Fossilized in the Digital Domain

Our actions online are as indelible as fossilized footprints of dinosaurs which once roamed the Earth. Cairichnium leonardii dinosaur track (Dakota Sandstone; Lower Cretaceous; eastern side of Dinosaur Ridge,  west of Denver, north-central Colorado, USA) James St. John via Compfight cc

Cairichnium leonardii dinosaur track (Dakota Sandstone; Lower Cretaceous; eastern side of Dinosaur Ridge, west of Denver, north-central Colorado, USA)
James St. John via Compfight cc

Footprints can be a tricky thing. Most of the world that we live it can prove difficult for us to leave a mark behind. I work in a classroom which has polished wooden floors and a school with tiled hallways. I walk to and from my campus on manicured pathways and at the end of my workday I return to live in a house which is not a mud hut. Shoes create a safety barrier between the ground and the interloper. Often, only my own recreational time or playtime with my children are opportunities arise to go barefoot.This type of interaction is completely different, stone floors are still immune from our marks, but forest floors, rocky beaches and backyard grass that tickles between the toes, gives a deeper connection between two entities. Splashing in muddy puddles and burying your feet in the sand, give more permanence to our movements. We can backtrack through time and follow our movements around before the tide washes away our existence.

Actions online can have a longer lasting impact than the Dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado.

Actions online can have a longer lasting impact than the Dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado.

Photo Credit: rynoceras via Compfight cc

Digitally it is an entirely different story. All of our movements are recorded for posterity, intentionally or not. By now, most of us understand the basics of good digital citizenship and are able to keep in consideration their digital footprint. It is only when we can start to consider that almost all of our life is digitized that your footprint begins to have a gravitas of its own. Contexts, contacts, moods and emotions take us through the realities of everyday life. The teacher’s professional profile tends to be kept as just that. As an educator, I know my audience and generally interact in a pretty safe environment, as educational discussions and research rarely lead to trouble. Of course, the appropriate use of resources and material have their own pitfalls and eliminating plagiarism is always a lesson learning outcome. It is once we start to make Imprints across multiple platforms of our true self, our so-called private or personal self is when the balance becomes trickier. Nothing is really private anymore.

Stages of your life and the spheres of your experience intersect an increasingly complex ways. New media and technology platforms which are created to diversify our online presence and perform specific tasks have their own nuances. The use of social media immediately springs to mind and divisions can become blurred when using programs such as Instagram and Twitter. Communications between friends or for personal reasons contain correspondence in known contexts, It is the collapsed contexts which often create the tension. Danah Boyd, author of It’s Complicated a book about the online lives of students; postulates that a context collapse occurs when “people are forced to grapple simultaneously with otherwise unrelated social context that are rooted in different norms and seemingly demand different social responses” (p. 31). “Navigating collapsed contexts while considering multiple potential audiences can require significant social monitoring and social negotiation for teens compelling a more nuanced approach to self-presentation online.” In other words, inside jokes, strange interests or bad behaviour can quickly spread across your many personas and give insight, positive or negative to groups of people not necessarily considered for in the communication.

Digital citizenship courses can aid understanding these days almost all students participate some form of online protection course and fill in acceptable use policy agreement. The current generation has grown up in this world and generally have a far greater understanding than those of an older vintage. It is becoming more widely accepted that digital citizenship is not just for students but also for the entire School community inclusive of parents and School personnel. An effective program will expose the participants to the realities and benefits of our connectedness. Modeling a positive digital footprint is key while having a continued and open discussion while evolving practices present new challenges. Today’s learners are well aware that they are creating their own actuality of an altered Id in cyberspace.

Monterosa, Vanessa. “Review: Chapter 1 – “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” by danah boyd.” hastac. 15 June 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016. https://www.hastac.org/blogs/edtechftw/2014/06/15/review-chapter-1-its-complicated-social-lives-networked-teens-danah-boyd.