Digital identity

*This was originally posted on a blog for my introduction to UMW’s Domain of One’s Own Faculty Initiative.

Prompt: Spend a moment and consider what makes up your current digital identity. Write down what you think people would find out about you if they were to search for you on Google. Then do an actual search and see what you find. How does your perceived presentation of your digital identity compare with your actual one? Are there elements you feel are consistent with what you want that digital identity to look like? Elements that you don’t want contributing to your digital identity?

My expectations: my presence will be fragmented. I suspect I’ll show up with some connections to UMW (on the History and American Studies page), as well as U.C. Irvine (I know at least the grad program keeps a list of graduates and their current employment status). I know I’m on RateMyProfessor.com as far back as Irvine, though I made a conscious effort to avoid returning to the site and haven’t been there in a couple of years. Though it may not be clear it is the same Jason Sellers, I may show up in the by-lines for news stories I wrote for the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review; stories for the Daily Californian more clearly connect with me, since I’m a Cal grad. Some conference programs are probably floating around, as well. I believe my Facebook settings are such that that page won’t show up (I try to pay attention to when FB changes its settings and defaults and makes people opt out, and go update settings then); Academia.com and LinkedIn may appear since I have accounts, but I rarely/never do anything with them, so there shouldn’t be much there. I also know there will be those pages of phone numbers and home addresses that I’ll appear on. As far as Jason Sellers people who aren’t really me, I know there’s a country singer/song-writer who will show up, presumably higher in the search results than I will.

First, an interesting aside: Google displays a profile on the right side of the page that includes just my Gmail address, notes my profile is only 20% complete, and suggests, “Stand out from other people named Jason Sellers, update your profile.”

And there are plenty of them. As expected, country singer Jason Sellers dominates the top of the list, with a Wikipedia entry, a YouTube video, and three other pages. I want to distinguish myself from a Texan with a background in gospel music. My UMW profile does show up in the 6th spot, which seems respectable. That, however, is followed by a Facebook Jason Sellers with spiky hair (yeah, not me–though I also don’t appear on the list of “Other Jason Sellers” on this page, so apparently I’ve got the settings right), Jason Sellers Racing, a German photographer, and an actor in New Zealand. That’s the first page of results. Page two has some more of those guys, a Chevy dealer in Kalamazoo and a chef in Asheville, NC, while page 3 turns up a BMX racer, a high school baseball prospect, and a University of Washington scientist with the same middle initial as me.

I also make my return to the results via RateMyProfessors; On page 6 we get one of my book reviews, published in a digital-only journal.

Interesting, the Irvine stuff cropped up only in one of Google’s “searches related to jason sellers,” specifically “jason sellers california.” There I got top billing, but still have to share the first few pages with tons of others. More intriguingly here, the bottom of page 3 is my new domain.

I also tried “jason sellers history,” where I don’t have to share top billing. With that, I get UMW, Bemidji, and Irvine hits; the first 6 results, and 8 of 10 results on page 1; plus the top two spots on page 2, including my new domain.

So basically I have a presence, but it’s sort of buried in the midst of a lot of other guys named Jason Sellers (a not uncommon name). Unless you add my discipline on the end, which helps, though there’s still no one-stop shop. I’m actually surprised not to see any of my newspaper stories show up, though I’m also not complaining–the Boyd reading made me wonder about whether I would have an outdated public identity. I can find my stuff in the Daily Californian by adding the newspaper name to my search, but the Chico newspapers don’t turn up. I’m fairly happy that most of what comes back quickly is related to the last few years of grad school and my early career (which I guess makes sense). I wouldn’t mind the RateMyProfessors stuff getting pushed down in the results, whatever it says, but that motive is part of why I want my syllabi up and visible on my page.

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