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Digital Footprints in the Sands of Time

October 6th, 2009 · 4 Comments

Footprints in the sand
Originally uploaded by Welshdan

Jesse Bradley, in his recent post about the invisible audience, touched on the trail of his person that was collecting in cyberspace. He wondered what his children would come to know about him through his digital footprint online.

Gottsela touched on similar issues as she explored what should be posted online. Her post generated several comments on issues of privacy and risk. What should we post if it is accessible by anyone? And forever?

So having just read Jesse’s and Gottsela’s posts, I was struck when I heard on an episode of Spark about Viktor Mayer-Schonberger’s book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. According to the Spark trailer,

Mayer-Schonberger argues that forgetting is a natural human process, and that digital technology and cheap storage are creating all sorts of problems, from an assault on privacy, to an inability to make decisions.

Sue Waters also reminds us that “online is forever”. Sue said in the EC&I831 class tonight, “If I wouldn’t say this in front of an audience of people then I wouldn’t say online.”

We need to think carefully when we post online. But Mayer-Schonberger’s work goes beyond the notion of what we should post. He speaks about what we as a society need to consider. We have changed the way we relate to one another. It is not just about the posts that we make, it is also about the digital traces that may be left about us by others. As humans, we have the capacity to forget. In our digital lives, our footprint lasts forever.

Have you googled or binged yourself today?

Tags: educational technology · privacy · security · social networking

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Penny // Oct 6, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Such important topics to touch on. It is well worth the time to listen to the full interview with Viktor Mayer-Shonberger. The permanency of information is indeed troublesome but equally troublesome is the lack of context (especially in terms of time frame).
    A major complaint heard from those of us who grew up in very small towns, is that your actions (and those of your ancestors) are never forgotten. It can be difficult to grow and change, as those around you never “forget” who you were and “where you come from”. It’s a hard road to travel, but eventually (with twice as many good deeds as the next guy) those footprints may fade.
    I find it interesting to watch society as a whole, deal with challenges that are part of culture in small rural communities. I wonder what lessons can be shared?


    rdrunner Reply:

    Penny that’s a great question. Is the lesson just as you posed perhaps, that our most recent work will be that which is remembered? Perhaps communities are kinder though than the authorities that dealt with the black and white of the article at the border. Or will we over time adopt similar postures of forgive and forget within the technology as that which makes us human to begin with.


  • 2 Barbara Sakamoto // Oct 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Every once in awhile I google myself and my family members just to see what’s out there. Believe it or not, I can still find a profile page from a deleted Xanga (like myspace) account from my daughter’s junior high school days, when she was just learning what was and was not OK to put online.

    Nothing goes away. It just becomes part of a cache, somewhere :)


  • 3 James Aitchison // Nov 7, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I was going to respond… then I forgot what I was going to say. Great post Cindy.


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