Web Presence

Web Presence and Digital Footprints

A formal definition of “web presence” reads as follows: “A web presence is a location on the World Wide Web where a person, business, or some other entity is represented” (“Web Presence,” 2016). An obvious interpretation of the concept of “web presence” is simply, “being present online.” Another given definition, which I feel more accurately captures the nuances of the term, states that “web presence” is, “The art and science of being found online” (Pick, 2011). Developing a web presence is both an art and a science. Loosely speaking, it’s an “art” because of the creativity one must exercise to craft an accurate and positive presence. However, it’s also a “science” because it requires logic and strategy.

After considering this, I concluded that I’d like my personal definition of web presence to be, “the art and science of being present online.” I chose to flip the last part of the previous definition. While it’s important to be “found” online, that is more passive; it’s something that happens to you. I would prefer to define web presence in a proactive sense. A person can still achieve a strong and positive web presence without being dependent on others to “find” them.What I think? Web presence is the art and science of being present online.

As described in the assignment prompt, digital footprints are the “intentional or unintentional traces that you leave behind when you visit web pages, search for information, post on Facebook, tweet, shop online, or engage in similar activities.” Wikipedia (2016) similarly classifies our “digital footprints” into two categories–active and passive, or intentional and unintentional. According to this article,
“A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected without the owner knowing, whereas active digital footprints are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself by means of websites or social media.” (“Digital Footprint,” 2016). Clearly, our digital footprint defines and influences our web presence.

Curating Your Web Presence

If web presence is “the art and science of being present online,” than it is the sum of active and passive digital footprints that creates a web presence. In the tangible world, we “walk” where we want to be present. Digital footprints are no different–we should “walk” in the locations in which we want to have a “web presence.” What does this look like?

  • The “art” of web presence requires creativity. This means we walk in unexpected places; we try out new ways of expressing ourselves, and we seek out new opportunities to learn and engage with other like-minded individuals and groups. I think this can more easily relate to “active” digital footprints. In this sense, we intentionally travel to new and familiar places on the web, with the goal of establishing a positive and strong web presence.
  • The “science” of web presence requires strategy. As much as possible, a well-crafted web presence seeks to turn as many “passive” digital footprints as possible into “active” digital footprints. This requires analyzing and interpreting privacy settings, cookies, and other tracking tools, so that you become aware of all of the digital footprints you’re creating.

Passive Digital Footprints

Turning passive digital footprints into active digital footprints requires an element of digital fluency. According to Posner, Varner, and Croxall (2011), you should avoid signing up for any digital tool or social media platform “without understanding what it does with your data, whether you can maintain the privacy you want, and the conventions that govern the way the community operates” (para. 6). This “familiarity” informs my knowledge of privacy settings, and prevents “passive” digital footprints from taking my web presence where I do not want it to go.

As described by Dachis (2011), many sites use cookies to track your footprints on the web, and “As long as there’s a “tweet this” or “follow me” button on the site, Twitter harvests information on where you are” (para. 3). According to this Dachis (2011), if you don’t like the idea of creating passive digital footprints as a result of participation in a site like Twitter, you can take advantage of tools like Disconnect, Ghostery, or Do Not Track Plus. Alternatively, according to Reilly (2014), many sites use so use SSO to track your web movements. Any time you use your Facebook or Google credentials to sign up for a third-party website, “Facebook is watching, following, and cataloging your destination points” (para. 4). By becoming aware of how common sites I visit use cookies or a SSO to track my digital movements, I can more intentionally monitor and direct my passive digital footprints.

Active Digital Footprints

Adjusting privacy settings and learning about the ways in which online behavior is being tracked can help identify when passive digital footprints are being created. However, creating active digital footprints requires strategy, too. As you curate and develop your online presence, you should consider the interests and policies of employers or future employers, or of students. Who will see your work? Who will benefit from your work? What do you want them to see?

Creating strong, active, digital footprints isn’t just about avoiding posting things that I don’t want them to see, or avoiding the creation of passive digital footprints. It’s also about curating quality work. Typos, inaccuracies, plagiarism, and copyright violations could all harm my professional credibility. Active digital footprints require attention to detail and intentionality in the content and quality of your curation. The more I strive to create active digital footprints, too, over passive digital footprints, the more you will be in control of what I’d like to share publicly, and what I’d like to keep private.

According to Richardson (2011), “transparency fosters connections and with a willingness to share our work and, to some extent, our personal lives. Sharing is the fundamental building block for building connections and networks” (ASCD). Creating active digital footprints, though, means that I choose what you share. I choose where I walk. Consequently, I have power to create a web presence that reflects as much or as little of my personal or professional life as I choose.

Web Presence for Students

According to Richardson (2011), modes of learning are changing. Richardson quotes author John Seely Brown as stating,

“these shifts demand that we move our concept of learning from a “supply-push” model of “building up an inventory of knowledge in the students’ heads” (p. 30) to a “demand-pull” approach that requires students to own their learning processes and pursue learning, based on their needs of the moment, in social and possibly global communities of practice” (para. 7).

