Digital Literacy, Needs Assessment, Networked Practice, privacy, Reflections, technology

My Digital Audit: Where Do I Want to Be Online?

Do you know how much we weave social media platforms and online technology companies into our daily lives? Would it be possible to not live with Google, Facebook, Apple or other technology companies? It’s been something I have been thinking about for a while (like others), and often how much do we test these questions in the wild. If you have not seen the technology blocking experiment conducted by @Gizmodo‘s reporter, Kasmir Hill, you should. Kahsmir tries to take on and live without the technology giants, Amazon, Facebook (which includes owned companies, Whatsapp & Instagram), Google, Microsoft, and Apple. Impressive, right? But is it impossible? Even if you don’t plan to say, “Ciao!,” to these platforms this “Goodbye Big Five” investigation and hands-on reporting will inform you about how much we let these companies invade (most) of our lives, take our money, use our data, and capture our attention.

It is far too easy to sign up or sign on to websites, apps, and platforms with a simple click. No need to read those terms of service agreements. Nah! Also, all you need is my email, mobile phone number or one of those big tech accounts to sign up (e.g. Facebook, Google or Twitter), than why not join? Apps and social media platforms want to make our online user experiences fluid and seamless — which also allows the same platforms and apps to track your digital movement and access your personal data through your connected accounts.

Image c/o Vitor Sá: https://www.flickr.com/photos/virgu/12496426/

For the past 6 years, I have been doing an alright job of tracking of my digital life and auditing where/how I am online. I use a simple spreadsheet to itemize the account name, log in, information, connected accounts, purpose, and more for this digital audit. If interested, here’s a blank spreadsheet you can copy/download to use as you review your apps and online accounts yourself:

Digital/Web Audit TEMPLATE

That being said, it has been a while since I have given it a proper review to include where my personal data lies and maybe the social media apps, online accounts, and forgotten sign-ins that I have not really examined as closely. It is no longer easy to use JustDelete.me and a delete button to remove your data from online accounts. Our existence online is more complex and often woven into one another between the platforms we use and the shifts in these mediums. Maybe I have grown up a bit, but so have these digital platforms, and I’m not so sure they have matured into the tech adults I would like them to be. Here are a few platforms concerns with and why I’m considering closing a few of my own social media spaces, just to name a few:

Beyond policies, practices, and costs, I was trying to determine where I want to “live” online and what it means now that some of these platforms have merged or have experienced new management change. Back in January, I facilitated a workshop about managing your digital identity and being a professional online in higher education. Some of the big questions I challenge participants to reflect about as they consider their online self and where they want to be include:

  1. Why do I want to share my knowledge and expertise? What interests me about “being” online and maybe even connected to my peers?
  2. Where do you want to be online? How do I want others to find and connect with me?
  3. What digital/social platforms would be best for how and what I want to share? Where will I find my professional networks online?

I shared how my own digital presence or “being” online has evolved. Although I used to be in a log of social and digital spaces, that is not the case anymore. A number of platforms have been deactivated (RIP Google Reader & Delicious). While others might have been just a platform to test out or try on. That being said, if something does not resonates with me or find a purpose in my digital life, than I’m okay to say goodbye. So, if any digital space or online place does not “bring you joy” (hat tip to the digital #MarieKondo practice), maybe it’s time to bid farewell. Here is the main focus of my personal digital and data audit:

Where do I want to be online?

