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.
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!
I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to,Â two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.
If you are are based at Edinburgh University doÂ consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.
Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Patersonâ€™s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.
“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.
The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;Â practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.
We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”
I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session.Â UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.
Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)
Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.
“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research http://edin.ac/1d1qY4K
In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.
The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.Â There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”
I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at:Â www.ed.ac.uk/iad/digitalfootprint).
Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. OurÂ recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.
The list of 50 influencers forms a really usefulÂ array of snapshots of practice andÂ mini case studies of how social media is being used across UK Higher Education and I’d recommend taking a look for inspiration and ideas. It would be lovelyÂ to also get more great people and social media best practice shared, so I would recommend sharing your own additions and tipsÂ to the hashtag,Â #jisc50social, asÂ there is such a rich varietyÂ of use that a list of 50 people cannot, of course, capture thatÂ is taking place in the sector.
Finally, as the individualsÂ who nominated me for this list did let me know that they would be putting me forward I would like to share my thanks toÂ them for their support and enthusiasm. I feel honoured to have been regarded so highly byÂ colleagues from the University of Edinburgh who are engaged in their own wonderful, creative, critical and playful use of social mediaÂ in their day to day practice.
What is it like to write a show for theÂ Cabaret of Dangerous IdeasÂ (#codi15)?Â Well, as I make the final preparations for my own show,Â Back to the Statistical FutureÂ (26th August, Stand in the Square, 3pm, just Â£8 per ticket!), I thought I would share some reflections on the process of developing a show for theÂ EdinburghÂ FringeÂ that is based on academic and research areas, but is accessible to a wider audience. And also on the nerve-jangling experience that is selling real tickets to real punters – andÂ using social and other media to help with that!
So, firstly a wee bit of background.
Back in 2013Â Beltane Public Engagement NetworkÂ – of whom I am a long term fan/member/participant/event junkie – decided to create a new show for the Fringe. It was to be a light hearted academic and research led strand of one-off events for smart audiences.Â And thisÂ “Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas“, was to beÂ aÂ co-production with the lovely experienced production companyÂ Fair PleyÂ and the unstoppable ball of energy and obscure factsÂ that isÂ Susan MorrisonÂ (stand up,Â Bright ClubÂ compere and enthusiast, and Director of theÂ Previously… History festival). You can hear the original pitch, filmed outside that first venue, here:
That first year was an experiment (read more about ourÂ EDINA show at CODI13 here) that led to an amazing CODI (as it became known to insiders/Twitter) run in 2014. Having rushed through prep for our first CODI show, we were keen to be better prepared and planned for our 2014Â show, What Skeletons Are in Your Closet?. Looking across the EDINA activities we were keen to highlight and thought would be of interest to Fringe audiences we decided that the Statistical Accounts of Scotland were an ideal candidate.Â The show sold well, got some lovely comments and attention, and was great fun, and so for 2015 we are going Back to the Statistical Future, and hereâ€™s how we are doing itâ€¦
Where do you start?
The whole idea of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is to actually have a â€œdangerous ideaâ€� â€“ something challenging or provocative. Last year we â€“ myself and my lovely co-host and Statistical Accounts of Scotland editorial board corresponding member Helen Aiton – focused a lot on the forgotten members of society, and the ways in which the Statistical Accounts capture and share their lives. This year we wanted to do something a wee bit different, but we also wanted to be able to build on the best bits of the 2014 show, things like the background to the accounts including, as Susan calls it â€œthe world longest letterâ€� â€“ our enormous physical list of all the questions that had generated the Accounts in the first place (indeed we discovered 6 additional questions last year when researching the show!).
“The World’s Longest Letter” being shown off at CODI 2014 (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network).
So there we were, in autumn 2014, trying to think about what might make for a good showâ€¦ because planning for a Fringe show really has to start about a year ahead to make the various deadlines. At this point we knew the Scottish Referendum result but we also knew that there would be a general election before the Fringe and that the Fringe programme deadline would pass before we knew the impact of that. Now, why would that matter for a show about 18th or 19th Century Scotland? Well, for our ideas to be dangerous and engaging they also needed to be timely and that meant making some sort of connection to the current context.
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
One of the brilliant things about CODI is that the production team have set a lot of early deadlines to make sure those terrifying Fringe form deadlines start to look easily achievable! This year pitches for show were due in person by the end of November or by video in early December. That means you need to know roughly what you want to talk about and roughly how you plan to do that 9 to 10 months ahead of your show. It means much of the hard work is done long before you officially start writing.
So, in November Helen and I started thinking about ideas and decided to take a wee risk. We decided that such was the focus on austerity and cuts that, no matter what the election outcome, there would be a great social policy angle tying the historical picture in the Accounts to modern day Scotland.
