I attended the Digital Academic Identity and WordPress 1 workshop this week.

The Digital Identity discussion fascinated me because, between message boards, blogs, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., I have had an online existence for at least twenty years. Honestly, there have been times in my life when my online existence was better than my “real world” one.  As a result, I wondered how the people running the seminar would approach the topic in an Academic context.

The folks running the seminar had us all google ourselves. In my case, the first two results were for an artist from California. The third was for a blank page on CUNY Commons that I started when I was in a Center for Teaching and Learning seminar at my college.

I was surprised. I have presented at many conferences, most of which have published their programs online, so I figured maybe they would be there. Not on the first page, they weren’t.

This is… not optimal. Clearly, I have to work on my professional digital identity. However, I’d prefer to keep my personal and professional lives separate, so I have to make some choices: do I establish a separate, professional Facebook, profile, for example? Or is it enough that I have a LinkedIn and a Twitter that I don’t use for personal stuff? Does this mean I’ll have to actually USE Twitter? (I’m not Twitter’s biggest fan: I’m just too wordy for it and I know people who have been harassed by the Trolls that Twitter refuses to do anything about.)

Fortunately, part of this Identity Crisis can be solved with WordPress and CUNY Commons. The second part of this seminar was an introduction to WordPress: how to set up a page, and the various things that can be done to personalize it (using templates, adding menus) and upload information, to build a professional website.

I can upload my CV there. That would be a start. Though, again, as the people running the seminar pointed out, it makes sense to upload a CV (as a pdf file) and then break it down, into categories like “conferences and publications”, “courses taught”, and “Academic Service”. I could also, if I wanted to, do blog entries there. I can also link to other sites I use professionally (my professional organizations or my LinkedIn, for example).

Downside? WordPress has a bit of a learning curve. It takes time to figure out. The seminar gave me a start: I can navigate through the basics of putting a WordPress site together, but to fully build it will take me some time.  If they offer this workshop again, I think you should consider attending for the advice but especially for the basics of WordPress. It’s not (for me, anyway) very intuitive.

Overall, this was a great seminar. We need to have some control over our online identity, and building your own Academic website on CUNY Commons (which is powered by WordPress) can help with that.

32 thoughts on “I attended the Digital Academic Identity and WordPress 1 workshop this week.

  1. Matthew K. Gold (he/him)

    I’m so glad you went to this and thanks for reporting back, Sean! For further help with WordPress, please visit office hours of our program fellow Patrick Smyth or the open office hours from the digital fellows.

  2. Farah Zahra

    Thank you Sean for sharing your take-aways from the workshop. It was indeed a great intro to the topic. I was especially impressed by the knowledge of the two digital fellows and by their blogs. We should definitely benefit from the office hours they offer.

  3. Carolyn A. McDonough

    Hi Sean and all,

    Sean — I really enjoyed and appreciated your post about the Digital Academic Identity + WordPress 1 workshop. I really wanted to take workshop this but my sched would not allow on Tuesday, so thanks for your great take-away and thoughts (love your writing style.)

    I’m very well versed in WordPress as I had to launch a WordPress blog for an online course I received a scholarship from the Museum of Modern Art & Credly to take in 2014. That blog has since grown into a quite substantive venture cultureartmedia.com, which is an interactive, anecdotal romp recounting my “hi/low” adventures in culture, art and media. I now maintain 4 blogs which are all arts and humanities related content. So once you get comfy with WordPress, you can actually have more than one blog, (though careful what you wish for!) I’ve found these blogs to be good “calling cards” for both my academic and extracurricular projects, which in my case, are all arts + humanities related.

    Another good site I use toward my digital academic identity and presence is academia.edu which I really like. The analytics are excellent and the interface is very good.

    And this is where Googling yourself is really important because there are DOZENS of people online with my same name. So to manage citations and differentiate myself on academia, I use my maiden name (which also makes sense to do because I follow some of my undergrad profs there and I do refer to my undergrad academic work periodically) https://independent.academia.edu/CarolynAlongiMcDonough

    To differentiate myself on LinkedIn, which I was a beta member of because a classmate of mine launched it, I customized my URL to: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolynamcdonoughmediapro/

    I’m not on Facebook and never have been, but I do use Twitter for my blogs and also academically. I’m judicious about being overly social on Twitter though I don’t think there’s any harm to my “digital academic identity” in my posting an occasional photo with my daughter or with my hair stylist because 99% of what I do is arts/humanities/academically oriented.

    I’d be more than happy to help you with WordPress. Last semester I took the workshop “Teaching on the Commons with WordPress” which I highly recommend, and my skill level with WordPress went WAY up.

