dan lasota's masters in education portfolio for online innovation and design
A web presence is the collection of web pages, blogs, online articles, discussion board posts, tagged photos and social media links that form a representation of a person online. These atomic information pieces can be produced purposely or accidentally by a person or by others. A person’s web presence paints a picture which can be complimentary or derogatory, focused or distracting.
The concept of a web presence is important in that it can serve as a digital resume and online portfolio. It can, that is, if one takes the time to carefully construct it. A web presence that is generated for portfolio or resume purposes should be carefully prepared with the intended audience in mind.
In most instances the digital footprint people leave as a result of Internet use should not directly affect their web presence. After I purchased some books on wooden boat building from Amazon and did some searches on wood tools with Google, I saw very similar items show up on seemingly unrelated web pages. These traces of economic and search activity did not affect my portfolio web site. Had I not made my portfolio site with content that I have carefully crafted and timely placed, a search on me might have resulted in social media activity logs of friends commenting on my purchases. For those who are mainly on the web as a result of social media use, or their acquaintances’ social media use, commercial web activity might indeed become a visible part of their web presence.
Another example of digital footprints affecting the web presence is the one of time stamped activities being displayed in various places. Consider an academic discussion that takes place on a public web forum. It is common for discussion posts to include a time of posting. The knowledge of when someone typically contributes to a discussion in terms of time of the day, or day of the week, can reveal more information than one might realize.
The concept of web presence should be a formal part of curriculum for K-12 students. Public schools face continuous and mounting pressure to include more and more content into child instruction without any augmentation in instructional time or corresponding proportional resources for educators, still, web presence is vitally important. Students in primary and high schools need to know what is appropriate, what is damaging, and what will help them later in life.
Depending on the discipline, a web presence for post-secondary students can be a gateway for employment, an example of reflective thought, competency in a knowledge domain or proof of the ability to adapt to new situations and be productive in a community of learners. Within each discipline, curriculum should include learning goals that meet this objective.
Issues of privacy, intellectual property and copyright have a large affect on the perception of one’s web presence. This is especially true if one’s area of expertise includes these topics in its domain knowledge. If that is the case, the web presence should include examples that illustrate this understanding. If one is creating media that is posted in a public place, there should be examples of creative commons licensing or notice of copyright. If one is critiquing works of art or demonstrating knowledge of fair use that person ought to employ fair use and explain why it is appropriate. It is a given that academic writing must contain proper citations to give credit where it is due, but also to further academic inquiry by providing readers pathways to more source material.
Privacy concerns are going to require more and more deliberate thought as social networks become ingrained in more products and applications. Our physical presence in some places will become public knowledge in the near future, to friends, employers and others. Consider the implications of claiming to be in one locale, and being tagged in a photo at another event instead. Tagging a face can be an intentional act if one is out to a ball game with friends but will soon become automatic as social networking companies like Facebook acquire the technology to recognize facial features in images.
Recently Facebook bought a company called face.com which specializes in facial recognition:
The acquisition will no doubt make it easier for Facebook users to identify people in photos and video, especially on mobile devices. Businesses may benefit by being able to more quickly and easily monitor how, when, and where their products are being talked about and promoted, especially with the rise of social sharing sites like Pinterest.
But photo tagging–especially as it becomes easier to do–also brings up huge privacy concerns…Businesses must take care to ensure that increased use of tagging does not result in increased privacy concerns for customers. (Donston-Miller, 2012)
There are many effective ways one can manage their web presence. Everyone should manage their web presence; everyone can.
The best way to cultivate a desired kind of presence is to participate and make thoughtful contributions back to the learning community. This holds true where one’s web presence is spread across social networking web sites or referenced by others on the web. Sustained contributions to the learning community will form the basis of one’s web presence with recent events outweighing older. As an example, I held public office on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly from 1993-1999. I would have to specifically search that time period, or dig back through pages of search results as my recent web presence includes examples of professional work done at the University, my consulting company, and recently my student portfolio.
Refining one’s presence on web sites that are under personal control is much easier. Periodically reviewing published material to blogs and web sites is a good practice to adopt.
Thinking about the intended audience for published material is extremely important. Considering who and why someone might view online material should help shape and guide decisions about what to keep public and private.
I am fortunate to work for an employer that actively encourages staff to cultivate a web presence and participate in a larger community of learners in a professional and creative manner. Fortunate, because my employer’s interests and mine are very similar in this regard. It is easy to conceive of situations where the nature of one’s employment would preclude certain activities online. Consider the following situations and how unlikely they would be:
Clearly I am employing absurd-ism to make a point and perform thought experiments where freedom of speech wrestles with policy handbooks. But what of cases that actually do happen? What of the case of Martha Payne, the nine year old blogger who began posting pictures of her school lunches? The subsequent decision by her district to ban her from taking pictures and blogging caused a mini-uproar between school officials, food critics, nutritionists, and just about anyone who read of the decision. The school district reversed its decision in less than a day’s time and apologized to the girl and her family (Coleman, 2012).
What if the details of the story were slightly changed, so that the blogger was a student in a civics class, learning about public policy and historical methods of protest. What if a school district had put pressure on a teacher to curtail the blogging activity and made continued employment a condition of adherence to its decision? One must consider when moral and civic responsibilities rise above being a dutiful employee.
Coleman, K. (2012). [Web Page] And then she snapped: school lunch photo ban sparks gifts to hunger charity. National Public Radio News Blog. Retrieved 21 June 2012 from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/06/20/155425172/and-then-she-snapped-school-lunch-photo-ban-sparks-gifts-to-hunger-charity
Donston-Miller, D. (2012). [Web Page] Facebook buys face.com: At what privacy cost? InformationWeek. Retrieved 21 June 2012 from http://www.informationweek.com/thebrainyard/news/social_networking_consumer/24000229