But then we needed a nameâ€¦
Thankfully all of the buzz around the upcoming anniversary of Back to the Future inspired us. The film had been interesting partly because 50s fashions and mid-80s tailoring actually has a lot in common, which meant that whilst social attitudes and pop music provided fun contrasts, a lot of what makes that film great is the familiar being re-experienced in an unfamiliar context. With what we had found in the Second Statistical Accounts on part time librarians, pressures to pay to school your children, gentrification, increasing scrutiny of those receiving poor relief and the help of the parish, we knew we had some parallels and a perfect simple title: Back to the Statistical Future!
The next stage was to get all of our expression of interest paperwork together for the CODI producers and, once our show was selected/accepted (yay!) we needed to ensure we had all our details for the Fringe programme. Because the Fringe deadlines are very early – the final deadline for totally finalized copy, images, URLs etc. for the programme and website hits as early in January – we also had to make sure we had everything finalized. That included the modest funding to cover registering our show in the guide, in key programmes, on posters in St Andrews Square, etc. The CODI producers, being fabulous, bundle this all together into a very affordable fee that doesnâ€™t even pretend to cover all their serious hard work supporting the shows and working to get potential audiences, as well as University press offices and local and national press aware of the strand.
So, we had a show title and basic ideaâ€¦ And an official listing imminently going liveâ€¦ What next?
Never mind writing the show itself, the next priority is actually writing the stuff to promote the show: news items for websites, tweets, blog posts, emailing contacts or nudging the press. Because if there is an audience all booked in, we not only need to have the show written but thereâ€™s a good chance it will go well. If there is no audience the best written show in the world wonâ€™t be nearly as fun.
Tickets for CODI have been priced this year at Â£8. That is a marker of the confidence the CODI producers have in us lot â€“ the writers and performers â€“ but it is also something of a challenge. If I can go see Bridget Christie for only a few more pounds, or something at the book festival for a similar price, my expectations as an audience member are set high. But Iâ€™m also really invested in what Iâ€™m about to see or be part of. Psychologically paying for stuff makes us value it more than free stuff. There is a whole free fringe, and there are also quite a lot of free events led by academics and researchers, which are frequently excellent.
Motivation to do a good job: a yurt full of expectant CODI attendees watching our show last year (image copyright Edinburgh Beltane Network).
There are other reasons to charge Â£8. Our venue this year and last has been a yurt in St Andrews Square, part of the Stand in the Square, one of the offshoot venues from legendary comedy club The Stand. So there are promotion costs, the venue costs (hire of space, yurt, power etc), and the costs of having an (excellent) technician keeping our mics and music working as expected â€“ and those apply to every show no matter how famous you are.
Thus, as August draws closer you find yourself logging in daily, checking ticket sales, panicking, and working out how to make your show better, how to let people know about it in a new way, how to tell all of your friends that really, they are better booking early. Every ticket sale is a victory as well as a reminder that your show really really better be goodâ€¦ And soâ€¦
Writing the show itself
So, as I post this it is mid August and our show, taking place on 26th is coming together but isnâ€™t finished yet.
Back in November, when we were preparing our pitch Helen and I both scoured the Statistical Accounts for what we call our â€œsnippitsâ€� file â€“ highlights, quotes, interesting leads, stories and statistics that we think might make a show. Once we had that clearer idea of what to focus on we started looking for more, digging deeper into some of our key topics: libraries; schools; literacy; public housing; disability and poor relief.
Notes from the writing process – snippets, leads, and nineteenth century finances…
There were also Boot Camps to help us along â€“ CODI gatherings in which all participants are encouraged to come along and share advice and in-progress show ideas. Some of these are in the Stand, which comes with the bonus of letting you tread the hallowed 4 feet of plywood that is their tiny stage. And for the last of these, in June, we were expected to give our 3 minute presentation outlining not just the topic, but also the structure of our show. Which means you have to have one. And even if that structure is only finalized late the night before the bootcamp, itâ€™s still awfully useful to have. Because with that title, description, structure and a slowly booking audience all in place you have at least a full skeleton of your show, and plenty of time to flesh it out properly.
With CODI now in itâ€™s third year there are some golden rules about what makes a CODI show too. It isnâ€™t a presentation; itâ€™s about interacting with the audience and engaging them. It isnâ€™t about being the cleverest person in the room but it is about sharing and enlightening the audience with what you know. You need to be prepared but you can also count on Susan, now the compere for all CODI shows, to manage anything really challenging for you. As a bonus sheâ€™ll also dress as a minion, or a penguin, or a hurricane, or, for our show, impersonate a judgmental 19th century Minister of the Church of Scotland.
