Clive Thompson of WIRED recently wrote a piece called The Age of the Microcelebrity. In it, he describes the phenomenon of being well known, followed, and even discussed by a group of followers, however small. Sure, well know bloggers like Scoble are followed by thousands of enthusiasts, but they are explicitly aware of this and, in my opinion, fall outside the realm of “microcelebrity.” As Thompson discusses interesting anecdotes of people being live blogged as they chat at a conference or his own experience finding a discussion about “whether it’s healthy for [him] to have a nanny look after [his] son during work hours ,” I started to consider how DNs negotiate this reality every day. How has the broadcasting of DNs affected their assumptions and how they operate?

Thompson suggests that “we are learning to live in front of a crowd,” and to some extent, I agree. It is normal on a Monday morning to receive e-mails that you have been “tagged” in photo albums that sprouted over the weekend. I imagine that bloggers with small followings experience the thrill of their posts being debated or discussed. For much of the information we post online about ourselves, privacy is not of paramount concern because we control it ourselves and—often, but not always—tailor the content for our target audience. But in some cases we may want to, as Thompson puts it and as I mentioned in an earlier post, use pseudonyms or private accounts to “wall off” personal details. And here is where many users of online services may go wrong. Although our profile may be hidden, the Terms of Use often allow the service provider to do anything it chooses with that data in the future. A false sense of security can be more harmful than none at all.

What are the effects of this (over)exposure to the rest of our social group and even beyond? Is it good to take care in what we say and do, for fear that we may be misrepresented? Or does that make normal conversation and expression rife with politics? Certainly the strains of managing one’s “personal brand” are felt more by working professionals than DNs still in school, but the skill to manage an online identity is a good one to have.

Thompson finishes with the keen observation that this may not be such a new thing: “Small-town living is a hotbed of bloglike gossip. “ It is true that networked communities dissolve geographic boundaries to give the feeling of that small down, but there are critical differences. Expression in the online world is replicable, searchable, oftentimes irremovable (from the web, once it circulates) and can be viewed by so-called invisible audiences. These differences are part of the digital literacy that is so important for DNs and other users of services to have and apply when negotiating their foray into the online world from the offline one.

   – Tony P.

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