What does a “demand-pull” model of education look like in practice? In this type of new learning environment, students use the tools available to take control of their own learning and their own work. Students develop a web presence; students actively walk into places on the web where education and their interests meet. Traditional models of learning emphasized the transfer or knowledge. Perhaps, now, “we need to focus more on developing the learning process—looking at how kids collaborate with others on a problem, how they exercise their critical thinking skills, how they handle failure, and how they create” (Rebora, 2010, p. 20). Digital tools and network literacy offer students an opportunity to take charge of their own learning, to curate a collection of their own work, and to personally explore subjects that interest them. In other words,

“More than ever before, students have the potential to own their own learning—and we have to help them seize that potential. We must help them learn how to identify their passions; build connections to others who share those passions; and communicate, collaborate, and work collectively with these networks. And we must do this not simply as a unit built around “Information and Web Literacy.” Instead, we must make these new ways of collaborating and connecting a transparent part of the way we deliver curriculum from kindergarten to graduation” (“What Students Need to Know,” para. 2).

By developing a web presence, students have the opportunity to “own” their own learning. As an educator, I should be aware of the power of online presence, not just for knowledge, but for learning.

Web Presence for Educators

Many articles focus on the “resume-building” or “image-creating” or “networking” power of a strong web presence. While those are certainly some side effects of a strong and positive web presence, I think that I prefer to conceptualize the development of my web presence as a natural byproduct of an organic pursuit of my interests.

To provide a comparison, some people will attempt to establish a relationship with another individual simply because they think that person could help get them a job. Yet, others see networking as an opportunity to get to know people who are interested in the same things that interest you; you are curious about their perspective, and as a result, you are eager to build a relationship with them. In this second perspective of networking, the networking becomes a learning process in and of itself instead of a means to an end.

I’d like to view web presence in a similar fashion. Some people will develop a web presence because it is a way to strategically support their resume or help them “be Googled better.” It’s a means to an end. Although that is part of web presence, I personally would like to develop a stronger web presence because it can become a learning process in and of itself. By being “present” in certain places online, I can access new ideas and knowledge. I can travel places online that speak to my own interests and develop my own skills.

We are continually learning, and by developing a strong and positive web presence, we have an opportunity to take control of that learning and direct its path. It’s an art: so, creatively search out new opportunities and engage with new individuals and groups. But it’s also a science: so, be intentional and strategic.

Works Cited

Dachis, A. (2011, Oct. 14). Establishing a professional web presence this weekend. Lifehacker. (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://lifehacker.com/5850029/establish-a-professional-web-presence-this-weekend

Digital footprint. (2016, Sept. 22). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_footprint

Posner, M., Varner, S., & Croxall, B. (2011, Feb. 14). Creating your web presence: A primer for academics. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-your-web-presence-a-primer-for-academics/30458

Pick, T. (2011, Oct. 11). What is web presence optimization, and why should I care? Webbequity. (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://webbiquity.com/social-media-marketing/what-is-web-presence-optimization-and-why-should-i-care/

Rebora, A. (Interviewer) & Richardson, W. (Interviewee). (2010, Oct. 11). Change agent. Education Week Teacher PD Sourcebook, 4 (1), p. 20. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01richardson.h04.html

Reilly, R. B. (2014, Oct. 8). The cookie is dead. Here’s how Facebook, Google, and Apple are tracking you now. Venture Beat. (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/06/the-cookie-is-dead-heres-how-facebook-google-and-apple-are-tracking-you-now/

Richardson, W. (2008, Nov.) Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership, 66 (3), pp. 16-19. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx

Web presence. (2016, Aug. 21). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_presence

You may also like


  1. I don’t usually like to be the first to leave comments, but in this case I’ll break my own rules.

    First things first: Visually (and in many other ways too, as I’ll get to later) this is a beautiful and effective way to present your work to the public. The graphic is really striking and it fits perfectly with your blog’s theme. You’ve made very effective use of callouts, lists, headers, short paragraphs, and other design elements that make your narrative easy to read and follow. Poorly rendered narrative can detract significantly from your message, and you’ve provided a fine example of how to enhance your message with good design. This also has major bearing on your observations about “demand-pull” with regard to learning and creativity. Writing for online publication is not the same as writing for print. Content and narrative need to have good visual and logical design to be effective in an online setting.

    Your message is quite clear and effectively supported. I particularly appreciate your comments about being online as a learning activity in itself:

    “I personally would like to develop a stronger web presence because it can become a learning process in and of itself. By being “present” in certain places online, I can access new ideas and knowledge. I can travel places online that speak to my own interests and develop my own skills.”

    This is a powerful way to conceptualize web presence beyond simply presenting yourself.

