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Online Identity Analysis

(Worth 20% of your grade; due on February 27)


Before you begin creating your own professional electronic portfolio, you should explore the portfolios of several people you admire professionally. This assignment is designed to help you look closely at how other people in your industry or academic discipline represent themselves online. Once you have identified two exemplars of professional online identity, you will study their online presence and analyze their use of social media and other electronic tools to shape their professional personas.

One of the people you observe should qualify as a “senior” member of your field (e.g., a tenured academic), and one of the people should be your peer (e.g., another graduate student). Once I have approved your proposal, you should begin analyzing your subjects’ personal websites and following them on public social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, Tumblr, Flickr). You may choose to observe people you know personally, but I recommend avoiding close friends, as your perceptions of their online identity will be colored by your personal interactions with them. You may wish to interview the people you observe, but you are not required to do so. The most important rule for this assignment is DON’T BE CREEPY. Your work should not make anyone feel like they are being stalked or surreptitiously monitored in any way.

At the conclusion of this project, you will submit a paper detailing your findings and outlining how your observations will inform the professional electronic portfolio you will create later this semester. Your finished paper should be roughly 2,500 words and should incorporate specific social media posts, screenshots, and other evidence to support your analysis.

Project Milestones

  • February 6: Short proposal (less than one page) due at the beginning of class. Who do you want to observe? What qualifies your subjects as “exemplars” when it comes to professional online presence? What sites do your subjects regularly use? What types of data do you plan to collect? How will you collect, store, and analyze your data? (It’s OK if your answers to these questions are tentative, but you should have some sort of plan for moving forward with this project.)
  • February 20: Initial findings due. Please be prepared to share your work in progress with your classmates and provide feedback on their work.
  • February 27: Final paper due at the beginning of class. In addition, be prepared to share a short (less than 3 minutes) summary of your findings.