Last Monday we launched the new Digital Footprint MOOC, a free three week online course (running on Coursera) led by myself and Louise Connelly (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies). The courseÂ builds upon our work on the Managing Your Digital Footprints research project, campaign andÂ also draws on some of the work I’ve been doingÂ in piloting a Digital Footprint training and consultancy service at EDINA.
It has been a really interesting andÂ demanding process working with the University of Edinburgh MOOCs team to create this course, particularly focusing in on the most essential parts of our Digital Footprints work. OurÂ intention for thisÂ MOOC is toÂ provide an introduction to the issues and equip participants with appropriate skills and understanding to manage their own digital tracks and traces. Most of all we wanted toÂ provide a space for reflection and for participants to think deeply about what their digital footprint means to them and how they want to manage it in the future. We don’t have a prescriptive stance –Â Louise and I manage our own digital footprints quite differently but both of us see huge value in public online presence – but we do think that understanding and considering your online presence and the meaning of the traces you leave behind online is an essential modern life skill and want to contribute something to that wider understanding and debate.
Since MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – are courses which people tend to take in their own time for pleasure and interestÂ but also as part of their CPD and personal development so that fit of format and digital footprint skills and reflection seemed like a good fit, along withÂ some of the theory and emerging trends from our research work. WeÂ also think the course has potential to be used in supporting digital literacy programmes and activities, and those looking for skills for transitioning into and out of education, and in developing their careers. On that noteÂ we were delighted to see the All Aboard: Digital Skills in Higher Education‘s 2017 event programmeÂ runningÂ last week – their website, created to support digital skills in Ireland, is a great complementary resource to our course which we made a (small) contribution to during their development phase.
Over the last week it has been wonderful to see our participants engaging with the Digital Footprint course, sharing their reflections on theÂ #DFMOOC hashtag, and really starting to think about what their digital footprint means for them. FromÂ the discussion so far theÂ concept of the “Uncontainable Self” (Barbour & Marshall 2012) seems to have struck a particular chord for many of our participants, which is perhaps not surprising given the degree to which our digital tracks and traces canÂ propagate through others posts, tags, listings, etc. whether or not we are sharing content ourselves.
When we were building the MOOC we were keen to reflect the fact that our own workÂ sits in a context of, and benefits from, the work of many researchers and social media experts both in our own local context and the wider field. We were delighted to be able to includeÂ guest contributors including Karen Gregory (University of Edinburgh), Rachel Buchanan (University of Newcastle, Australia), Lilian Edwards (Strathclyde University), Ben Marder (University of Edinburgh), and David Brake (author of Sharing Our Lives Online).
been spreading my data on the www pretty much all my life. Yet, never thought about what happened to it when I die. eyeopener from #DFMOOC
The usefulnessÂ of making these connections across disciplines and across the wider debate on digital identity seems particularly pertinent given recentÂ developments that emphasise how fast things are changing around us, and how our own agency in managing our digital footprints and digital identities is being challenged by policy, commercial and social factors. Those notable recent developments include…
On 28th MarchÂ the US Government voted to remove restrictions on the sale of data by ISPs (Internet Service Providers), potentially allowing them to sell an incredibly rich picture of browsing, search, behavioural and intimate details without further consultation (you can read the full measure here). This came as the UK Government mooted the banning of encryption technologies – essential for private messaging, financial transactions, access management and authentication – claiming that terror threats justified such a wide ranging loss of privacy. Whilst that does not seem likely to come to fruitionÂ given the economic and practical implications of such a measure, we do already have the Â Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in place whichÂ requires web and communications companies to retain full records of activity for 12 months and allows police and security forces significantÂ powers to access and collect personal communications data and records in bulk.
On 30th March, aÂ group of influential privacy researchers, including danah boyd and Kate Crawford, published TenÂ simple rules for responsible big dataÂ research in PLoSOne. The article/manifesto is an accessible and well argued guide to the core issues in responsibleÂ big data research. In many ways it summarisesÂ the core issues highlight in the excellent (but much more academic and comprehensive) AoIR ethics guidance.Â The PLoSOne article is notably directed to academia as well asÂ industry and government, since big data research is atÂ least as much a part of commercial activityÂ (particularly social media and data driven start ups, see e.g. Uber’s recent attention forÂ profiling and manipulating drivers) as traditional academic research contexts. Whilst academic research does usually buildÂ ethical approval processes (albeit conducted with varying degrees of digital savvy) and peer review into research processes, industry is not typically structured in that way and often not heldÂ to the same standards particularly around privacy and boundary crossing (see, e.g. Michael Zimmers work on both academic and commercial use of Facebook data).
