Another dot in the blogosphere?

Neither digital footprint nor tattoo

Posted on: October 16, 2014

I lurked for much of Sunday’s #aussieED chat about digital citizenship. 

One or two tweeps suggested that digital citizenship was partly about how to manage your digital footprints.

Another one or two commented that footprints were temporary. Digital artefacts are much more lasting than that. Not many people know that if your web resource is indexed by Google, it is likely to be cached. You might delete the resource, but it can still be retrieved from the cache. 

Someone else suggested digital tattoos instead, presumably for permanence and personal choice.

I do not think that we should be selling the idea of positive digital citizenship with tattoos. Depending on context and mindset, tattoos are associated with negative elements, e.g., gangsterism. Tattoos are also painful, but the process of being a responsible and productive citizen does not have to be that way. 

I suggest digital shadow instead. 

Your digital shadow is always there as long as you stand in front of the practically omnipresent Internet light.

A shadow follows you wherever you go. It is not just an online feature, but also an essential part of you. Your shadow might start with clicks, but it goes to where there are bricks.

It takes your shape (it represents who you are), but you can also distort it (you can exaggerate or emphasize). You shape it and you have control depending on how you grow and where you stand with respect to the light.

Unless you are an Internet ghost, you have a digital shadow. Parents create one for you by putting your baby photos online. Later on you take ownership of your own shadow. Some of us gravitate to this task naturally, some of us go kicking and screaming.

Your shadow does not define you; it is an extension of who you are. But others can manipulate your shadow by shifting the light or adding to your shadow. You need to decide if that is how you want yourself to be represented.

Like a real shadow, we often take our digital shadows for granted. Unlike a real shadow, our digital shadows can serve us or haunt us. Most “cyberwellness” programmes tend to focus on the harm. Well designed digital citizenship programmes find a reasonable balance.

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