    I may create a 5th blog of a purely Digital Academic Identity for myself, per the DAI workshop.

    1. Hannah House

      I’m unusual among Hannah Houses in that I’m not a shelter for pregnant teens or other non-profit/charity organization.

      I just searched “Hannah House” with the following search engines to see where the first result about me appears.

      Google – result #2 – my LinkedIn page.

      DuckDuckGo – result #109 – again my LinkedIn page.

      Bing – result #51 – my Instagram account.

      As our personal data is fed into more and more algorithms that determine what we see, its getting harder to tell just what other people see. Does everyone see my LinkedIn as the second Google result, or is Google feeding that to me because it knows I’m the one searching?

      Things to keep in mind when auditing one’s online presence:
      1. Different methods of seeking will yield different results
      2. Search engines may shape the results of identical queries differently for different users

      1. Hannah House

        Hmm, looks like I accidentally replied to your comment, Carolyn. I don’t see how to delete this, if possible. Reposting my comment as a reply to the main post.

      2. Carolyn A. McDonough

        Hannah — can I just say you gave me quite the laugh.

        Your audit of yourself is great and thanks for articulating that <>. I’ve observed that, too, and I’ve also experienced how query-ing from different devices may shape the results of identical queries differently. I’ve never understood this from the technical perspective.

        On the flip side, query-ing identical queries from the SAME device yields the same result unless the cache is cleared — weird!

        I’m going to audit my name/s from a computer at my local library when they open and the computers are all “fresh” from having been scrubbed the day before (and before another patron logs on) to see what results yield. And I will post my “fresh audit” results to this thread.

        Profs Gold and Brier, perhaps we can discuss the above in class sometime?

        1. Hannah House

          Carolyn, I’m very interested to hear how it went if you ended up having a chance to audit yourself on the public library machines. This might make good conversation fodder at the DH social event next Monday. (I think it would be a great party game too)

          1. Carolyn

            Hannah, absolutely happy to chat about the findings of my audit from a public library computer at the DH social. I like your “parlor game” idea of self-Googling. I have an interesting variation on it: my daughter and her friends sometimes Google their parents (ergo, me) as a lunch hour game. She tells me the results and what search yields they click on. The first time she told me they do this I was like, “WHY?!”

          2. Carolyn A. McDonough

            Hi Hannah — I’m following up having just audited myself at my local library with some interesting yields.

            When I Googled Carolyn A. McDonough, I do appear professionally on the first page of search results (yay) however, the top yields are an obituary for another woman also named “Carolyn McDonough” (no initial) and also from New York. Yikes. This is why I use my middle initial. I first learned of this obit on Sept. 20 during a phone consult with Patrick Smyth who was kindly recapping the Digital Academic Identity workshop. Not fun when he discovered this during our convo as I hadn’t audited myself in awhile. So, nearly 10 days later it’s still the top few results, and thankfully, I’m alive and well right below them.

            When I Googled Carolyn Alongi McDonough, I’m the whole first page (woohoo) and all professional yields (double woohoo). Though there are photos of me with my husband and daughter they are professionally related social moments from my CultureArtMedia blog.


  4. Dax Oliver

    Yes, Googling oneself can be humbling. I’ve been at war for years with a hip-hop artist in Denver over who will be the reigning Google king of “Dax Oliver” searches…

    1. Sean Patrick Palmer Post author

      It’s funny: I started including my middle name in my professional life the first time I was in grad school because some other grad students had similar sounding names.

      And now… nope.

      On the other hand, the artist I share a name with HAS made a concerted effort to establish an online presence. I may not overtake him, but I can certainly do better then a blank homepage.

      1. Dax Oliver

        If you overtake him, he’ll probably be pretty surprised.
        “Dude, I can’t find your next show online.”
        “I know, there’s this frickin grad student…”

      2. Sabina Pringle (she/ella)

        I’m winning the fight for the limelight by landslide over one solitary competitor for my name, who does Stylistics. I’m not too happy to realize, however, that I dominate the Sabina Pringle Google search by overkill: I have two Facebook pages and two Twitter accounts. Eeegh. I’ll get around to cleaning this up today.

        Hey, it just occurred to me that when people choose names for their children they should keep digital identities in mind.

    2. Carolyn A. McDonough

      Dax — I just saw a guy on the news named Andrew Beiber who’s been in a long-term struggle with Facebook because he shares Justin Beiber’s surname. FB locked A. Beiber out of his account for “impersonating a celebrity”! He had to provide multiple photo ID’s to prove his identity. After months and dozens of back-and-forth exchange to get AND help from WNBC’s consumer reporter Linda Baquero, he was finally able to log back in to his account as HIMSELF!

