We live in an age where almost every person uses some form of online services, such as banking and shopping, or keeping in touch with friends via social media platforms. Every time you use an online service, you leave some form of trace through personal information, cookies or other data about you being stored.
If you want to visually unpack how you use the web, you can use the excellent Visitors and Residents mapping method to work out where you are on a continuum as an internet user. While this tool has been developed primarily to understand how people engage with the web, it can also be a really useful reflective tool if you want to understand a bit more about your own use.
Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement
by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu.
First Monday, Volume 16, Number 9 – 5 September 2011
The mapping process is a Visitors and Residents based group activity which is designed to explore individuals engagement with the Web. It’s a good starting point for discovering how staff, students or clients are using the Web.
Further information can be found here, including a helpful video guide.
An openly licensed version of the facilitators guide and workshop slides can be downloaded here.
Visitors and Residents is a simple way of describing the range of ways individuals can engage with the Web. It’s a continuum of ‘modes of engagement’ not two distinct categories. I’ve used V&R as a way of framing research (as have others internationally) including the development of an openly licensed mapping process which can be used to kick start conversations about how individuals or groups are using the Web in various contexts.
Everything we do online leaves some sort of trace such as buying something from an online retailer like Amazon or even just carrying out a Google search. You leave traces of yourself across the internet. Sometimes these traces can be small things like your IP address or the location that you were searching from. Some companies use these little traces to build up a picture of you so they can promote their services to you better. You can sometimes control how these traces get released but often they just happen without you even realising.
But when it comes to your identity, you have a little bit more control over what you release. Your identity is you and more specifically, facts about you. Things like your date of birth, where you went to school, or even your hair colour. Your identity is the sum of your characteristics, some of which change over time and some of which stay the same. When you create new accounts online, you often use an identifier such as an email address or username. What you then put on this account, especially with services such as Facebook, becomes your persona. Confused yet? Well that’s ok but knowing the differences between these different terms can help you stay safe online and also stay in control of what information about you is out there for the world to see.
Amazing mind reader?
Don’t forget to have a look at the ‘images’ tab too! Have a look for your name or usernames on Socialmention, a search engine for social media, to see if anyone’s talking about you…. But what if people aren’t looking for you, precisely, but someone like you? Think of a few keywords that sum up the way you’d like to appear online, and google those – see if your name appears. You can also see what Google suggests in its autocomplete function, when you begin to type search terms into the search box. How might you incorporate these key words into the web presence you already have?
Think also about linking to and from sites*. Google treats pages on an edu.au domain more favourably, so if you have a personal web page in the University domain, linking to it from your other web presences will make them more visible. You could also consider which web pages outside academia have the most authority, relevance and impact in your field, and link to those. If you can get them to link to you, even better! Social linking also works well – linking to and from things like your blog and twitter feed (we’ll look at twitter later in the module).
Once you’ve analysed your online presence and looked at ways of making yourself more (or less!) visible, you’ll need to think about the range of activities you engage in online, to what extent you want it to be identifiably ‘you’ or anonymous, and to what extent you may wish to keep various aspects of your identify separate, such as personal and professional.
If you’re comfortable with the idea of using your real identity online so that there’s a coherent profile which people can recognise (which may be useful in your professional networking), you could create a Gravatar or a Google Profile on Google+ to represent you and save you typing in your profile information each time you access a variety of applications. Google+ will also give you various other functions, including an email address which we’ll be using later. It can be useful to have a non-university email address to ensure consistency if you move between institutions on short-term contracts, or separate personal from professional communication.
You could also use About.me to collate together the various guises in which you appear online. If you’re in the process of creating a coherent web presence, with your real name or an alias, you could use name.chk to see if your chosen username is available across various platforms to ensure consistency. Other applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow you to log into a number of other platforms and share your identity and activities.
If you’re less comfortable using your real name and image so prominently, you might think about an alias or image that looks professional and representative of you, remembering that this may also be reflected in things like your email address.
So how are you shaping up?
Go to Settings on your phone or device and look at what information your apps are using.
Or use MyPermissions.org to check through the permissions on your devices and social media platforms.
Was there anything there that surprised you?
Consider creating a definitive ‘About Me page’. This is a space where you can tell the world who you are, what you do, where your interests lie, and link your online presences all together in the one place.
This can be by adding an ‘About Me’ page on your blog, or using a specific site such as About.Me.
If you already have an ‘About Me’ page, consider sharing this by writing a short blog post with a link to your ‘About Me’ page and how it works to represent you online.
Tip: Type “about me examples” into a Google image search to see examples of how others have created their own page.
- Visitors and Residents by David White
- Wikipedia on Visitors and Residents
- Times Higher article on academics’ personal websites
- Digital Footprint document on e-Professionalism
- Digital Footprint E-professionalism Case Study
- Lynda.com video tutorials on Digital Security and Online Privacy