The Ten simple rules… are also particularly timely given the current discussion of Cambridge Analytica and it’s role in the 2016 US Election, and the UK’s EU Referendum. An article published in Das Magazin in December 2016, and a subsequent English language version published on Vice’s MotherboardÂ have been widely circulated on social media over recent weeks. These articlesÂ suggest that the company’s large scale psychometrics analysis of social media data essentially handed victory to Trump and the Leave/Brexit campaigns, which naturally raises personal data and privacy concerns as well as influence, regulation and governance issues. There remains some skepticism about just how influential this work was… I tend to agreeÂ with Aleks Krotoski (social psychologist and host ofÂ BBC’s The Digital Human) who – speaking with Pat Kane at an Edinburgh Science Festival event last night on digital identity and authenticity – commented that she thought the Cambridge Analytica work was probably a mix ofÂ significant hyperboleÂ but also some genuine impact.
These developments focus attention on access, use and reuse of personal data and personal tracks and traces, and that is something we we hope our MOOC participants will have opportunity to pause and reflect on as they think about what they leave behind online when they share, tag, delete, and particularly when they consider terms and conditions, privacy settings and how they curate what is available and to whom.
So, the Digital Footprint courseÂ is launched and open to anyone in the world toÂ join for free (although Coursera will also prompt you with the – very optional – possibility of paying a small fee for a certificate), and we are just starting to get a sense of how our videos and content are being received. We’ll be sharing more highlights from the course, retweeting interesting comments, etc. throughout this run (which began on Monday 3rd April), but also future runs since this is an “on demand” MOOC which will run regularly every four weeks. If you do decide to take a look then I would love to hear your comments and feedback – join the conversation onÂ #DFMOOC, or leave a comment here or email me.
And if you’d like to find out more about our digital footprint consultancy, or would be interested in working with the digital footprints research team on future work, do also get in touch. Although I’ve been working in this space for a while this whole area of privacy, identity and our social spaces seems to continue to grow in interest, relevance, and importance in our day to day (digital) lives.
Liam Earney is introducing us to the day, with the hope that we all take some away from the event – some inspiration, an idea, the potential to do new things. Over the past three Digifest events we’ve taken a broad view. This year we focus on technology expanding, enabling learning and teaching.
LE: So we will be talking about questions we asked through Twitter and through our conference app with our panel:
Sarah Davies, head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc
Liam Earney, director of Jisc Collections
Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc
Paul McKean, head of further education and skills, Jisc
Q1: Do you think that greater use of data and analytics will improve teaching, learning and the student experience?
Don’t Know 18%
AM: I’m relieved at that result as we think it will be important too. But that is backed up by evidence emerging in the US and Australia around data analytics use in retention and attainment. There is a much bigger debate around AI and robots, and around Learning Analytics there is that debate about human and data, and human and machine can work together. We have several sessions in that space.
SD: Learning Analytics has already been around it’s own hype cycle already… We had huge headlines about the potential about a year ago, but now we are seeing much more in-depth discussion, discussion around making sure that our decisions are data informed.. There is concern around the role of the human here but the tutors, the staff, are the people who access this data and work with students so it is about human and data together, and that’s why adoption is taking a while as they work out how best to do that.
Q2: How important is organisational culture in the successful adoption of education technology?
Total make or break 55%
Can significantly speed it up or slow it down 45%
It can help but not essential 0%
Not important 0%
PM: Where we see education technology adopted we do often see that organisational culture can drive technology adoption. An open culture – for instance Reading College’s open door policy around technology – can really produce innovation and creative adoption, as people share experience and ideas.
SD: It can also be about what is recognised and rewarded. About making sure that technology is more than what the innovators do – it’s something for the whole organisation. It’s not something that you can do in small pockets. It’s often about small actions – sharing across disciplines, across role groups, about how technology can make a real difference for staff and for students.
Q3: How important is good quality content in delivering an effective blended learning experience?
Very important 75%
It matters 24%
It doesn’t really matter 0%
It is not an issue at all 0%
LE: That’s reassuring, but I guess we have to talk about what good quality content is…
SD: I think materials – good quality primary materials – make a huge difference, there are so many materials we simply wouldn’t have had (any) access to 20 years ago. But also about good online texts and how they can change things.
