digital footprint, digital tattoo, or digital immortality…

* re-blogged from my IDEL blog 

Immortality is the ability to live forever.  Biologically, humans are unable to live forever, although cloning might give us an opportunity to preserve our genes and create an eternal line of live: I could be cloned, and then my clone could be cloned, etc. In nature immortality is not unprecedented, one jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii is capable of transforming itself into a younger self and cloning itself.

In his TED Talk Juan Fernandez refers to online tracks and traces as electronic tattoos. He claims that death is no longer the greatest threat for a human being, it’s outweighed by the immortality threat – the immortal threat of an electronic tattoo.

A digital tattoo seems like a more relevant metaphor to describe online presence than a digital footprint. Digital footprint seems too ephemeral; one can easily cover its tracks in RL: footprints can be covered with surrounding material or blown away by wind. Online presence is more permanent than that. However, a tattoo is visible as long as the human body it’s part of lives. This means neither a digital footprint nor a digital tattoo are permanent. Immortality sounds more appropriate to describe the longevity of the tracks and traces we leave behind. One advantage of the online immortality that comes to mind is family tracking, great-great-great-grand children won’t have problems finding out what their ancestors were up to.

I’ve created a little infographic to visualize the tracks and traces we leave and are left of us by others. I think the brick and mortar image is quite appropriate for the notion of immortality; the tracks and traces are there out in the open for all to see, permanent or until something intentional is done to delete them, e.g. the right to be forgotten in EU. The venn diagram shows the duality of online presence, it’s not just us who create our online presence. Once we enter online, we have audience, followers who share, mention, add their own two cents…Further, the CC license is sort of a permission, that’s the deal we make with ‘online’ when we are “born” into it. Our artifacts will be shared, modified, used, maybe even sold. We are in control of what we leave behind; we are not in control of what others leave of us, ‘the uncontainable self’ (Barbour and Marshall 2012).

 Tracks and Traces infographic(1)

To protect one’s digital immortality, one needs to keep track of one’s online presence on a regular basis. Below are some tips I collected mostly from the IDEL14 participants on Twitter.

Click Tips for Online Identity Protection (storified)

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