Life in the digital fishbowl: managing your reputation online

Frances Ryan

Frances Ryan takes the stage

Hot on the heels of fellow Edinburgh Fringe performer Clare Taylor, last night it was the turn of Edinburgh Napier University research student Frances Ryan to step up to the microphone. Frances delivered an invited presentation at The Banshee Labyrinth (fringe venue 156) under the banner of the Edinburgh Skeptics.

Entitled Life in the digital fishbowl: managing your reputation online, Frances used her hour under the spotlight to discuss with the audience the role that online information plays in determining an individual’s reputation. The content of the presentation drew on work that Frances has undertaken in the first few months of her doctoral research. She raised questions about how people determine the information that they share with (or obscure from) others, both intentionally and unintentionally, and related how the information sharing choices of others can have an impact on one’s own reputation, whether this is welcomed or not. In short, your reputation is created by you, and others’ comments and pictures related to you, expressed and/or published online and elsewhere.

After taking questions (on big data, the Internet as a tool for democracy, information literacy, and the ethics of conducting research in this area) Frances drew attention to some homework sheets distributed around the room. These listed tips, tricks, and reminders for the audience members to follow up in their own time:

  1. Google yourself (use other search engines too)
    • Remember to do an image search
    • Use different search terms, e.g locations, schools, workplaces
    • Search for usernames and email addresses
  2. Check for old or forgotten accounts
    • Delete or update details as necessary
    • Contact administrators about lost log-in details
  3. Review your privacy settings – and terms and conditions
    • Don’t forget that your privacy is determined by your friends
  4. Think before you share
    • And think before you comment on others’ posts too
  5. Ask your friends to update their privacy settings
    • And ask the not to check you in or share images of you without permission
  6. Think about your identities
    • Do you need more than one?
    • Do you need to block some people from certain accounts?
    • Do you need separate accounts for your private and work lives?

Soon Frances will move on to empirical work for her study. She is keen to discuss the future stages of research, share information about her research interests, and to meet anyone who would like to take part in surveys and/or interviews on the themes of her research.

Frances’ Edinburgh Napier contact details can be found on her web page on the site of the Institute for Informatics and Digital Innovation. There is also further information about her research on her PhD blog (where you will see that she has also blogged about last night’s performance). The slides from the presentation can be found below. There is another blogged review of Frances’ talk on the Edinburgh Skeptics web site.

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