connections wisely the advantages will be much more prevalent than any implications.

As Marga Perez once blogged the people who become associated with us within the networks we participate in also influence our digital identity.
Marga used a saying that really describes it well: Tell me whom you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are Goethe has also used it in one of his writings ‘ Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship ‘ and to that initial thought he also adds: shall I know what you do, so will I know what will come of you. [the original full saying goes like this: Sage mir, mit wem du umgehst, so sage ich dir, wer du bist; weiß ich, womit du dich beschäftigst, so weiß ich, was aus dir werden kann]
Ironically, or not (!), Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship is regarded as the first Bildungsroman, focusing on the self-realisation path of the main character.
Maybe we can learn something from this idea. Being or not being online is no longer so much the issue – in one way or another we are there as our friends/acquaintances bring us in through their pictures, comments, etc. So the best thing to do is to try to develop a reputable online presence, by participating in learning environments that will both allows us to learn and connect with people in our area, and thus enhance our professional profile. We can choose to have our ‘selves’ scattered throughout cyberspace (and by joining different initiatives and creating several accounts in different services we do), but we can also try to bring all our ‘selves’ in a single personal place, where others can have a global picture of what we are, what we do and how we learn, and whom we learn with.

If to the aggregation of our online activity there is a reflective spot attached, even better – it makes it even more meaningful, not only to the eyes of others, but also to ourselves, as through those reflections we also come to understand our path better and realize the way forward!

I love Lorraine’s slide 12 – it says exactly where I think  the utmost value of being online is: the opportunity to interact with (new) people, contribute to meaningful-to-my -practice discussions, share and be available to converse… There’s the social component too. All of this assists me in my thinking, and hopefully will also help the thinking of others. After all learning is a two way road (maybe more a multiple way, these days).

And what is research, if not learning about stuff we not yet understand…?


4 thoughts on “You are online even if you think you are not…

  1. Cristina

    10 years ago  

    hmm…good question. But what are Universities if not people?

    Running the risk of repeating myself over and over again…., I’d say that step by step, people are becoming more aware of this and trying to appropriate it to their own benefit.

    That change takes time. More it takes courage. And above all it requires a purpose… an added value.
    And each individual, in each field of knowledge, in each culture there is a pace which often in times is regulated by specific needs (of being part of something).
    Crucial indeed is to keep the space for debate open, raise awareness and provide continuous support… 🙂

  2. 10 years ago  

    “Hence, there are things to consider when entering the online world…such as whom we connect to, which information to display, the way we put our ideas across, what we share and contribute…”
    I’vre read your post and I must say that I agree with you. Nowadays, people must look at the web as another “real” dimension of their lives, not as “something that I prefer to ignore”.
    Being conscious of what we share, how we share, and with whom we share are key skills for living and being in the new millenium. We are aware of it. But are Universities?

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