LE: My colleague Karen Colbon and I have been doing some work on making more effective use of technologies… Paul you have been involved in FELTAG…
PM: With FELTAG I was pleased when that came out 3 years ago, but I think only now we’ve moved from the myth of 10% online being blended learning… And moving towards a proper debate about what blended learning is, what is relevant not just what is described. And the need for good quality support to enable that.
LE: What’s the role for Jisc there?
PM: I think it’s about bringing the community together, about focusing on the learner and their experience, rather than the content, to ensure that overall the learner gets what they need.
SD: It’s also about supporting people to design effective curricula too. There are sessions here, talking through interesting things people are doing.
AM: There is a lot of room for innovation around the content. If you are walking around the stands there is a group of students from UCL who are finding innovative ways to visualise research, and we’ll be hearing pitches later with some fantastic ideas.
Q4: Billions of dollars are being invested in edtech startups. What impact do you think this will have on teaching and learning in universities and colleges?
No impact at all 1%
It may result in a few tools we can use 69%
We will come to rely on these companies in our learning and teaching 21%
It will completely transform learning and teaching 9%
AM: I am towards the 9% here, there are risks but there is huge reason for optimism here. There are some great companies coming out and working with them increases the chance that this investment will benefit the sector. Startups are keen to work with universities, to collaborate. They are really keen to work with us.
LE: It is difficult for universities to take that punt, to take that risk on new ideas. Procurement, governance, are all essential to facilitating that engagement.
AM: I think so. But I think if we don’t engage then we do risk these companies coming in and building businesses that don’t take account of our needs.
LE: Now that’s a big spend taking place for that small potential change that many who answered this question perceive…
PM: I think there are saving that will come out of those changes potentially…
AM: And in fact that potentially means saving money on tools we currently use by adopting new, and investing that into staff..
Q5: Where do you think the biggest benefits of technology are felt in education?
Enabling or enhancing learning and teaching activities 55%
In the broader student experience 30%
In administrative efficiencies 9%
It’s hard to identify clear benefits 6%
SD: I think many of the big benefits we’ve seen over the last 8 years has been around things like online timetables – wider student experience and administrative spaces. But we are also seeing that, when used effectively, technology can really enhance the learning experience. We have a few sessions here around that. Key here is digital capabilities of staff and students. Whether awareness, confidence, understanding fit with disciplinary practice. Lots here at Digifest around digital skills. [sidenote: see also our new Digital Footprint MOOC which is now live for registrations]
I’m quite surprised that 6% thought it was hard to identify clear benefits… There are still lots of questions there, and we have a session on evidence based practice tomorrow, and how evidence feeds into institutional decision making.
PM: There is something here around the Apprentice Levy which is about to come into place. A surprisingly high percentage of employers aren’t aware that they will be paying that actually! Technology has a really important role here for teaching, learning and assessment, but also tracking and monitoring around apprenticeships.
LE: So, with that, I encourage you to look around, chat to our exhibitors, craft the programme that is right for you. And to kick that off here is some of the brilliant work you have been up to. [we are watching a video – this should be shared on today’s hashtag #digifest17]
It would appear that my first TEDx, much like my first Bright Club, was rather short and sweet (safely within my potential 14 minutes). I hope you enjoy it and I would recommend catching up with myÂ fellow speakers’ talks:
This summer I will be co-chairing, withÂ Stefania Manca (from The Institute of Educational Technology of the National Research Council of Italy) “Social Media in Education”, a Mini Track of the European Conference on Social Median (#ECSM17) in Vilnius, Lithuania. As theÂ call for papersÂ has been out for a while (deadline for abstracts: 12th DecemberÂ 2016) I wanted to remind and encourage you to consider submitting to the conference and, particularly, for our Mini Track, which we hope will highlight exciting social media and education research.
An expanding amount of social media content is generated every day, yet organisations are facing increasing difficulties in both collecting and analysing the content related to their operations. This mini track on Big Social Data Analytics aims to explore the models, methods and tools that help organisations in gaining actionable insight from social media content and turning that to business or other value. The mini track also welcomes papers addressing the Big Social Data Analytics challenges, such as, security, privacy and ethical issues related to social media content. The mini track is an important part of ECSM 2017 dealing with all aspects of social media and big data analytics.
