Co-written by Eric and Shanly
In February, Dr. Shanly Dixon was invited to speak to four classes at Vincent Massey Collegiate. She was asked to address the issues that surround career planning and the content we produce and share on the Internet. Her talk Mindful Management of a Digital Identity addressed the challenges young people currently face in balancing potential audiences as they actively participate online. Eric Craven, the Fostering an Information Society Project Coordinator for the Digital Literacy Project at the Atwater Library collaborated on the presentations and together they had the pleasure of addressing a group of very digitally connected and engaged students.
At the Digital Literacy Project, we are continually investigating, monitoring and evaluating the importance of our online identity and how it affects many aspects of our life. This topic is a bit of a moving target. However, we feel that it will continue to be a relevant issue due to continuous changes in the technological landscape and our collective attempts to adapt to and use the social media at hand.
As technology becomes increasingly pervasive, people are inclined to use websites and accounts to create and disseminate their identities. As a result, we have empowering opportunities to communicate and share information. However, this also results in having to navigate some challenging privacy issues.
During our presentations at high schools many of the students argue that online identities (in the form of our various online profiles) should not be considered as part of the selection process for opportunities such as college admissions or employment. This is a valid perspective as young people often target their online interactions to a very specific audience of peers. However, the reality is that increasingly the information we place online is collected and analyzed by a variety of interests such as corporations, marketers, and governments. Many of us do our own research about potential colleagues, classmates or dates. We can expect that potential employers are equally as proactive and vigilant.
Read these two titles from Forbes Magazine to get a sense of how this is being discussed in the business world.
Facebook Can Tell You If A Person Is Worth Hiring
We at the digital literacy project have been taking a pro online culture approach, which encourages mindfulness. One thing that researchers, educators, policy makers, marketers and parents can all agree on is that young people are online and engaged with online culture.
Shanly Dixon, in her discussion, explained that the nature of information alters as it moves online. We need to remain mindful of the fact that once we share information online it becomes difficult if not impossible to control or completely remove it. Content can be collected by third parties through data mining. It may be stored on servers, archived or forwarded and as a result what we share may potentially be accessible long after we wish it would disappear. Additionally, information can spread far and fast online once it’s out of our hands. It’s important to consider whether we will be comfortable with all aspects of our digital identity in years to come. The information that we share ads up to create our digital identity and our online footprint can last a lifetime.
We also addressed the way in which the information we share offline often varies according to the specific contexts. Whereas, the integrity of context collapses online and as a result people from all parts of our life potentially see every other part of our life. This makes it important to consider all of the possible audiences our information can reach.
Managing our online community is very similar to managing our offline community. In discussing what approach we should take, we found our selves using the term ‘mindful’. We suggested that students assume that future college recruiters, employers and selection committees will search for them on the Internet when considering them for an opportunity.
Online spaces can serve as important tools in sharing your strengths, skills and interests. With a bit of care, your online identity can be a powerful asset. We discussed the value of being mindful about how you present yourself online, evaluating whether the content you share reflects your current and future goals and be aware of all of your potential audiences. For instance if you plan to pursue a career in the arts there are a range of online sites where you may be able to connect with other young artists and share or promote your work creating a dynamic online identity as an artist. However, it’s important to review the privacy and copyright policies for these websites.
Digital literacy education empowers young people by providing facts about how their information is treated online, what information they may be unintentionally sharing with organizations, the importance of reading and understanding privacy agreements and copyright, amongst other key topics.
One of the most interesting discussions with Vincent Massey students occurred around changing definitions of privacy, the importance of valuing privacy as a collective social good and how we can respect, protect and advocate for privacy going forward. Often young people are perceived as not being concerned about privacy but the students at Vincent Massey expressed overwhelming interest about the security of their information online and about the challenging privacy issues that they are currently facing.
For more information:
Dr. Shanly Dixon – shanlydixon.com
Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) – www.tag.hexagram.ca
Vincent Massey Collegiate – www.vmc.qc.ca