      1. Dax Oliver

        Wow, I’m surprised that he had such a hard time considering he has a different first name. What about the poor people actually named “Justin Bieber”? An author that I like named “Tony Hawks” shares almost the same name as a professional skateboarder named “Tony Hawk”, and he added a page on his website for skateboarding fans. You might be amused at his responses to skateboarding emails:

        1. Carolyn

          Dax, yes, I can only imagine the difficulty in having the exact same name as a celeb — how SMART of Tony Hawks! I hope his writing has benefitted from harnessing the fandom of skateboarder Tony Hawk who has a HUGE retail empire and following. I really like “online culture” anecdotes such as this — what a great solution to a similar name problem and subsequent cross pollination of fans/followers for BOTH Tony Hawks and Tony Hawk!

  5. Nancy Foasberg

    Sean, thanks for sharing this writeup!
    Digital identity is a really interesting topic, and one place where my interests in scholarly communication and digital humanities overlap! Monica Berger, a librarian at City Tech, has a whole class for faculty called Boost Your Scholarly Profile, which she teaches over the summer. You can find her tips here: https://libguides.citytech.cuny.edu/c.php?g=464871&p=3178091

    One thing I’d recommend in addition to establishing a presence on blogs and social media and uploading your CV is creating a profile in Google Scholar (one of the many tools mentioned in Monica’s workshop!). It provides a way to link your work together coherently AND it sends you recommended articles and citations to your work. I certainly have criticisms of Google and of Google Scholar in particular, but I’ve found this one feature very useful.

  6. Sabina Pringle (she/ella)

    Thanks Sean for your post about the workshop. I picked up some useful things at the workshop although I already had some experience using WordPress on the CUNY Academic Commons. I seriously need to update my website! I created it a year and a bit ago, and the next site I created, for a course I’m teaching this fall at CCNY, is much better. This leads me to recalling the valuable discussion we had in the workshop about how much (or how little if you build the site with this in mind) time maintaining a website can take. For example, on my personal website I don’t have a blog, but I do have one on the course website (no-one has written anything on the course blog, boo hoo. I think I’m going to offer students extra credit for blogging. That should get some activity started. ). Kristen, one of the fellows who led the workshop, said that it can be good to choose not to date a blog post if you know that you’re not going to be writing too often. This was super valuable advice.

    I appreciated the list of places we might want to be visible in:

    CUNY Academic Commons
    CUNY Academic Works – upload papers her!
    Open CUNY
    Other personal websites
    Department websites

    And the examples of good websites that the digital fellows provided. I jotted down a few and can share if you like. Something else I learned it that I can use whatwpthemeisthat.com to find out what a theme is. And I learned that alternative text is for people who might not be able to see the image. For example, for profile photo alternative text should be “profile photo.”

    Carolyn, I might ask you for ideas for teaching WordPress, as I am teaching a first-year composition course and will be helping students build WordPress sites to house their portfolios.

      1. Rob Garfield

        Hi Carolyn and Sabina,

        Sorry for getting to this thread so late. At Queens College, my colleagues and I ran a workshop for creating portfolios in Google and WordPress last spring and would be happy to share our experience with you and hear yours.

        In fact it probably makes sense to get a conversation going — in this forum — about the uses WP inside and outside courses since: a) WP’s so ubiquitous and thus is useful and marketable expertise and b) a lot of us are interested in and/or directly involved in dh for pedagogy.

        What do you think?


          1. Rob Garfield

            I think I will, but in the Course Group Forum. It took me a while to trace back to this thread, so I think the forum is probably better suited for an ongoing discussion.

  7. Matthew K. Gold (he/him)

    Hi Sabina — in addition to that list of places to be visible, I would also recommend Humanities Commons — https://hcommons.org/ — certainly in place of a proprietary platform like academia.edu . Interestingly, Humanities Commons uses Commons In A Box ( http://commonsinabox.org ), which is one of the DH projects here at the GC, created by the CUNY Academic Commons team. Here’s a blog post by Kathleen Fitzpatrick on why we should look to non-proprietary projects like the the CUNY Academic Commons, Humanities Commons, HASTAC, and CUNY Academic Works rather than commericial ones like academia.edu:

    Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Academia, Not Edu” 26 October 2015. _Kathleen Fitzpatrick_. https://kfitz.info/academia-not-edu/

    1. Carolyn A. McDonough

      Prof. Gold,

      Thank you for this insight into academia.edu and for providing solid alternatives to it. I’m glad to know of these and will look into them further for my “DAI” presence and portfolio.