Topics of the mini track include but are not limited to:
Reflective and conceptual studies of social media for teaching and scholarly purposes in higher education.
Innovative experience or research around social media and the future university.
Issues of social media identity and engagement in higher education, e.g: digital footprints of staff, students or organisations; professional and scholarly communications; and engagement with academia and wider audiences.
Social media as a facilitator of changing relationships between formal and informal learning in higher education.
The role of hidden media and backchannels (e.g. SnapChat and YikYak) in teaching, learning.
I would also encourage anyone working in social mediaÂ to consider applying for theÂ Social Media in Practice Excellence Awards, which ECSM is hosting this year. The competition will be showcasingÂ innovative social media applications in business and the public sector, and they are particularly looking for ways in which academia have been working with business around social media. You can read more – and apply to the competitionÂ (deadline for entries: 17th January 2017)- here.
TEDxYouth@Manchester is in itâ€™s 8th year, and is based at Fallibroome Academy, a secondary school with a specialism in performing arts (see, for instance, their elaborate and impressive trailer videoÂ for the school). And Fallibroome was apparently the first school in the world to host a TEDxYouth event. Like other TEDx events the schedule mixes invited talks, talks from youth speakers, and recorded items â€“ in todayâ€™s case that included a TED talk, a range of short films, music videos and a quite amazing set of videos of primary school kids responding to questions on identity (beautifully editedÂ by the FallibroomeÂ team and featuring children from schools in the area).
In my own talk â€“ the second of the day â€“ I asked the audience to consider the question of what their digital footprints say about them. And what they want them to say about them. My intention was to trigger reflection and thought, to make the audience in the room – and on the livestream – think about what they share, what they share about others and,hopefully, what else they do online â€“ their privacy settings, their choices..
My fellow invited speakers were a lovely and diverse bunch:
Kat Arney, a geneticist, science writer, musician, and author. She was there to talk about identity from a genetic perspective, drawing on her fantastic new book â€œHerding Hemingwayâ€™s Catsâ€� (my bedtime reading this week). Katâ€™s main message â€“ a really important one – is that genes donâ€™t predetermine your identity, and that any understanding of there being a â€œGene forâ€¦ xâ€�, i.e. the “Gene for Cancer”, a “Gay Gene”, a gene for whateverâ€¦ is misleading at best. Things are much more complicated and unpredictable than that. As part of her talk she spoke about gene â€œwobblesâ€� – a new concept to me –Â which describesÂ the unexpected and rule-defying behaviour of genes in the real world vs our expectations based on the theory, drawing on work on nematode worms. It was a really interesting start to the day and I highly recommend checking out both Katâ€™s book, and the The Naked Scientists’ Naked Gentics podcast.
Ben Smith, spoke about his own very personal story and how that led to the 401 Challenge, in which he ran 401 marathons in 401 days. Ben spoke brilliantly and bravely on his experience of bullying, of struggling with his sexuality, and the personal crises and suicide attempts that led to him finding his own sense of self and identity, and happiness, through his passion for running in his late 20s/early 30s. Ben’sÂ talk was even more powerful as it was preceded by an extraordinary video (see below) of the poem â€œTo This Dayâ€� by performance poet Shane Koyczan on the impact of bullying and the strength in overcoming it.
VV Brown, singer, songwriter, producer and ethical fashion entrepreneur, gave a lovely presentation on identity and black hair. She gave a personal and serious take on issues of identity and appropriation which have been explored (from another angle) inÂ Chris Rockâ€™s Good Hair (2009). As well as the rich culture of black hairdressing and hugely problematic nature of hair relaxants, weaves, and hair care regimes (including some extreme acids) that are focused on pressuring black women to meet an unobtainable and undesirable white hair ideal. She also spoke from her experience of the modelling industry and it’s incapability of dealing with black hair, whilst simultaneously happily engaging inÂ cultural appropriation, braiding corn rows into whiteÂ celebrities hair. V.V. followed up her talk with a live performance, of “Shift” (see video below), a song which she explained was inspired by the gay rights movement, and particularly black gay men in New York expressing themselves and their sexuality.
