The Footprint and the Digital Dossier

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!”

(Othello Act II.iii.262-265).

Cassio only had his own foolishness and the treachery of Iago to deal with. He didn’t have to contend with social media and the digital dossier.

Iago –  who elsewhere in the play goes on an emotional rant about his good name –  disagrees, insisting that reputation is an abstraction to be manipulated.

“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving” (II.iii.268-270)

In Shakespeare, attacks on honor and dignity could be settled with the challenge of a duel. When Thomas Mowbray is accused of treason in Richard11 he declares that  without a “spotless reputation” we are but “gilded loam or painted clay”.

But back to the 21st century:

When Will Richardson said that it should be a goal of every school to ensure that its graduates “google well” he meant that they should be found on line and he was using the verb as a stand in for all search engines.

It still has the whiff of a soap powder marketing ploy, but what he is talking about is personal branding.

Schools, he says, need to teach students who not only know how to seek, find, filter and navigate information but students who can be found with the reputation they have created for themselves online.

Because we know many colleges admissions people and employers are looking, we have two options – to live off the grid or be found in the ways we want to known.

And because not being found on line may raise as many questions in the eyes of a prospective employee, that means online presence and the digital footprint.

Turns out that the recent news item about 80% of college admissions offices checking facebook profiles was not quite accurate but that doesn’t mean prospective students should not be careful about what they put on line and especially about their privacy settings.

But what Will is talking about is far more than removing some unfortunate photos before they go viral. He is talking about active online personal portfolio creation.

What impression are you making with your digital dossier?

And while you start worrying about that, consider this:  cross-platform social face recognition is on the way.  With all our constant chatter and communication we don’t need to worry about surveillance and lack of privacy – we are doing the work of Big Brother ourselves.

Take a look at Viewdl:

Here’s an interesting tool to uncover the digital footprint of your name (and all those with whom you share it). It’s Personas, an installation by Aaron Zinman at M.I.T and presented as a critique of data-mining. Enter your name and – clickety clicky – “you” are mined and then represented in a bar chart that looks like a row of military campaign medals.

This is how Poughkeepsie Day School checked out:

1 Comment

  1. Bryan Maloney:

    Consideration of the ethical implications of tools like Viewdle and Personas opens a new Pandora’s box. Enjoyed the Shakespeare analogies!

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