Expressing My Power - Being Real in Social Media

Which are you when it comes to your digital footprint?
Source: Langwitches

Danah Boyd (shown right) makes some fascinating points here, "Real Names" Policies are an abuse of power:

  • The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power. “Real names” policies aren’t empowering; they’re an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people.
  • And I’m really really glad to see seriously privileged people take up the issue, because while they are the least likely to actually be harmed by “real names” policies, they have the authority to be able to speak truth to power.
  •  If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its users, they need to take these complaints seriously. Not everyone is safer by giving out their real name. Quite the opposite; many people are far LESS safe when they are identifiable. And those who are least safe are often those who are most vulnerable.
Perhaps more relevant to educators is the comment left by educator Sarah Grayson (an alias):

Sarah GraysonAugust 5th, 2011 at 4:49 pmThis is not my real name.
I am a middle school teacher. We have been told that it would be in our best interests to maintain an online presence to further facilitate assisting our students with their educations. We are encouraged to use Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. However, we are also told that anything we say may be grounds for termination if someone decides it’s somehow inapporpriate. We are not given guidelines on what that may be, beyond the obvious. A few months ago a teacher was fired for a smart-mouthed, sarcastic comment she made on FB about administration. She was using a filter, but one of the people on her filter forwarded it. So we are then told that we should have one identity for ourselves and to *use a pseudonym* for our students. For example, I may be Sarah Grayson to my family and sign up as “Ms.” Grayson for my student “fan” page. ‘Ms.’ would be my “first name.” Now tell me on what part of God’s green earth should I have my account cancelled for my necessary pseudonym?
While the swirl of controversy is around Google+'s requirement for a real name policy--which I don't have a problem with since I believe in openness and transparency when it comes to owning your content and actions online, although we are entitled to claim our privacy as we choose as well as give it up--I find the challenge of social media in K-12 environments...just that, a challenge.

I recently shared a draft of an administrative procedure document from a large urban school district with colleagues, and received this response from one of them in response to this excerpt from the admin procedure:
the employee’s friends, or members of the public who can access the employee’s page, and for Web links on the employee’s page.
The response to this excerpt was:
You can hold people responsible for their own actions but not those of others. For example, you can't sue a newspaper for something said in its article comments sections...
In the end, educators are often powerless when school districts choose to protect their image rather than protect your rights under free speech and on social media. Whether that's wrong or should continue, that's up for debate. Often, social media is pushed underground simply because it isn't acceptable to use in schools since the focus is on protecting the school district's image rather than upholding free speech:
I am new to using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) with an academic and professional lens.Prior to joining Twitter,my mindset of what Twitter was laughable and quite naive. I can admit it.  I’m not ashamed. . .On an intellectual impulse, I decided to sign up for Twitter. And I told no one. I was so ashamed. If anyone of my peers knew I was tweeting on Twitter, I was sure to be laughed out of the room. No one I knew understood Twitter, nor though it could be utilized on any professional level. 
Read more online at "Claiming My Digital Footprint" by Vanessa A. 
If claiming your digital footprint became an exercise of defiance in the face of an oppressive organization for which there would be consequences, would you resort to anonymity?


As an educator, do you identify with Danah's point:
The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power.
Given the state of education today, how many people are unemployed as teachers (thousands in Texas according to various sources listed here), would you agree that teachers are marginalized by systems of power and should be granted anonymity?


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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