Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Online/Offline identities

For Goffman, identity is a series of performances based on interactions with different audiences. So the performance will be different for your fishing mates, the selection panel deciding on your application, and your parents/children.

This gets complicated online where we are unsure just who our audience is, and the boundaries between different audiences is blurred. You might be writing your blog with your fishing mates in mind, but reading it could be members of that selection panel. Just trying to maintain these boundaries can lead to conflict. How do you respond to a Facebook friend request from your boss? Should your parents be able to see your travel photos and blog on Bebo?

A search of Pipl suggests that most of the information on the Web about me, is about my professional identity. But I have been fairly careful about what I publish online. (My early research into Babes on the Web was perhaps a useful personal warning.) Even so I have had someone phone me after deducing my identity by putting together information on a social network site.

The Pew report Digital Footprints divides online adults into four categories based on their level of concern about their online information and whether or not they take steps to limit their online footprint:
  • Confident Creatives are the smallest of the four groups, comprising 17% of online adults. They say they do not worry about the availability of their online data, and actively upload content, but still take steps to limit their personal information.
  • The Concerned and Careful fret about the personal information available about them online and take steps to proactively limit their own online data. One in five online adults (21%) fall into this category.
  • Despite being anxious about how much information is available about them, members of the Worried by the Wayside group do not actively limit their online information. This group contains 18% of online adults.
  • The Unfazed and Inactive group is the largest of the four groups—43% of online adults fall into this category. They neither worry about their personal information nor take steps to limit the amount of information that can be found out about them online.

I'd say I'm a Confident Creative.

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