So the final stage is writing that script down. Which doing Bright Club has taught me is always worth doing for a performance where timing and wording will matter (so this is not always the case for presentations elsewhere). And that structure will get rejigged, and new data may need gathering â€“ for instance in the last week Helen has been gathering data on average pay in 1835, whilst Iâ€™ve been scrutinizing the finances of an Edinburgh workhouse. As Helen and I are in different geographical locations emails and google docs and Skype calls have been happening to check in. And finally, as I am currently doing, it will all get into a finalized script, then read through and changed and made funnier. Then weâ€™ll need to think â€œis that clear enoughâ€� and â€œcan I back that upâ€�â€¦
And then, on 26th August, we will go into a wonderful and hopefully full yurt, and anything could happenâ€¦ we may forget half of the content, we probably will be taken in whole new directions by the audience, why not join us and find out?
I am very excited to announce that the advert for our new EDINA Social Media Officer job (full time, 2 year fixed term) has just gone live on the University of Edinburgh jobs site! Read the full ad, and apply, here.
As some of you will be aware I moved into aÂ new role at EDINA, as Jisc MediaHub Service Manager and Digital Education Manager, back in FebruaryÂ (a role that I share with myÂ lovely new colleague Lorna Campbell). I am still passionate about social media and communication of course,Â but I have officially handed on the Social Media Officer batonÂ ready for someone new…
So, what can I say to encourage you to apply?
Well firstly, EDINA is a lovely place to work – we are a friendly bunch and the organisation is big enough to include a diverse range of people with super skills and expertise, but it’s still small enough to get to know everyone, find outÂ whatÂ we’re all working on, etc. As an organisation we work on some fantastic online services and really innovative projects, which means that there are loads of greatÂ opportunities to communicate and engage using both mainstream and emerging social media channels.
As EDINA is based at the University of Edinburgh we also benefit from the wisdom and opportunities across Information Services, and the wider organisation. Although you’ll see more on pay, terms, and holiday entitlement in the job ad I should add that EDINA also benefits from some excellent in-house bakingÂ as part of an ongoing charity bake sale!
The Social Media Officer was created back in 2009Â and I have to say that I hugely enjoyed my time in the role so heartily recommend it!Â My colleagues have alwaysÂ been enthusiastic about exploring new technologies and ways to communicate, and are a skilled and experienced bunch so,Â whilst the job has evolved reflecting the maturity of social media tools, and their use as core communications channels, but it remains an exciting post with lots of interesting opportunities. And the roleÂ sits in our User Support team, a very welcoming crew genuinelyÂ committed to providing the best experience for our users, including thousands of students, staffÂ and researchers across (and sometimes beyond)Â the UK HE and FE sectors.
As you’ll see from the ad, our new Social Media Officer will have a particular focus on communicating our EU FP7-funded COBWEB: Citizen Observatory Web project, which means engaging withÂ citizen science andÂ local communities across several UNESCO Biosphere pilot locations in Wales, Greece and Germany. That also means working with a wider range of communications channels and approaches, and working with colleagues in an excellent group of partner organisations across Europe – and thatÂ means there’s likely to beÂ a wee bit of travel too!
So, please do take a look at the job ad, see if it might beÂ right for you (or someone you know), and get applying!
Edit: Please note that applications close at 5pm on Tuesday 9th June 2015.
Today and tomorrow I am in busy Birmingham for Jisc Digifest 2015.Â As I am speaking in two sessions this year IÂ decided not to offer my tweeting services to the fabulous Jisc live coverage team, but I will be live blogging as the opportunity arises. Do keep an eye on those tweets though – all sessions will be covered on the #digifest15Â hashtag. There is also some live streaming here. For those attending the event you can find me presenting in the following slots (both in Hall 3):
When not presenting I’ll be updating this blog with notes from keynotes and break out sessions. As usual this comes with the caveats that I welcome corrections and additions since this is genuinely live updating and that can mean occasional errors etc.
And we are off! Tim Kidd, Executive Director of Jisc Technologies is introducing us to the second Jisc Digifest: This year’s theme is “connect more” so please do, with each other, on Twitter, via the event app, etc. Now to formally open the proceedings I will hand over to Martyn Harrow.
Professor Martyn Harrow, Jisc Chief Executive
Welcome all, both in the room and online, to Jisc Digifest 15. But why are we all here? Well we have serious work to do together. Unprecedented challenges face UK Higher Education, Further Education and Skills, and digital technologies are some of the best tools to enhance human efficiency. And we are here to explore the potential for digital tools for higher, further education and skills.
Jisc is funded by higher and further education, overseen by the Jisc board. We are of the sectors, by the sectors, for the sectors. Jisc is dedicated to playing our part to help you achieve your success, including better exploiting existing Jisc services and support – already saving over Â£1/4 billion per year, but also on ground breaking innnovation. You told us you wanted more chance to do this and that is part of the reason for this event, and also why we have a new “architecture” for customer engagement. We also have a new account manager systems – for the first time every higher and further education organisation will have a dedicated account manager, there to support you, ensure you get the best out of Jisc services and activities, but also to ensure you have a voice in shaping what we do, in new activities.