      I became a member of academia.edu during a time when I was in between university affiliations, and it worked well for me. During that same time I submitted a proposal to the Renaissance Society of America to present my interactive paper “The Digital Aura” https://carolynartmedia.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/the-digital-aura-selfie-renaissance-gaze-shift/
      at the RSA Annual Meeting. RSA requires that proposals can only be for unpublished works, and if they exist online, links to them must be taken down. I obliged them and sacrificed 1,000 views by deleting the paper, only to have the paper rejected — errrr! So when searchers find my paper on academia.edu now, the metrics on it are low, and therefore, it doesn’t look as widely read because I had to literally throw out all those prior views.

      And then about a year ago, academia.edu took away Google Analytics to those without a subscription, and since the analytics are one of the best features for me (because the search keyword terms help me to understand who/how is accessing my work) I took a subscription for $8.00/month. They have made it worth the money, as there are other “benefits” that come with the monthly fee, but I was irked when the capitalist machine kicked in and forced my hand. No free lunch!

      Ah, the sacrifices for scholarship!

  8. Hannah House

    I’m unusual among Hannah Houses in that I’m not a shelter for pregnant teens or other non-profit/charity organization.

    I just searched “Hannah House” with the following search engines to see where the first result about me appears.

    Google – result #2 – my LinkedIn page.

    DuckDuckGo – result #109 – again my LinkedIn page.

    Bing – result #51 – my Instagram account.

    As our personal data is fed into more and more algorithms that determine what we see, its getting harder to tell just what other people see. Does everyone see my LinkedIn as the second Google result, or is Google feeding that to me because it knows I’m the one searching?

    Things to keep in mind when auditing one’s online presence:
    1. Different methods of seeking will yield different results
    2. Search engines may shape the results of identical queries differently for different users

    1. Dax Oliver

      Google’s personalized searches seem like an issue (especially after the worries caused by Facebook’s personalized news feeds), but I wonder if it’s really as big as we imagine. For example, my first-ever Google search for “Hannah House” had your LinkedIn page at #1.

  9. Sarah Garnett Kinniburgh

    I also attended the digital academic identity/WordPress I workshop this past Tuesday and wanted to echo the shock of Googling myself. As much as I love thinking and talking about branding, my own online identity is scattered at best. I have a light academic footprint so far, and my profiles where I am most identifiable — Twitter, LinkedIn, and, to a certain extent, Instagram — give a slightly different impression of who I am and what I find interesting.

    Luckily, from my perspective, one of the main takeaways from this workshop is that WordPress can feature a variety of content categories. From blog posts and a CV (as a PDF and/or partitioned into sections) to links to profiles and projects on other parts of the Internet, WordPress allows you to customize a website that serves your needs and interests as a scholar/educator/activist/artist. There is no single template for building up an academic identity, on WordPress or otherwise — an obvious blessing but also a curse, as deciding what “counts” as relevant (or relevant enough) is a judgment call. At this point, I will most likely not include my job in specialty coffee on my academic profile, but a researcher and educator like Amara Miller (http://amaralmiller.wixsite.com/educator) rightfully includes employment and activities outside of “the academy.” (If anyone wants to chat about this idea of streamlining yourself, let me know — I think it’s fascinating!)

    On the subject of customizing WordPress to be the most useful for your particular identity and style, Sabina mentioned that Kristen Hackett, one of the Digital Fellows who led the workshop, shared the excellent point that you can adjust your settings prevent a date/time stamp from appearing on a blog posts. This point speaks to a larger consideration: consider what you can realistically commit to to maintain this online presence. I had always associated WordPress with blogging, but Kristen pointed out that a WordPress site can also serve as a relatively static landing/home page for your Google traffic; in her words, “Commons is a good way to direct Google to you” — and the “right” version of you. This point helped me conceptualize how WordPress is a valuable way to consolidate your online presence, not just a blogging tool.

    Beyond learning more technical aspects of building a WordPress site or seven, it has been interesting to think through the more conceptual aspects of what we are doing when we choose to build within CUNY Academic Commons, particularly given the alternatives. Fitzpatrick suggests in “Academia, Not Edu” that “everything that’s wrong with Facebook is wrong with Academia.edu, at least just up under the surface,” noting the platforms’ shared emphasis on monetizing communication, potential data harvesting, and sense of pressure to participate by formalizing an existing network on the platform and/or viewing the platform as a place to expand that network. I appreciate the GC’s initiative to go beyond what “everyone” is doing and to offer and develop (ethically, financially) sustainable alternatives.

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