There are three main ways we can characterise most peoples online internet and mobile activity and presence. Let me state up front that these distinctions are purposely blunt, but do act as effective and critical distinctions, especially when talking to people about how and why they can manage their online identities. They're also very indiscreet, leaky categories, although it is of course possible to find examples of people who's online identity is confined to or dominated by a single category. Why are these differences important? Because they provide us with the building blocks to talk about and actively reflect on our online activity. How we represent ourselves, and how we are viewed online, is increasingly a part of daily social and economic life. Critically, for people working within social media or supporting digital literacy, they provide a robust framework within which to talk about key issues: privacy, data ownership/mobility, representation and voice.
The three main categories I use then are personal, professional, and organisational.
Personal use might include using dating sites, having a social network account to connect to friends and family, uploading your family photos to a photo-sharing site. Personal use is most likely to be the category where attention to social network service permissions – who is able to see what – is particularly important to users.
Professional use could include the use of a professional networking site, or the use of a social network, a blog or other website to showcase and record work, develop connections and contribute to national and international professional networks. It includes a public facing CVs, publicly accessible parts of a personal learning environment, or an e-portfolios, conversations across mailing lists or social network services. Typically, these activities are public facing, so the most pertinent issues are typically about voice, representation, reputation and trust,
Organisational use would involve the employee using tools or platforms on behalf of their employer or in the line of their work duties. For example, an employee may run a blog as part of their role, maintain a social networking profile in order to make information accessible to students and parents, deliver assignments using a Virtual Learning Platform or set up a group account for learners on a video sharing site. Organisational use may be public, promotional and conversational, or operate within walled garden environments, or, indeed, a mixture of the two.