Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Web presence

I was a geek before. I didn't exactly embrace my geekiness when I was in high school, but now that I'm all grown up (ha!), I don't my going by that moniker. My colleague, Ken Bingham, asked me once if I "had my geek on." I knew exactly what he meant, and I laughed about that phrase for days.

I'm more of a geek than ever, I guess. I now have a goodreads account, a facebook account, a LinkedIn account, and of course this trusty blog. I even have more than one blog (as you regulars may recall), though the others are woefully neglected at the moment. (Not that this one is so up-to-date and spiffy.) I have a personal web page for a number of years. (It too is neglected and more than a bit dusty.)

I wrote an assignment for my 101 students once that went something like this:

"One of the ways we exist in the modern world is through the Internet. You'll know what we mean by "exist via the Internet" when you consider how many times you are asked to enter your personal information when you visit web sites. For example, you may have an eBay account which includes a feedback rating. You may also (or instead) have an Amazon account which includes records of the purchases you've made on that site. You may even have a personal profile on or another networking or dating site.

"Consider, too, that your personal information is stored in many other places. The driver's license you have in your wallet represents a kind of authentication that you are you. To obtain a driver's license, you have to provide some proof of your birth, your name, your residence, and so forth. Your credit card represents information about your account with a specific bank, but it also represents (albeit obliquely) your credit worthiness and your ability to repay. You might have a blood bank card in your wallet which represents the dates and times you've donated blood. You might have a library card which represents a record of all the books you've checked out at the library which issued the card. As you can see, there are many ways that you are represented throughout this menagerie we call modern life.

"Imagine, now, that 1,000 years have passed and it is the year 3009. Scientists and researchers discover a cache of old Internet servers from which information can be retrieved. They discover information about YOU, and once they have your name and date of birth, they discover that you are found in many places in the Internet. Future archeologists will be very interested to know what life was like in good, old 2009.

"What kind of pictures do these various online identities paint of you? What might those future archeologists conclude about your life and the way you lived?

"Another way to think about these concerns is to consider how many of these "markers" (or bits of electronic identity) are solely yours, and how many of them could just as easily belong to anyone from this century. Which parts of an eBay profile, for example, are uniquely and specifically yours, and which are universal characteristics of those living in what has recently been called the early nuclear age?"

So... what do you think? What is your web presence? What will your digital traces say about you?


Clint Carter said...

This is an interesting idea about finding a cache of old Internet servers. I jumped into the pot of internet evolutionary stew very early. They would see some of my earliest stirrings as "telnet" sessions between myself and a friend at Utah State. They also might find my hours and hours of MUDD (Multi User Dungeon and Dragon) online gaming back in 1993-1994.

When I started college in 1988 I was typing my papers on a typewriter. By the time I graduated in 1994, I was typing my papers on a computer.

Patricia Murphy, a resident of said...

I have students do an internet identity paper in English 101, so it's interesting to see I'm not the only English teacher trying to make them think about how they're representin' out there. I find out that many of my students are so into their internet identities it's a wonder they don't ask me to call them by their guild names. As for what would be found out about me, hmmmm . . .