Some of my digital self review has been going on for a while, but this year is the year to finish and probably shut down a few social media platforms and online accounts for good. Permanently. It’s time to simplify my streams and declutter my social (media) life. I have started the process and initiated the review of the audit spreadsheet to determine what accounts are active and to itemize what is happening online. Here are a few things I did to start this digital and data audit of me:

  1. Unsubscribe: I used Unroll.me to start the initial clean up and unsubscribe of email lists, advertising, listservs, and duplicate groups/listservs from all my email accounts (personally/professionally).
  2. Revoke/Remove Connections: By logging into your social media platforms, online apps, and digital accounts, you might see you have granted 3rd party access to other applications/users/accounts — remove said things.
  3. Identify the Accounts Where Your Personal Information Lies: Using the various emails, I used Deseat.me to get a list of my accounts and apps that I have signed up for to identify and delete the ones I am not using OR to add these to my digital/web audit spreadsheet to track. This method offers a GDPR message template (thanks, EU GDPR!) to send a template email to the platform administrator to remove yourself from online and social media accounts. This might (and does) require follow up messaging, emails, and sometimes confirmation contracts to remove your information and personal data from certain accounts. It might take some time to get responses and confirmations for deleting yourself from various platforms, communities, or online programs (I know. I am in week 4 of this process.)
  4. Download Your Personal Data: For the accounts and platforms you are thinking about deleting, consider downloading your account data. This might be an archive of activity, posts, etc (e.g. Facebook). Or it could be a files, images, and other items within each account (e.g. Flickr). Part of this download may require you to determine storage elsewhere, such as, in another cloud-based service OR external hard drive (or both). Figure out the how much of data and your use of it, to determine your next steps.
  5. Delete Yourself: Depending on your goals, you may just want to wipe your accounts online to remove all that is there. There are a few guides to get yourself off the grid to get you started. Deseat.me will remove your data and delete some of your accounts, but you will need to visit each account/platform you have to manually complete the deletion process. Check out these suggestions for finding/deleting accounts from the Internet, a list of “how to” delete yourself from social media platforms, and suggestions for deleting (or locking down) your Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The above is just a start — but I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on, ironically, offline and online to audit my digital and data self. Let me know if you have suggestions, resources, or ideas for this review process. I would love to hear how your own audit, review, and reflections are going if you are pondering the same thing.
Networked Community, Networked Practice

What Does the #SApro Facebook Group Actually Talk About?

Wow. It’s the end of June. It’s been pretty quiet on this blog, and really on most of my social streams. I have intentionally turn off, deactivated, and ignored my social media channels to really dig into understanding more about networked practices in higher education. June has been filled with a many research and writing tasks: reviewing up interview transcripts, editing a couple of manuscripts for journals, reading even MORE literature, and cleaning/organizing extant data (e.g. digital archives, online community spaces, etc.). Sounds like fun, right?

To take a break, I’m emerging from my #ShutUpAndWrite hiding location to give an update on one community we examined. At the end of May, a few of us (Paul, Adam, Josie, & I) discussed how and why we researched the Student Affairs Professional Facebook Group on the Higher Ed Live episode: “Researching Student Affairs Professional’s Digital Communities.” In listening to this broadcast, I thought this conversation with Tony was helpful to open up about our process and explain more about this type of research. Although we presented this study during #ACPA18 and we currently have an article “under review,” I thought I’d offer some highlights from our conversation for graduate students and professionals in Student Affairs.

In combing through the empirical literature on Facebook groups, there are a number of industries and a variety of professionals who utilize this platform for their occupation. What is unique about the Facebook groups we looked at, in comparison, it was rare to have a community be actively sustained for such a long length of time (since 2009) and to find one as as scaled in membership (30, 866 members as of today).

The community members of the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook group share a significant amount of data (information that something happened) and knowledge (information about why something happened) via this social media platform (a digital infrastructure that enables two or more groups to interact (Srnicek, 2017). There are so many assumptions, observations, and anecdotes for this group; however very little evidence has been gathered using data to inform what is being shared within the conversations of this digital space — so we guided our study with these research questions:

RQ1. What topics and issues do member of the Student Affairs Professional Facebook group discuss over 14-month period of time?

RQ2. What topics and issues gain the most shares, comments, reactions, and interactions?

