Topic 2: Reflective Summary

This week’s background reading covered a variety of issues relating to online identity: anonymity and authenticity, presentation and reputation, our online and offline identity, privacy and security, and finally, identity protection.  Initially, I found myself trying to cover all of these topics but I quickly realised this was not realistic – it was never going to fit under the word count!

Instead, I tried to limit myself to the areas that took my interest: online personas and anonymity.  Where I was unable to write about certain topics, I tried to read about them in other UOSM2008 blogs and/or leave a comment.

Bartosz Paszcza’s post had a great point about digital privacy.  The embed video strengthened his argument and I found myself wanting to share one similar that I had seen.  Another thing that struck me about his blog was how it looked forward – he included a theory about potential changes in digital advertising of the future, whereas, in contrast, my blog related back to existing arguments on digital ‘residents’ and ‘visitors’ (topic 1).  I thought this was a good way to conclude a blog post and one which I will myself consider in upcoming topics.

Cheuk Sun’s post was also visually engaging.  The structure and approach was different to others I read in providing both sides of the argument (for and against multiple online identities) and then concluding with her thoughts.  At the beginning, I was initially disorientated by the structure and her argument, but I liked how strongly the post incorporated the blogger’s voice, something I am still working on myself.

Overall, a challenging but really interesting topic this week, and I look forward to the next.

Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity

This post primarily focuses on online personas, arguing that in terms of professionalism, there is value in having multiple online identities and potential drawbacks to being anonymous.

An online persona can be defined as ‘a partial identity created by you to represent yourself in a specific situation’.[1]  Examples of personas include social networking accounts, such as Facebook, or online blogs.[2]  Julia Allison argues ‘we should maintain many identities – one for work, another for school, another for home, another for friends’.[3]  In terms of professional and personal online personas, I can relate.  I use LinkedIn to maintain a professional, online relationship with colleagues and contacts and the content and information I share is different to that on Facebook (where I have created a personal online persona).

We’re always being told (and warned) that potential employers will be looking for us online.  Our digital identity is formed of both presentation and reputation, where management of our personas ‘can impact our activity both face to face and online’.[4]  Digitial Trends has a great article here showing how poor digital management of online identity affects employment. However, what we’re not told is that being anonymous online is met with equal suspicion.  This is since Facebook successfully promoted the idea of transparent identity as authentic identity.[5]

Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

Though no one is ever truly anonymous whilst using the internet, (Internet Society comments how partial identities are formed every time we use the internet in an ‘exchange’ of information), Andrew Lewman argues for total anonymity over any online persona.  He argues anonymity ‘gives people control’.[6]  A refusal to create an online persona is a characteristic that hints to digital visitors, whereas people that have multiple online personas seem behaviourally more like digital residents (as discussed last week).  The positives of embracing multiple and open identities is allowing greater engagement with larger online communities. Costa and Torres similarly argue it ‘advance[s] knowledge’ (50).

Having multiple online identities can even grant fame.  More than ever, people are being ‘internet famous’, launching a career through blogging or vlogging.  Two of my housemates love Tuula – an online travel blogger, whose website links to her other online personas: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.  Though many like her become famous due to their ‘personal’ online personas rather than ‘professional’ ones, their online presentation and reputation is certainly not overlooked.

[1]               Internet Society, ‘Online Identity Overview: What is Partial Identity’,<http://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview>

[2]               Internet Society, ‘Online Identity Overview: What is Partial Identity’, <http://www.internetsociety.org/online-identity-overview>

[3]               Jeff Jarvis, ‘One identity or more?’, (2011) < http://buzzmachine.com/2011/03/08/one-identity-or-more/>

[4]               Cristina Costa and Ricardo Torres, “To be or not to be? The importance of digital identity in the networked society”,  (2011), p.49.  <http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126>  Subsequent references are to this edition and are given in parentheses.

[5]               Alex Kroski, ‘Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?’, (2012)<http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity>

[6]               Alex Kroski, ‘Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?’ (2012) <http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity>