Topic 2: Reflection

This week’s discussion on the pros and cons of multiple online identities has been extensive and varied. I found the most interesting blogs were those that questioned the future of online identities; the role of technology and those that discussed the stigma attached to multiple identities.

The first thing  that I noticed after reading the blogs and the attached comments is how much this topic is influenced by personal opinion. Some blogs clearly supported the use of multiple identities, for their ability to allow individuals to market themselves to different audiences. While posts like Ben’s use real world examples to highlight the dangers associated with the use of multiple online identities.

The discussion about not allowing our past mistakes to influence our future seemed to bring out different opinions. For example, Jens’ post highlights the negative impact that single identities can have on creativity and freedom online. Similarly, Nicole’s post questions if we are even aware of how many identities we have. I found this particularly interesting as individuals who support the usage of single identities may be unaware of their own multiple identities.

One of the major factors making this such a diverse debate is how different people define multiple online identities: some see it as anonymity while others see it as just simply having more than one account. The multiple identity discussion highlighted the reality versus perception debate, which is epitomised in an article where a student fakes an entire exotic holiday.

I found that this topic has not only taught me how important having an on online identity is, but also to be careful about what that identity represents. The overall conclusion seems to be that people appreciate that in an ideal world, one authentic identity is preferred. However, some recognise that this requires a lot of maintenance, as well as a resolve to be professional at all times.

Commented on:

Nicole Odofin

Saber Hamidi (currently unmoderated)


Identity Crisis: Me, Myself and I.

“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”  Mark Zuckerberg

Your online identity is a collection of your characteristics and your interactions on the web (Internet Society, 2015) . We are now in an age where we are more concerned than ever with real identities (Krotoski, 2012) and anonymity is perhaps an ageing concept. A single online identity is advantageous if you want people to be able to connect to all aspect of your identity, old or new, with ease online. A single identity links your past and present, it’s no longer as easy as it used to be to have segmented identities. The argument for a single identity is that any other options raise doubts of your openness, uniqueness and honesty (Costa and Torres, 2011). Since it’s seen as a dishonest practice to hold multiple online identities and there are various companies that can manage your online reputation.Is there any reason to hold multiple online identities?

Multiple online identities are created for varying reasons and not all of them are to dupe the unsuspecting victim. Often they are created for security reasons and with the lack of legal protection online it seems this can often be a wise choice. Andrew Lewman argues for anonymity on the web to promote creativity. His podcast on the relationship between identity and privacy discusses the application of Tor software as a way of improving security and privacy and enabling users ‘selective invisibility’ (Krotoski, 2012). Lewman understand that the software can be misused and often the darker side of anonymity is evident. Whilst Zittrain (2010) discusses how eBay could use a little less anonymity and that multiple identities can easily be linked to criminal activity.


Rosen (2010) highlights another argument for multiple identities: if our identities offline change in different contexts (social, professional or academic) why should this not be the case online? The success of Yammer as social network used solely by business suggest that some employers promote multiple identities and the clear separation of professional and social identities online.

Projects like STAGE (though still in development) are emerging with the aim of catering for legitimate users of multiple online identities as shown in the video above. Figure 1 shows why people need to manage their online identities.

STAgESource: STAGE 2013

Jarvis (2011) believes that we should be less concerned with identities and focus more on the societal norms online so that risks associated with single identities are reduced. This topic is multifaceted and though not discussed here has links to research in sociology, psychology and education but to name a few. Watch the TEDX lecture below for an  overview on the psychology of multiple online identities.

Costa, C. and Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, University of Salford.

Internet Society (2015). Manage Your Identity. Accessed on: 20/02/2015

Jarvis, J. (2011) One identity or more? Accessed on: 19/02/2015

Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian.

Rosen, J. (2010) The web means the end of forgetting. The New York Times Magazine.

STAGE (2013) Digital service system for online identity management.  Accessed on: 19/02/2015

Zittrain, J. (2010). Reputation Bankruptcy. The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Harvard Law School.

Topic 1: Reflection

The ‘Digital Resident’ and ‘Visitor’ narrative was a very interesting starting point for the first blog post. The idea of starting a blog on the topic of how we categorise people’s usage of the web produced posts that were easy to relate to and discuss. Sophie Elliott’s post used personal experience to reiterate the potential divide between parents and children. The post also highlights how experience and knowledge shape our use of the web. Jens Buhler’s blog also brought up the importance of considering the risks involved in using the web, which leads to an interesting thought regarding digital residents and their security concerns or lack thereof.

I found reading other blogs based on Prensky, as well as White and Le Cornu’s work, has resulted in many of us now critically assessing our interactions on the web. Though Prensky’s work has been critiqued for its simplicity and its inability to be flexible, it still the founding idea of what is now an ever growing and evolving discussion.

Since starting the blog I have joined Twitter, Instagram and created an About.Me profile, which has definitely evolved my usage of the web. However, the evolving nature of my usage has also made me realise how difficult it can be, to be objective about where I place myself on the axis between resident and visitor, perhaps highlighting a critique of White and Le Cornu’s work. Though the open nature of White and Le Cornu’s classification means that unlike Prensky’s work, it is adaptable and open to change with the evolution of the web.

Conducting research and viewing others blogs, made me consider how useful the narrative was. The idea that we lie between 2 extremes is interesting, especially as it can be used to classify people however, this classification needs to have a purpose.

Commented on:

Sophie Elliott blog

Jens Buhler blog

Topic 1: ‘Digital Residents’ and ‘Digital Visitors’

Prensky’s (2001) work on digital natives and digital immigrants was very influential at the time but over a decade later it has been heavily critiqued due to its simplistic nature; ill-fitting metaphors and its tendency to rely heavily on age to determine ability. Even Prensky himself has critiqued the validity of the debate in today’s online world. As a result the digital resident and visitor concept was introduced to understand the complex nature of how we use with the web.

The idea of digital visitors and residents is based on our levels of engagement with the web. We are either a resident of the web and join in the community by structuring an online identity that remains even when we are offline. Alternatively we are just visitors using the web to achieve a goal leaving no social trace (White and Le Cornu, 2011). White summarises these ideas in a video where he further explains that the residents and visitors idea sits on a continuous axis where we are able to be in different modes, we are not solely only a visitor or a resident. The animation video highlights the basics of White and Le Cornu (2011) debate.

The emergence of large social media sites began when I was well into my teens. The digital age was advancing rapidly and I had gone from using the internet solely to google pictures for my dorm room to connecting with friends on Facebook. I have endeavoured to keep up with the changes on the web but often find myself falling behind and concerned about my privacy. This concern for my privacy has often meant that ‘visitor mode’ tends to be my default mode. I use the web daily and with efficiency but only in terms of achieving my goals. I don’t contribute to the web but find others contributions essential. I read hundreds of blogs when deciding on a new purchase and I can spend weeks sifting through customer reviews.

The idea of residents and visitors is evolving as fast as the web. Just like Prensky’s ideas lost favour over time, it is possible that the resident and visitor idea may no longer be valid in a decade.

If you are interested the University of Oxford is currently involved in a study to investigate the theory of digital residents and visitors with learners in different educational stages to understand how learners engage with the Web.

Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On the Horizon, Vol. 9, No. 5.

White, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) ‘Visitors and Residents: A New Typology for Online Engagement’, First Monday, Vol. 16, No. 9.

White, D. (2014) ‘Visitors and Residents Video’, Jiscnetskills, Accessed: February 2015.