Oct 032014
 
Found a foot

This Monday (29th September 2014) the Managing Your Digital Footprint project launched across the University of Edinburgh.  I’m hugely excited about this project as it is a truly cross-University initiative that has been organised by a combination of academic departments, support services and the student association all working together, indeed huge thanks and respect are due to Louise Connelly at IAD for bringing this ambitious project together.

I am representing EDINA across both of the project’s strands: a digital footprint awareness-raising campaign for all students (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD) which is led by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) in collaboration with EDINA, the Careers Service, EUSA, Information Services, and other University departments; and a research project, a collaboration between IAD, the School of Education, EDINA and EUSA, which will examine how students are managing their digital footprints, where such management is lacking, and what this might mean for future institutional planning to build student competence in this area.

Before saying more about the project it is useful to define what a “digital footprint” might be. The best way to start that is with this brilliant wee video made specially for the campaign:

YouTube Preview Image

Digital footprints, or the tracks and traces you leave across the internet, are a topic that frequently comes up in my day to day role as social media officer, and is also the focus of a guest week I provide for the MSc in Digital Education’s IDEL (Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning) module. Understanding how your privacy and personal data (including images, tags, geo locations) are used is central to making the most appropriate, effective, and safe use of social media, or any other professional or personal presences online. Indeed if you look to danah boyd’s work on teens on Facebook, or Violet Blue’s writings on real name policies on Google+ you begin to get a sense of the importance of understanding the rules of engagement, and the complexities that can arise from a failure to engage, or from misunderstanding and/or a desire to subvert the rules and expectations of these spaces. What you put online, no matter how casually, can have a long-term impact on the traces, the “footprints” that you leave behind long after you have moved on from the site/update/image/etc.

When I give talks or training sessions on social media I always try to emphasize the importance of doing fewer things well, and of providing accurate and up to date bios, ensuring your privacy settings are as you expect them to be, and (though it can be a painful process) properly understanding the terms and conditions to sites that you are signing up for, particularly for professional presences. Sometimes I need to help those afraid to share information to understand how to do so more knowledgeably and safely, sometimes it is about helping very enthusiastic web/social media users to reflect on how best to manage and review their presences. These are all elements of understanding your own digital footprints – though there are many non-social media related examples as well. And it is clear that, whilst this particular project is centered on the University of Edinburgh, there is huge potential here for the guidance, resources, reflections and research findings from the Managing Your Digital Footprint project to inform best practice in teaching, support and advice, and policy making across the HE sectors.

So, look out for more on my contributions to the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign – there should be something specifically looking at issues around settings very soon. In the meantime  anyone reading this who teaches/supports or who is a student at the University of Edinburgh should note that there will also be various competitions, activities, workshops, resources and advice throughout 2014-2015, which will focus on how to create and manage a positive online presence (digital footprint), and which should support students in their: professional networking; finding the right job; collaborating with others; keeping safe online; managing your privacy and the privacy of others; how to set up effective social media profiles; using social media for research and impact.

Digital Footprint campaign logo

The Digital Footprint project logo – anyone based at the University of Edinburgh will be seeing a lot of this over the coming months!

The research strand of the project is also underway but don’t expect anything more about that for a wee while – there will be a lot of data collection, analysis and writing up to do before we are ready to share findings. I’ll make sure to share appropriate updates and links here as appropriate. And, of course, questions and comments are welcome – just add yours to this post.

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