The final invited speaker was Ben Garrod, a Teaching Fellow in evolutionary biology at Anglia Ruskin University as well as aÂ science communicator and broadcaster who has worked with David Attenborough and is on the Board of Trustees for theÂ Jane Goodall Institute. Ben spoke about the power of the individual in a community, bringing in the idea of identity amongst animals, that the uniqueness of the chimps he worked with as part of Jane Goodallâ€™s team. He also had us all join in a Pant-hoot – an escalating group chimp call, to illustrate the power of both the individual and the community.
In amongst the speakers were a range of videos –Â lovely selections thatÂ I gather (and believe) aÂ student team spent months selecting from a huge amount of TED content. However, the main strand of the programme were a group of student presentations and performancesÂ which were quite extraordinary.
Highlights for me included Imogen Walsh, who spoke about the fluidity of gender and explained the importance of choice, the many forms of non-binary or genderqueer identity, the use of pronouns like they and Mx and the importance of not singling people out, or questioning them,Â for buying non gender-conforming, their choice of bathroom, etc. Because, well, why is it anyone else’s business?
Sophie Baxter talked about being a gay teen witnessing the global response to the Pulse nightclub shootingÂ and the fear and reassurance that wider public response to this had provided. She also highlighted the importance of having an LGBT community since for most LGBT young people their own immediate biological/adoptive familyÂ may not, no matter how supportive, have aÂ shared experience to draw upon, to understand challenges or concerns faced.
Maddie Travers and Nina Holland-Jones described a visit to Auschwitz (they had actually landed the night before the event) reflecting on what that experience of visiting the site hadÂ meant to them, and what it said about identity. They particularly focused onÂ the pain and horror of stripping individual identity, treating camp prisonersÂ (and victims) as a group that denied their individuality at the same time as privileging some individualsÂ for special skills and contributions that extended their life and made them useful to the Nazi regime.
Sam Amey, Nicola Smith and Ellena Wilson talked about attending the London International Youth Science Festival studentÂ science conference, of seeing inspiring new science and the excitement of that â€“ watching as a real geek and science fan it was lovely to see their enthusiasm and to hear them state that they â€œidentify as scientistsâ€� (that phrasing a recurrent theme and seems to be the 2016 way for youth to define themselves I think).
Meanwhile performances included an absolutely haunting violin piece, Nigun by Bloch, performed by Ewan Kilpatrick (see a video of his playing here). As brilliant as Ewan’s playingÂ was, musically the show was stolen by two precocious young composers, both of whom had the confidence of successful 40 year olds at the peak of their career, backed up byÂ musical skills that made that confidence seemÂ entirely appropriatelyÂ founded. Ignacio Mana Mesas described his composition process and showed some of his film score (and acting) work, before playing a piece of his own composition; Tammas Slater (you can hear his prize winning work in this BBC Radio 3 clip) meanwhile showed some unexpected comicÂ sparkle, showing off his skills before creating a composition in real time! And the eventÂ finished with a lively and charming set of tracks performed by school alumnae and up and coming band Cassia.
All ofÂ the youth contributions were incredible.Â The enthusiasm, competence and confidence of these kids – and of their peers who respectfully engaged and listened throughout the day â€“ was heartening. The future seems pretty safe ifÂ this is what the future is looking like – a very lovely thing to be reminded in these strange political times.
Preparing a TEDx talk – a rather different speaking proposition
For me the invitation to giveÂ aÂ TEDx talk was really exciting. I have mixed feelings about the brilliantly engaging but often too slick TED format, at the same time as recognising the power that the brand and reputation for the high quality speakersÂ can have.
I regularly give talks and presentations, but distilling ideas of digital identity into 14 minutes whilst keeping themÂ clear, engaging, meeting the speaker rulesÂ felt challenging.Â Doing thatÂ in a way that wouldÂ have some sort of longevity seemed like a tougher ask as things move quickly in internet research, in social media, and in social practices online, so I wanted to make sure my talk focused on those aspects of our work that areÂ solid and long-lived concepts – ideas that would have usefulness even if Facebook disappeared tomorrow (who knows, fake news may just make that a possibility), or SnapChat immediately lost all interest, or some new game-changing spaceÂ appears tomorrow. This issue of being timely but not immediately out of date is also somethingÂ we face in creating Digital Footprint MOOC content at the moment.
