dan lasota's masters in education portfolio for online innovation and design


Web Presence

21 June 2012

  • What is your own definition of “web presence?” You may want to make reference to definitions that you find in the readings, but please develop your definition from a personal perspective.
  • Let’s define “digital footprint” as those intentional or unintentional traces that you leave behind when you visit web pages, search for information, post on Facebook, tweet, shop online, or engage in similar activities. How does your digital footprint relate to or affect your web presence?
  • How should we address the topic of web presence with K-12 students? With post-secondary students?
  • How do the issues of privacy, intellectual property, and copyright play into an individual’s web presence?
  • Can you effectively manage your web presence? Can you maintain both a private and a public web presence? Is it necessary to separate your public and private web presence?
  • How might your employer’s interests or policies affect your personal web presence?

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:

  • the spokesman for a major domestic beer company blogs about all the best regional microbrews
  • the surgeon general of the United States has a podcast of best growing techniques for cultivating tobacco plants
  • a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center has a tumblr feed where she posts images of her time spent at weekend Klan rallies

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

8 thoughts on “Web Presence

  1. tatiana says:

    Now i know why you don’t have a Facebook account 🙂
    As Skip said, your response is a very thoughtful one and your response is a good academic piece of writing. You have a lot of good advise. I especially like your advise on thinking of intended audience anytime you publish anything on the web. I think it gets overlooked more often than not even by professional web designers and it includes a variety of missteps from publishing inappropriate content to a very poor interface design.
    On a personal note, for some reason no one seem to mind the cctvs but many feel threatened by Facebooks’ potential (not to be confused with mandatory) implementation of a face-recognition software?

  2. Jane Monahan says:

    Hi Dan,
    I’m finally reading your paper and see that it reads much like you speak—informed, with research to back it up; easy to understand, even for a layperson; and full of thought provoking examples. These are some of the ideas that struck me:
    The thought that your entire web presence is your digital resume and online portfolio – in a paper resume we don’t have to include the name of someone who might provide us a bad reference, but if someone is negatively outspoken about us online, it becomes a reference without our consent or control.
    As I said in Tatiana’s blog, digital citizenship will likely be required curriculum in elementary schools. As Allison notes, commenting on your blog—when will there be time?
    I think facial recognition software is spooky, for lack of a better word. It seems unethical to be automatically applied on social networking sites—especially if it is not foolproof. Once, the iPhoto facial recognition program selected my dog’s face and attached a person’s name.
    “Sustained contributions to the learning community will form the basis of one’s web presence with recent events outweighing older.” This is a great quote and a good personal example. Having the past get glossed over can be a good or bad thing… a search for my name used to pop up as one of the first hits when associated with UAF but it doesn’t any longer. I’m not sure why but maybe because of the way UAF and SOE web pages are configured now?

    By the way, I know you do your homework late at night on the weekends because of that date stamp… caught ya.

    • dan.lasota says:

      I plead guilty on that charge Jane. This is mostly what I meant in reference to “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.”

      For instance on a global site, you can often tell what time a person lives in based on when they interact with the online community. Or you could tell that they are most active at certain hours. Nothing much more clandestine than that.

      Thanks for your insights.

  3. Allison says:

    Editing my own edits…

    …often something that many teachERS sluff to side because there truly isn’t time…

  4. Allison says:

    Nice job Dan! You have a solid balance between personal opinions and experience, combined with research to validate and support it. There were several times your statements made me say to myself, “I’d never thought of that!” Particularly in your paragraph about privacy concerns and where Facebook may be headed. Interesting…

    One part I think you might consider elaborating on is in your paragraph about academic discussions… “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.” This was definitely another moment of “I’d never thought of that” mixed with, “how so?” Perhaps an example would benefit here.

    I have to say I thoroughly appreciated your paragraph about educating k-12 students about establishing a positive web presence. Where you said “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,” my thoughts were screaming AMEN & THANK YOU! 🙂 You hit the nail right on the head with that one. It IS important despite everything else we k12 teachers are expected to teach and often something that many teach sluff to the side because their truly isn’t time for everything. But, like you said, educating students about their web presence is vitally important.

    My only other comment on this well-written paper is a couple of basic things. In your paragraph on Issues of Privacy (paragraph 7):
    “there should examples of creative commons licensing”
    *Insert the word BE after should and I’m wondering if there should or should not be an S at the end of common.

    “give credit where it is do”
    *Do should be due.

    Once again – great job! 🙂

    • dan.lasota says:

      Hi Allison,

      Thanks for your careful eye. I had proofread that several times and missed both the due and missing be. It is “commons” though. This is in reference to “public commons” or property owned by all. In the past this often referred to public woodlands or gardens or town squares. The commons is property used and shared by members of a community.

      The Creative Commons licenses are available when you want to let folks know they can use your work, and how you intend for them to use it. You can find out more at the Creative Commons Licenses site.

  5. Skip Via says:

    So much to consider in your thoughtful response to this assignment. First–I absolutely agree that the issues regarding web presence should be part of the K-12 curriculum. It should also be an integral part of one’s post-secondary career. Many universities have moved to some for of eportfolio for their students–a move I wish we would consider at UAF (or minimally in SOE). One’s web presence is clearly the resumé of the future, and it seems logical to me that one’s experience at the post-secondary level should be an integral element of that. (This is why this course focuses so heavily on blogs, portfolios, and personal learning networks. I figure I’ve got to do my part…)

    Similarly, I am saddened by the lack of university-wide (or departmental, in our case) emphasis on the pro-active web presence of faculty members. It’s chilling to think that a faculty member’s entire web presence might consist of what a disgruntled student might say on Rate My Professor or similar sites. As you and others have mentioned, the best way to maintain a positive web presence is to build it yourself by establishing blogs or web sites, by participating in conversations, and by adding your contributions where you can. Your summary is perfect: “The best way to cultivate a desired kind of presence is to participate and make thoughtful contributions back to the learning community.”

    Your distinctions between web presence and digital footprint are powerful. If we shop, search, post a review, or even follow links we are leaving our footprints all over cyberspace. Short of not doing those things, there are few ways to hide those footprints. You can browse anonymously, or refuse browser cookies for example, but doing so often affects your user experience in terms of convenience and speed. But those elements don’t show up in your portfolio, blog, or web site unless you want them to.

    I don’t see any reason that your response as drafted can’t be moved over to your portfolio. I’m eager to share it with some colleagues.

    • dan.lasota says:

      Hi Skip,

      I’m going with the open model here, so please share away with who you’d like.

      In a day or two, I’ll have something up so you can see the edits to this page (WordPress page object). My intent is for people to see how their comments affect the final product. I’ll send a note out to the class when that is done.


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