To learn more about the process for data collection, analysis, and our preliminary findings, watch the archived @HigherEdLive episode here:

Here are just a few of the questions Tony asked with the relevant response after this time stamp:

  1. Introductions and about the topic [Start]
  2. [6:42] You decided to study the Student Affairs Professionals  Facebook Group. Why did you think this group in particular was important to study?
  3. [9:05] How did you collect the data you analyzed?
  4. [15:23] There has been a lot of talk about privacy issues related to Facebook and other social media lately. How did you protect people’s privacy and why is this important for researchers doing social media research?
  5. [17:25] What types of analyses did you conduct and why were these the analytical approaches you decided to employ?
  6. [20:10] What are some of the ways professionals are using this space, based on your analyses?
  7. [27:42] Which posts garnered the most engagement? What might this say about our profession and the ways that professionals are using groups such as the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook group?

When solicited for advice or resources for digital communities our panel offered a few helpful suggestions. Thanks for asking the questions and having us talk about our research process out loud, Tony. Here are our parting thoughts that closed the conversation [57:12]:

  • Josie: Instead of a resource, find people to look to “lurking and learning” and watch how they use these social and digital platforms. Pay attention to behaviors, reach out to chat with them, and ask questions – find a mentor to discussion your professional digital self with. Seek out people, and not just paper. Find others to learn and grow from within your network.
  • Adam: Look beyond the field and engage with communities beyond the field of Student Affairs and outside higher education; think with an interdisciplinary spirit about your own practice to encourage a diversity of thought to your own campus.
  • Paul: We need more experience and exposure to learn how to research in the field about the field in these digital spaces. A few suggested books: Methods – Sage Handbook of Social Media Methods; Conducting Qualitative Inquiry of Learning in Online Spaces; Digital Tools for Qualitative Research and Journals: Social Media & Society; Computers in Human Behavior; Internet and Higher Education
  • Laura: “Study problems, not things.” by @veletsianos Forget the technology or the tools. What is the question or issue you want to explore? We need more practitioners to be part of this research and be part of this process in understanding how and why we engage in digital communities and spaces. We need more people to find evidence and share the work we do.

Suggested Reads:

Helpful Resources for Community Moderators:

  • Are you a moderator or admin of a Facebook group? You might want to use https://sociograph.io/ This can help you understand more about your community and group as the Administrator; this needs to be an open group to use the tool. This can be a good starting point to learn about your community.
  • Need to gather a hashtag to archive your Twitter community conversation and interactions? TAGS is a free Google Sheet template which lets you setup and run automated collection of search results from Twitter: https://tags.hawksey.info/ [Thanks, Martin Hawksey!]

If you’re interested and want to learn more about the larger research project OR perhaps even get involved with research in this area — please reach out! To learn more the about networked practices in higher education and student affairs study, that is, general updates, publications, and presentations can be found here:  https://networkedcommunityofpractice.wordpress.com/

Reference:

Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Learning Community, Networked Practice, PLE, PLN

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) & Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) & Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are a forced to be reckoned with as technology becomes more accessible and user-friendly.

pler

On October 13-16, 2009, the online symposium on learning-centric technology shared ideas on how PLEs & PLNs are impacting the educational technology field. Here’s a bit more from the symposium organizer’s George Siemens & Stephen Downes:

The interest in Personal Learning Environments has grown with the emergence of Web2.0 technologies. Learning technologists can see how PLEs can help learners to organize their own personal learning, rather than that formal education institutions control the technologies that are being used and the way in which they are being used. Speakers will include developers and researchers of PLEs. All events will be hosted in Elluminate and recorded for archives. A discussion forum will be hosted in Moodle for asynchronous interactions.

Although I was working during the scheduled speakers, I managed to read posted materials and listen to the one of the recorded sessions . There are a wealth of great experiences & ideas archived online, and I hope to listen/learn more  in the upcoming weeks. Many of these speakers are leaders and pioneers in the PLE & PLN learning field.

For those of you interested and engaged in contributing your own educational experience with personal learning environments/networks, might I suggest you also check out the Call For Chapters for an upcoming eBook by Athabasca University and the National Research Council of Canada.