As an intellectual challenge developing my TEDx talkÂ was useful for finding another way to think about myÂ own presentation and writing skills, in much the same way that taking on theÂ 8 minute format of Bright Club has been, or theÂ 50 ish minute format of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, or indeedÂ teachingÂ 2+ hour seminars for the MSc in Science Communication & Public Engagement for the three years I led a module on that programme. It is alwaysÂ useful to rethink your topic, to think about fitting a totally different dynamic or house style, and to imagine a different audience and their needs and interests. In this case the audience was 16-18 year olds, who are a little younger than my usual audience,Â but who I felt sure would have lots of interest in my topic, and plenty ofÂ questions to askÂ (as there were in the separateÂ panel event later in the dayÂ at Fallibroome).
There are some particular curiosities about the TED/TEDx format versus other speaking and presentationsÂ and I thought Iâ€™d share some key things I spent time thinking about. You never know, if you find yourself invited toÂ do a TEDx (or if you are very high flying, a TED)Â these should help a wee bit:
Managing the format
Because I have mixedÂ feelings about the TED format, since it can be brilliant, but also too easy to parody (as in this brilliant faux talk), I was veryÂ aware of wanting to live up to the invitation and the expectations for this event, without giving a talk that wouldnâ€™t meet my own personal speaking style orÂ presentation tastes. I think I did manage that in the endÂ but it required some watching of former videos to get my head around what I both did and did not want to do. That included looking back at previousÂ TEDxYouth@Manchester events (to get a sense of space, scale, speaker set up and local expectations), as well as wider TED videos.
I did read the TED/TEDx speaker guidance and largely followed it although, since I do a lot of talks and know what works for me, I chose to write and create slides in parallel with the visuals helping me develop my story (rather than writing first, then doing slides as the guidance suggests). I also didn’t practice my talk nearly as often as either the TED instructions or the local organisers suggest – not out of arrogance but knowing that practicing a few times to myself works well, practising a lot gets me bored of the content and sets up unhelpful memorisations of errors, developing ideas, etc.
I do hugely appreciate that TED/TEDx insist on copyright cleared images. My slidesÂ were mostly images I had taken myself but I found a lovely image of yarn under CC-BY on Flickr which was included (and credited) too. Although as I began work on the talk I did start by thinking hard about whether or not to use slidesâ€¦ TED is a format associated with innovative slides (they were the original cheerleaders for Prezi), but at the same time the fact that talks are videoed means much of the power comes from close ups of the speaker, of capturing the connection between speaker and theÂ live audience, and of building connection with the livestream and video audience. With all of that in mind I wanted to keep my slides simple, lively, and rather stylish. I think I managed that but see what you think ofÂ my slides [PDF].
Normally when I write a talk, presentation, workshop, etc. I think about tailoring the content to the context and to my audience. I find that is a key part ofÂ ensuring IÂ meet myÂ audience’s needs, but it also makes the talk looks, well, kind of cute and clever.Â Tailoring a talk for a particular moment in time, a specific event or day, and a particular audience means youÂ can make timely and specific references, you can connect to talks and content elsewhere in the day, you can adapt and adlib to meet the interests and mood that you see, and you can show you have understood the context of your audience. Essentially all that tailoring helps you connect more immediately and builds a real bond.
But for TEDxÂ is the audience the 500+ people in the room? Our audience on WednesdayÂ were mainly between 16 and 18, but there were other audience members who had been invited or just signed up to attend (you can find all upcoming TEDx events on their website and most offer tickets for those that are interested). It was a packed venue, butÂ they are probably the smallest audience who will see myÂ performance…
The video being during the event captured goes on the TEDxYouth@Manchester 2016Â Playlist on theÂ TEDxYouthÂ YouTube channel and on theÂ TEDx YouTube channel. All of the videos are also submitted to TED so, if your video looks great to the folk Â there you could also end up featured on the core TED website, with much wider visibility. Now, I certainlyÂ wouldnâ€™t suggest I am counting on having a huge global audience, but those channels all attract a much wider audience than was sitting in the hall. So, where do you pitch the talk?
For my talk I decided to strike a balance between issues that are most pertinent to developing identity, to managing challenges that we know from our research are particularly relevant and difficultÂ for young people – ad which these students may face now or when they go to university. But I also pitched the talk to have relevanceÂ more widely, focusing less on cyber bullying, or teen dynamics, and more about changing contexts and the control one can choose to take of ones own digital footprint and social media content, something particularly pertinent to young people but relevant to us all.
When Is it for?
