Digital identity

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Consider how you will build your digital or online looking at the four major areas that build your identity
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This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, June 2017



See also Data management portal | Information literacy | Henry Jenkins | Research Portal for Academic Librarians | Semiotics and the web | Transliteracy for librarians

"...Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth..." — Oscar Wilde

Digital identity (also digital or online reputation) might be defined as a social identity that Internet users establish in online communities and social networking websites. Of course, one's professional identity is forged over time, and in conjunction with conferences, scholarship and self-presentation in online spaces. In addition, the idea of identity management (also impression management) refers to identity exposure and identity disclosure, and has developed alongside identity management (Tufekci 2008). My advice to all librarians: Tell your story. Share knowledge. Create new knowledge - leave a paper trail. Develop a digital identity. One of the best ways to develop a digital identity is to blog about your experiences as a librarian. Here's an example: My first month: Laura Williams, Assistant Media Librarian at ITV. Some professional people claim to be concerned about discussing their work online calling it a "slippery slope" given the possible negative outcomes (e.g., infractions of internal social media policies, identity theft, privacy in social networks, spam).

Nothing is quite as important in the digital age as creating your digital identity. Despite low awareness among library and information professionals, developing a strong digital identity is critical for the promotion of our work as librarians and our profession. In 2014, a digital or "online" identity is viewed as vital for work where online tools, resources and scholarly materials is central to performing that work. Boyd suggests that "public displays of connection" serve as important identity signals to help others navigate networked social worlds and may serve to validate identity information presented in profiles. Goffman's frame analysis has been used to describe notions of performance and social interactions in social media spaces. In All the world wide web’s a stage: the performance of identity in online social networks, Pearson uses Goffman to show how individuals perform their identities. In our interactions on social networking sites, we straddle the public and private spheres so that we can navigate different identities simultaneously. Pearson also introduces the "glass bedroom" metaphor in her article; the glass bedroom is not an entirely private space, nor is it a true backstage space as Goffman envisioned. Interestingly, it takes on elements of both spaces over the course of using the web. The web is therefore a bridge that is partially private and public, and it is constructed through its own set of signs and language.


Impression management

In Goffman's work, impression management ("the process by which people control the impressions others form of them") is part of the human play of life, and a chief motivator of complex human performances in social settings. His ideas incorporate symbolic interaction and qualitative analysis of the interactive nature of communication. Put simply, actors, shaped by their environment and audiences, see interactions as performance. The objective of performance is to provide an audience with an impression that is consistent with the goals of the actors. Impression management is thus highly dependent on contexts and situations. Differences in response towards an environment and target audience are part of what Goffman calls self-monitoring. Another factor in impression management is self-verification, the act of conforming the audience to a person's self-concept.

Marshall McLuhan made reference to the relationship between people and technology when he said we shape our tools, and they shape us. Symbolic interactionist theorist Charles Cooley foresaw the impact of community on individual behaviour when he said " We see ourselves reflected in the eyes of others." Digital identity is a complex proposition but the relationships between the activity model are worth interrogating. How we formulate, maintain and modify our digital identities, there is research to do before we can understand who we are when we venture online.

Librarians' use of Goffman

Goffman's frame is a conceptual schema for interpreting the structure of interactional order, and provides actors with the definition of a situation. Analysis of how the interactional order of a situation is organized explains how social constraints affect individual actors in social settings. Goffman presented insights into human interaction and his work has been applied to library and information science for decades. However, the understanding of his theory is unsatisfactory. This 1991 paper reconstructs Goffman's theory of interactional order by examining his concept of frame, proposes new directions for its application, and considers applications of the theory to library and information science. Goffman might take as revealing the notion of front-back stage of librarians working at reference desks. Reference librarians often behave differently "in front" of the public than when they are in back, working in their offices or socializing. Librarians therefore act in a certain manner when “in public” and in a quite different manner when “in private.”

Social invisibility

Social invisibility occurs when Internet users do not bind to ("friend") others in their social networking activities. This leads to a kind of digital isolationism, leaving any interdependent subgroups as social "islands". The social influence of someone who is socially invisible, once diminished, operates much like the position of a pariah ("untouchable") in a caste society.


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