Thursday, September 06, 2007

Reflections on online presence

I've been thinking about a bunch of stuff. Although I have been pretty busy here (universities are lovely and quiet over the summer months although full of builders instead of students) I have been reflecting a lot and also observing those around me (albeit from a virtual position i.e. their online activity and presence).

With Facebook having seemingly swept the 30 something generation (UK west midlands at least) this summer into an online frenzy of virtual activity I am reminded of some of the stuff I/We used to say.

(NB: for those who don't know in a previous life I was heavily immersed in the online and Internet industry/sector/fledgling local scene as was)

Anyway what we said was something like this: your online presence goes beyond just your website (of course a no-brainer right we all know that now) it is every email you send, every posting you make to newsgroup (those were the days)etc etc.. Of course fast forward a few years and this is your Flickr, Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, Youtube what ever other social networking, photo/music or other repository you happen to use.

What is interesting to me is how we present and manage ourselves in this heavily published environment and how do we advise our students to make absolute best use of the opportunities that these networks offer.

So here I'll briefly give a couple of examples of what I am on about (and I am sure this is something written about/studied in much more detail etc.. I am just thinking aloud/atype? but I'll get to my point in a bit).

Example one: Me
I am reasonably internet savvy have been using it for a long long time. I feel comfortable and confident with most of the stuff I come across, I feel aware of the public nature and the 'wild fire' that can sometimes be initiated when one says something kind of provocative. By the same token when I use Facebook I like to have some fun with it, be myself, be open etc.. but I also find it a fantastically good tool for meeting folks working in the same area as me. This blog has also proved a really good mechanism for making contacts with people working in my area. But I am kind of careful too (a whole bunch of my 'friends' are colleagues or potential colleagues) so I try not to get too drawn into all the other stuff on say facebook (pirates, vampires etc).

Example two: my friend (there is nothing scientific here)
A recently qualified psychologist using Facebook and just realising how little information about her self she really wants out there. Does she really want clients to know she is say single? does she really want employers to know whether or not she recovered from her hangover (thanks to concerned friends wall postings)? probably not.

What is my point here with all of this? Well once again and as ever I'm thinking about the creative industries. Last year I presented a paper about the characteristics of the creative industries. As anyone who has ever worked in this sector will I'm sure testify there is a pretty heavy duty night time element to it - private views, launches, after show parties etc etc.. The boundaries between friendship and work and social life and work are often blurred (and quite different from some other sectors) but ultimately need to be managed or at least considered (whether you know you're doing it or not) because professionalism and presentation are also a major characteristics.

I sense here that I am waffling and not reaching any sort of conclusion. I guess there are a few things here - do the creative industries lend themselves well to these types of online networks and social groups? (of course yes) How careful does one need to be about what one publishes? (and opinions one gives) and as educators how can we encourage students to make the best use of these environments (actually the better question might be what can we learn from students about managing ones online presence?) and with so much scope for things being archived (see this posting) how much of what we say now will come back to haunt us? On that note I’ll stop.

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