Just asÂ streaming distorts your sense of audience, it also challenges time. The livestream is watching on the day â€“ that’s easy. But the recorded video could stick around for years, and will have a lifespan long beyond the day. With my fast moving area that was a challenge â€“ do I make my talk timely or do I make it general? What points of connection and moments of humour are potentially missed by giving that talk a longer lifespan? I was giving a talk just after Trump’s election and in the midst of the social media bubble discussion – there are easy jokes there, things to bring my audience on board – but they might distance viewers at another time, and date rapidly. And maybe those references wouldn’t be universal enough for a wider audience beyond the UK…
In the end I tried to againÂ balance general and specific advice. But I did that knowing that many of those in the physical audience would also be attending a separate panel event later in the day which wouldÂ allow many more opportunities to talk about very contemporary questions, and to address sensitive questions that might (and did) arise. In factÂ in that panel session we took questions onÂ mental health, about how parental postings and video (including some of those made for this event) might impact on their child’sÂ digital footprint, and on whether not being on social media was a disadvantage in life. Those at the panel sessionÂ also weren’t being streamed or captured in any way, whichÂ allowed for frank discussionÂ building on an intense and complex day.
Whatâ€™s the main take away?
The thing that took me the longest time was thinking about the “take away” I wanted to leave the audience with. That was partly because I wanted my talk to have impact, to feel energising and hopefully somewhat inspiring, but also because the whole idea of TED is â€œIdeas worth sharingâ€�, which means a TED(x) talk has to have at its core a real idea, something specific and memorable to take from those 14 minutes, something that has impact.
I did have to think of a title far in advance of the event and settled on “What do you digital footprints say about you?”. I picked that as it brought together some of my #CODI16 show’s ideas, and some of the questions I knew I wanted to raise in my talk. But what would I do with that idea? I could have taken the Digital Footprint thing in a more specific direction â€“ something I might do in a longer workshop or training session – picking on particularly poor or good practices and zoning in on good or bad posts. But that isnâ€™t big picture stuff. IÂ had to think about analogy, about examples, about getting the audience to understand the longevity of impact a social media post might haveâ€¦
After a lot of thinking, testing out of ideas in conversation with my partner and some of my colleagues, I had some vague concepts and then I found my best ideas came â€“ contrary to the TED guidance – from trying to select images to help me form my narrative. An image I had taken at Edinburgh’sÂ Hidden Door Festival earlier this year of an artwork created from a web of strung yarn proved the perfect visual analogy for the complexity involved in taking back an unintended, regretted, or ill-thought-through social media post. It’s an idea I have explained before but actually trying to think about getting the idea across quickly inÂ 1 minute of my 14 minute talk really helped me identify that image as vivid effectiveÂ shorthand. And from that I found my preceding image and, from that, the flow and the look and feel of theÂ story I wanted to tell. Itâ€™s not always the obvious (or simple) things that get you to aÂ place of simplicity and clarity.
Finally I went back to my title and thought about whether my talk did speak to that idea, what else I should raise, and how I would really get my audience to feel engaged and ready to listen, and to really reflect on their own practice, quickly. In the end I settled on a single slide with that title, that question, at it’s heart. I made that the first stepping stone on my path through the talk, building in a pause that was intended to get the audience listening and thinking about their own digital identity. You’d have to ask the audience whether that worked or not but the quality of questions and comments later in the day certainly suggested they had taken in some of what I said and asked.
As a speaker there are some logistical aspects that are easy to deal with once you’ve done it a first time: travel, accommodation,Â etc. There are venue details that you either ask about – filming, photography, mics, etc. or you can find out in advance. Looking at previous years’ videos helped a lot: I would get a screen behind me for slides, there would be a set (build by students no less) and clear speaker zone on stage (the infamous red carpet/dot), I’d have a head mic (a first for me, but essentially a glamorous radio mic, which I am used to) and there would be a remote for my slides. It also looked likely I’d have a clock counting down although, in the end, that wasn’t working during my talk (a reminder, again, that I need a new watch with classic stand up comedy/speaker-friendly vibrating alarm). On the day there was a sound check (very helpful) and also an extremely professional and exceptionally helpful team of technicians – staff, students and Siemens interns – to get us wired up and recorded. The organisers also gave us plenty of advance notice of filming and photography.
