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Ego and Hubris: Thing2 – Building an Online Identity

September 21, 2012

Our DH task for this week was to consider our online identity. Googling my name led to no unpleasant surprises; I’m either very boring or a master of deceit. I also know that I don’t have to worry too much about mix-ups: there are few Joni Henrys in the world, and we’re a staid lot. And the pop culture associations are dated yet lovable: googling us results in “Joni Mitchell” and “Happy Days” fan sites.


But seriously, I noticed that I have two distinct online personae – one very well managed and one that needs some work. As well as a PhD student, I’m a lawyer. My legal persona is managed by my firm. All the information on its website is up to date, correct, and well presented and, therefore, so is the information on various legal search sites. My ‘academic’ persona is not so clearly defined. You could discover an article and some reviews that I’ve written, but you couldn’t work out where I was working, what my research is about, or most importantly, how to contact me. Academic-me needs to create the same definitive information that my firm provides for legal-me

How to do this? I need my information on an authoritative site for others to find and for me to link. My faculty doesn’t have a list of current PhD students online (perhaps we should ask for it), but I am a member of two Cambridge research groups which do have websites and lists of members. I’ve always avoided sending in my details for the online lists thinking that getting emails about seminars, drinks, upcoming conferences etc was all I needed. I admit I was also avoiding having to (a) write that brilliant precis of my thesis and (b) provide a photo. I’m doing both these painful tasks tonight.

As to managing my online personae – I’m surprised at how relaxed I’m feeling about it. I’ll aim to keep my private and professional personae separate, but I’m not too worried if there is some overlap. For example, I’m vigilant with my privacy settings/friend requests on Facebook and the like, but I also don’t post anything that I wouldn’t want to be made public. And I’ll remain vigilant at keeping legal-me separate from academic-me. I don’t think this should be difficult as legal-me will remain silent on-line. As a lawyer I represent my clients and my firm, not myself. But many of my clients and colleagues know that I’m working towards my PhD and some even find that interesting. I don’t imagine any would want to read a blog about medieval books, but I’d be comfortable, nay thrilled!, if they did.

And that’s the main point isn’t it? I want to attract readers and commentators who are interested in medieval literature and books. The suggestions for attracting traffic were useful. I’ll definitely be linking to websites that I admire when I’ve got a bit more content on here. It was interesting to look at the key word search terms to see what people look for – adding the word ‘handwriting’ to posts about ‘palaeography’ could attract more readers and is a useful reminder to avoid or at least supplement specialised terms. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll be misspelling ‘medieval’ as ‘medevil’, despite my fondness for this lovely word, or gratuitously mentioning the Norton Anthology of English Literature (ahem) to attract more readers. My final thought, and apologies for being non-digital, is that traditional word-of-mouth among my medievalist friends and colleagues will be my first and best source of informed readers. And if I can keep them interested, I’ll be content.


From → DH 23 Things

  1. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, you say? Have you published in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, then? I wonder what the effect of linking to the amazon page for Norton Anthology of English Literature or the publishers page for the Norton Anthology of English Literature would have on your rankings….(as well as mentioning it repeatedly, that is…)

    It’s interesting comparing your professional profile in a profession outside academia -they seem to be quite a way ahead in setting guidelines and conventions, even if these are implicit, as well as a framework and process for presenting this information, than academia is. I wonder what we could learn from it, and also what would not suit us as academics – we have to remember that we represent our institutions as employers, but then we are also employed to be challenging and independent….

    glad you’re getting round to creating the summary info you need for your institutional webpage at last! You would not believe how long it took me to do the same – in the end it was putting this course together that shamed me into it! Getting the faculty to put up a list of current PhD students is also a good idea. As for less digital solutions – search engines are one route, but there are other digital equivalents of word of mouth…. sharing of links by various means (we’ll be looking at Twitter later – i come across lots of stuff by chance on there). it’s useful to think of other ways of pointing people to your online presence as well as SEO, and we will!

    medevil…. *sigh*. I’m not sure which is worse, that or the hypercorrect ‘mediaeval’…

  2. Very interesting post especially as you have two clear public personae to inhabit. I’m sure once you’ve done the brilliant précis of your dissertation it’ll be useful for lots of things, not least this blog.

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