We have many partners, including many strategic partners. I would like to acknowledge these relationships which are so important in what we are trying to achieve. In particular I would like to thank today’s sponsors (AM, CrossRef, Talis), supporters (Epson, Rapid Education, ?) and our media partner the THES.
Connected is the theme of our conference, we have the power to do much more for our sector, for our universities and colleges… And what we want to achieve over the next few days. That’s what we want to achieve over the next few days: a new level of ambition.
Last month I had a request through for an interview on social media for University Business magazine, which focuses on (as the title suggests), the business and administration side of universities. That request proved to be aÂ really good opportunity to look back and reflect on what has been happening with social media across the last 5-10 years, including some awesome innovative activitiesÂ at the University of Edinburgh, many of which – such as social media guidance and advise – EDINA have been part of.
The front cover of the latest issue (81) of University Business magazine.
I’m really pleased to see that some of my comments on the use of social media at Edinburgh and in the wider HE sector have made it into the latest issue (Issue 81, pp 65-8). And I’m particularly glad to see that the Managing Your Digital Footprint campaign is part of those comments as it is a really ambitious project that will hopefully have findings of use for the much wider sector.
You can read the full article – which looks at social media at a number of institutions – online hereÂ (pages 65-68).
This Monday (29th September 2014) the Managing Your Digital FootprintÂ projectÂ launched across the University of Edinburgh. Â I’m hugelyÂ excited about this project as it is a truly cross-University initiative that has been organised by a combination of academic departments, support services and the student association all working together, indeed huge thanks and respect are due to Louise Connelly at IAD for bringing this ambitious project together.
I am representing EDINA across both of the project’s strands:Â a digital footprint awareness-raising campaign for all students (UG, PGT, ODL, PhD) which is led by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) in collaboration with EDINA, the Careers Service, EUSA, Information Services, and other University departments; and a research project, a collaboration between IAD, the School of Education, EDINA and EUSA,Â which will examineÂ how students are managing their digital footprints, where such management is lacking, and what this might mean for future institutional planning to build student competence in this area.
Before saying more about the project it is useful to define what a “digital footprint” might be. The best way to start that is with this brilliant wee video made specially for the campaign:
Digital footprints, or the tracks and traces you leave across the internet, are a topic that frequently comes up in my day to day role as social media officer, and is also the focus of a guest week I provide for the MSc in Digital Education’s IDEL (Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning) module. Understanding how your privacy and personal data (including images, tags, geo locations) are used is central to making the most appropriate, effective, andÂ safe use of social media, or any other professional or personal presences online. Indeed if you look to danah boyd’s work on teens on Facebook, or Violet Blue’s writings on real name policies on Google+ you begin to get a sense of the importance of understanding the rules of engagement, and theÂ complexitiesÂ that can arise from a failure to engage, or from misunderstanding and/orÂ a desire to subvert the rules and expectations of these spaces. What you put online, no matter how casually, can haveÂ aÂ long-term impact on the traces, theÂ “footprints” that you leave behind long after you have moved on from the site/update/image/etc.
When I give talks or training sessions on social media IÂ always try to emphasize the importance of doing fewer things well, and of providing accurate and up to date bios, ensuring your privacy settings are as you expect them to be, and (though it can be a painful process)Â properly understanding the terms and conditions to sites that you are signing up for, particularly for professional presences. Sometimes I need to help those afraid to share information to understand how to do so more knowledgeably and safely, sometimes it is about helping very enthusiastic web/social media users to reflect on how best to manage and review their presences. These are all elementsÂ of understanding your own digital footprints – though there are many non-social media related examples as well. And it is clear that, whilst this particular project is centered on the University of Edinburgh, there is huge potential here for the guidance, resources, reflections and research findings from the Managing Your Digital Footprint project toÂ inform best practiceÂ in teaching, support and advice, and policy making across the HE sectors.
So, look out for more onÂ my contributions to theÂ Managing Your Digital Footprint campaignÂ – there should be something specifically looking at issues around settings very soon. In the meantime Â anyone reading this who teaches/supports or who is a student at the University of Edinburgh should note that there will also be various competitions, activities, workshops, resources and advice throughout 2014-2015, which will focus on how to create and manage a positive online presence (digital footprint), and which should support students in their: professional networking; finding the right job; collaborating with others; keeping safe online; managing your privacy and the privacy of others; how to set up effective social media profiles; using social media for research and impact.
The Digital Footprint project logo – anyone based at the University of Edinburgh will be seeing a lot of this over the coming months!
The research strand of the project is also underway but don’t expect anything more about that for a weeÂ while – there will be a lot of data collection, analysis and writing up to do before we are ready to share findings. I’ll make sure to share appropriate updates and links here as appropriate. And, of course, questions and comments are welcome – just add yours to this post.