IÂ have been on the periphery of TEDx eventsÂ before: Edinburgh University has held several events and I know how much work has gone into these; I attended a TEDxGlasgow hosted by STV a few years back and, again, was struck buy the organisation required. For TEDxYouth@Manchester I was invited to speak earlier in the year â€“ late August/early September – so I had several months to prepare. The organisers tellÂ me thatÂ sometimes they invite speakers as much as 6 to 12 months ahead of the event â€“ as soon as the event finishes their team beginÂ their search for next yearsâ€™s invitees…
As the organisingÂ team spend all year planningÂ a slick event â€“ and Fallibroome Academy really did do an incredibly well organised and slick job â€“ they expect slick and well organised speakers. I thinkÂ all of us invited speakers, each of us with a lot of experience of talks and performance,Â experienced more coordination, more contact and more clarity on expectation, format, etc. than at any previous speaking event.
That level of detail isÂ always useful as a a speaker but it can also be intimidating â€“ although that is useful for focusing your thoughts too. There were conference calls in September and October to share developing presentation thoughts, to finalise titles, and to hear a little about each others talks.Â That last aspect was very helpful â€“ I knew little of the detail of the other talks until the event itself, but I had a broadÂ idea of the topic and angle of each speaker which meant IÂ could ensure minimal overlap, and maximum impact as IÂ understood how my talk fitted in to the wider context.
All credit to Peter Rubery and the Fallibroome team for their workÂ here.Â They curated a brilliant selection of videos and some phenomenal live performances and short talks from students to create a coherent programme with appropriate and clever segues that added to the power of the presentations, the talks, and took us on something of a powerful emotional rollercoaster. All of us invited speakers felt it was a speaking engagement like weâ€™d never had before and it really was an intense and impactful day. And, as Ben G said, for some students the talks they gave today will be life changing, sharing something very personally on a pretty high profile stage, owning their personal experience and reflections in a really empowering way.
In conclusion then, this was really a wonderful experience and a usefully challenging format to work in. I will update this post with the videos of the talks as soon as they are available – you can then judge for yourself how I did. However, if you get the chance to take part in a TEDx event, particularly a TEDxYouth event I would recommend it. I would also encourage you to keep an eye on the TEDxYouth@Manchester YouTube channel for those exceptional student presentations!
During that University of Edinburgh-wide research and parallel awareness-raising campaign we (my colleague – and Digital Footprint research project PI – Louise Connelly of IAD/Vet School, myself, andÂ colleagues across the University)Â soughtÂ to inform students of the importance of digital tracks and traces in general, particularly around employment and “eProfessionalism”. This included best practice advice around use of social media, personal safety and information security choices, and thoughtful approaches to digital identity and online presences. Throughout the project we were approached by organisations outside of the University for similar training, advice, and consulting around social media best practices and that is how the idea for thisÂ pilot service began to take shape.
These have been really interesting opportunities and I’m excited to see how this work progresses. If you do have an interest in social media best practice, including advice for your organisation’s social media practice, developing your online profile, or managingÂ your digital footprint, please do get in touch and/or pass on my contact details. I am in the process of writing up the pilot and lookingÂ at ways myself and my colleagues can share our expertise and advice in this area.
And, moreÂ exciting news: my lovely colleague Louise Connelly (University of Edinburgh Vet School) and I have been developing a Digital Footprint MOOC which will go live later this year. The MOOC will complement our ongoing University of Edinburgh service (run by IAD) and external consultancy word (led by us in EDINA) and You can find out much more about that in this poster, presented at the European Conference on Social Media 2016, earlier this month…
Alternatively, you could join me for my Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2016 show….
The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas runs throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but every performance is different! Each day academics and researchers share their work by proposing a dangerous idea, a provocative question, or a challenge, and the audience are invited to respond, discuss, ask difficult questions, etc. It’s a really fun show to see and to be part of – I’ve now been fortunate enough to be involved each year since it started in 2013. You can see a short video on #codi2016 here:
In this year’s show I’ll be talking about some of those core ideas around managing your digital footprint, understanding your online tracks and traces, and reflecting on the type of identity you want to portray online.Â You can find out more about myÂ show, If I Googled You What Would I Find, in my recent “25 Days of CODI” blog post:
You’ll also find a short promo film for the series of data, identity, and surveillance shows atÂ #codi2016 here:
So… A very busy summer of social media, digital footprints, and exciting new opportunities. Do look out for more news on the MOOC, the YikYak work and the Digital Footprint Training and Consultancy service over the coming weeks and months. And, if you are in Edinburgh this summer, I hope to see you on the 21st at the Stand in the Square!