Topic 2: Online Identity


Identity is a slippery word.

Krotoski’s article tells us about how Facebook is cracking down on those “fake” profiles where the use is not “authentic”. How do we define authenticity online though? Is it genuinely through the amount of photos you post? Where you “check-in”? Does all of this show that you are active and therefore “real”? Huffington Post revealed that in fact, 80 million users didn’t exist. But why delete fake profiles? Isn’t it better to have more sign-ups to a site even if they are fake? Doesn’t that boost investment, attract more users and build an even bigger empire?  Well, Facebook argues that “the move is intended to make [it] a more attractive place for advertisers, by making it easier to target advertising at genuine users.” Separating professional and personal online presences is something I engage with, limiting Facebook to private social interactions and using my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts for professional purposes. This separation of services allows me to control my online presence, with privacy settings playing a key role in what I want to be shared and with whom. However, as someone who is more of a Digital Resident, it is definitely difficult to keep these two identities separate, something which Costa and Torres (2011) have also noted.

Meghan Casserly argues that Twitter for example, is quite effective as it sorts all your relevant interests into one place, creating a “niche audience”. In essence, social media can help our identity be compiled into our own slot on the web.

The Internet Society videos show that by signing up to an online service each time, you are in fact leaving a “partial identity” behind. An example of this is online banking, which monitors your behaviour and is automatically alerted if there are any suspicious transactions.

This brings us to the Zuckerberg vs Moot argument:


I watched a video on Poole’s argument. Christopher “moot” Poole created 4chan in 2003 as a message board for people interested in Japanese culture, anime and cartoons.

Anyone can come in to contribute, there are no structural barriers,” said Poole. It’s also ephemeral: “There’s no archive… posts that are created fall off within minutes.”

As a result, users have what he calls “fluid identity,” where there’s no risk of failure, so experimentation flourishes.

“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself,” he said. “Those mistakes are attributed to who you are.”

Anonymity, allows people to be creative, and search things they might not usually do. Multiple online identities offers a sense of “protection” and a layer of anonymity. The use of a pseudonyms or invented personas allows people to discuss sensitive topics they might otherwise not be comfortable/able to. For example, someone suffering physically abuse or struggling with their sexual orientation, might use an anonymous persona to seek advice or help. However, there is a dark side to its security and privacy.  This article touches on cyber-bullying, identity theft and catfishing, some of the most problematic areas of online presence today.

However, the issue of identity is further complicated when you consider using different accounts to register for services and portraying yourself as a different person in different spheres. I take Ludovico‘s point of view: if you start to divide up your online identity in different ways, will it not blur your offline identity as a whole?

There are a range of definitions of identity, not all of which make sense. For me, identity is a set of assertions made by yourself that you can allude to. In a way, everyone only has 1 identity but we expose different scales of our claims depending on our circumstances. Kieran Healy’s blog argues that “nobody puts their membership in AA on their CV” yet it still a part of you, you alone choose how to manage it – be it successfully or not.

The New York Times wrote an article pre-Facebook era alluding to the fact that identity and having a secret are in fact quite closely related, and not just for superheroes 😉



Carey, Benedict (2005) The New York Times “The Secret Lives of Just About Everybody”

Casserly, Meghan (2011) Forbes “Multiple Personalities and Social Media: The Many Faces of Me”

Healy, Kieran (2010) “Actually having one Identity for yourself is a Breaching Experiement”

Krotoski, Aleks (2012) The Guardian “Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?”

Ludovico, Alessandro (2014) “Multiple Identities in Social Networks”


Reflective Summary on Topic 1

White and Le Cornu have a pretty nice way of explaining the specific purposes of a visitor’s view of the web by using a metaphor of the web as a tool-shed.

I had a look at a fellow colleague‘s blog where she further expanded the metaphor and I quite liked her vision:  The purposes of a Visitor on the web can be regarded in the same way when we think about “places”. When you think of a visitor, this could be someone taking day trips or weekend breaks to a city with only the necessary baggage, leaving no trace behind (much like online identity), and residents packing up and moving to a new city, building new social relationships, taking up new interests and building their lives in this new environment which acts just like a digital resident. The two authors are right not to label these categories as a dichotomy. I would agree that the vast majority of people are somewhere on the continuum between Visitors and Residents of the web, perhaps commuting to the city during the week for work, but not going there for personal reasons, or vice versa. We are always leaving something behind whether we intend to or not. The very fact that we’ve been there has created a mark, a trace, voluntarily or not.

Immigrants to a place with a language that is new to them can develop fluency in the new language, but they frequently maintain an accent that distinguishes them from the native. This is definitely seen in the way people type, the differences in courses of action when dealing with a situation – Visitors would google or wikipedia something whereas Residents may first seek their existing knowledge, social circle, or even primary sources before consulting the Internet.

I think it is also important to note the dangers of these two categories for professionals. We may be both Resident and Visitor — “an individual might take a Resident approach in their private life but a Visitor approach in their role as a professional.”However, there is a dilution of boundaries. Students who try to live the duality of Visitor and Resident may find that their Resident personality is found by potential employers creates an unintended crossing of professional boundaries.

My comments can be viewed herehere and here. I believe the latter is still awaiting moderation for some reason.

Self Test

Ah new semester, new module, new assignment!

So we were asked to fill in a self-test evaluation from which my results can be viewed here:self-test2

I’m getting the gist of how to use this blog I think! I’ve just uploaded a word file!

I look forward to learning more about online identity and digital life whilst also sharing module ideas and references with my peers as the module unfolds.


Topic 1: Digital ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’

As I’m sure quite a lot of students will mention, Prensky (2001) has quite an out-dated concept of digital ‘natives’ and ‘immigrants’. What does he mean by this? Well, digital ‘natives’ would mostly consist of Generation Y students who are born into technology and therefore are more at ease with its complexities and constant updates. The ‘immigrants’  happen to the less-so fortunate who aim to understand it at a later time in life either by force or by choice. The two are distinguished by ‘immigrants’ who have a ‘digital accent’ where their first instinct wouldn’t be to go to the Internet and search, but rather use a primary source. They don’t leave a trace of their identity online as they don’t feel the need to be part of social media. This theory has been updated by White and Cornu (2011) by arguing that ‘immigrants’ are not as ‘technically handicapped’ as Prensky makes them out to be. Kennedy et al. (2010) and Connaway et al. (2013) challenge this: age is not a factor in digital usage and it’s more of a motivational factor than anything to become accustomed to the internet and its many aspects.

Selwyn (2009) challenges the theory that young people are digital “natives”, emphasizing that actually, younger generations need support with content creation and usage online. Selwyn also highlights the importance of context and circumstances in web use. Schools may consider it beneficial for students to access online content for work purposes (BlackBoard and Moodle being good examples as well as MOOCS) however at home, students are in a more “casual” environment and are more likely to build an online presence.

Personally, I would consider both my personal and professional life to be towards a Digital “Resident” profile. This was further confirmed when I watched Whites “Mapping” video. I don’t believe being a Digital ‘Visitor’ has anything to do with age though or gender. I think it’s entirely up to the person how they deal with such an intricate part of life. With regards to Tall blog (2008), I do use the web for a good amount of social online presence – I am on twitter, Facebook and use them accordingly to share things with friends and family. On reflection, what I’d like to gain from UOSM2008 is the chance to enhance my “Resident” profile in my professional life. LinkedIn has become a search page for jobs in recent years, with an online personal CV being able to be viewed by almost anyone. I hope to also gain a few twitter followers through the module seeing as this would be a nice course interaction activity 😉