    When I did an initial read-through of your narrative, I found myself disagreeing with your notion of being “found” online as a passive element. My thought was this: If I create a web presence, I am (hopefully) doing that so that I CAN be found online, and (again, hopefully) that I am doing all I can to make sure that my presence online is one that I am comfortable with. Further reflection, though, convinces me that we are on the same page on this issue. I think the problem may lie in Pick’s use of the term “found.” If we think of found as synonymous with “discovered,” then I see your point about being found as a passive activity. If we think of being found as a deliberate attempt to create a presence, then the issue becomes more clear.

    Also–I love the idea of web presence being both an art and a science. Emphasizing one over the other can lead to a lopsided presence.

    Finally–and this is a suggestion and not a requirement (although I think it’s a nice service to your readers)–you might want to consider creating live links for the sources cited in your Works Cited section. It makes it easier to follow your references for more information. Your call on this one.

    I’ll probably have more to say on this after some additional comments have been posted, but thanks for an exemplary start to the process.

    1. Thank you for the detailed feedback! I see what you mean about creating a web presence so that you CAN be found online, versus being “discovered.” When I read Pick’s definition, I thought of it more as the passive “discovered” rather than a deliberate attempt to create a find-able presence. I will add in the links to the final draft- I agree that doing so would be beneficial to my readers.

  2. Wow! You have done a wonderful job with this essay. The idea of web presence as both an art and a science is a new one for me and will give me some additional points to ponder as I write my own piece.
    Skip is right–your design elements add lots of interest. However, my initial reaction was “Oh my! lots of small print.” That was only because of my monitor did not show your graphic on its first screen. Once I scrolled down a bit and back I decided to settle in for what turned out to be a good read.
    Under the heading, Passive Digital Footprints, I’m wondering if you have a typo in this sentence in para 2: “Alternatively, according to Reilly (2014), many sites use so use SSO to track your web movements.” A small thing, but from what you wrote, I think you’ll want it written as you meant it to be read.
    I particularly liked the second quote in the Web Presence for Students section. Was that also Richardson quoting John Seely Brown?
    I appreciate your wonderful writing. Your last two sentences encourage me to develop a greater awareness and purposefulness in my own web presence.

    1. Sorry for the small print! 🙂 Its actually just the default “paragraph” size of the particular WordPress blog theme I’m using. Thank you for pointing out the typo- I will revise so that it is more clearly worded for the final draft. I’ll also clarify the source of the second quote in the Web Presence for Students section. Thank you for the feedback, and for reading my post!

  3. I like, very much, the science and art trope. First, the dialectic helps propel your essay through the assignment. Second, it is a foundation for a personal decision model regarding your web presence.

    I like that you offer tools in the passive digital footprint section. Tools a person can use to manage and minimize the collection of data about their web activity. It turns your post from an opinion piece into tool useful to others – I am Bob Heath and I endorse that message.

    I liked the structure of your essay, the outline; this also helped propel us through the piece. It allows the reader to identify and connect with certain sections, student, or teacher, for example.

    I “love” your use of the notion “organic” to describe the evolution of a personal web presence. No matter a persons’ demographic their online activity changes over time. I think this is an important concept that bears greater unpacking. Thank you as well for bringing the notion of “demand-pull” into the conversation. On one hand, it sounds like jargon, but in truth, I do not care much about that, rather I see it as one more attempt to create a vocabulary for something we are all struggling to understand. I think it is perhaps more useful than “learner centric.” This is because it articulates something about the process active and self-motivated; “learner-centric” still feels like an outside in analysis.

    I “love” to hate your graphic. Frankly, I am jealous. At this moment I am too unfocused and unsettled to create my own and that wrankles. Perhaps, as the term progresses, I will settle and we can enjoy some friendly competition in creating such things. Really, it makes the piece “pop” so good on you.

    Finally, I am going to push back on Skip’s praise for some of the layout elements you used, for example, block quotes. I agree with him that such elements are important. I agree that design is nearly as important as content in the online presentation. For my tired, middle-aged-eyes, I wish you had picked a larger font, (I know I can manage my browser setting, but, passing that responsibility to me is one small barrier that maybe doesn’t need to be). Skip liked the block quotes, I did not (at least that visual presentation of them) for me it was distracting. Now, this is classic feedback, so you will have to make of it what you will and in the end please yourself – as you should.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for the feedback! I particularly appreciate your reflection on the differences between “demand-pull” and “learner centric.” I agree that “demand-pull” emphasizes the agency of the student, which perhaps better captures the intention. As for the graphic, I must be honest and admit that I didn’t spend all that much time on it- I used http://www.canva.com, which makes creating interesting graphics easy even for a novice like me! As for the small print and the block quotes, I actually agree with you that the font is a little too small, and I don’t particularly care for the italicized text- those were both simply the pre-set formatting within my chosen blog theme. Perhaps as this course progresses, I will modify those or try out a different theme. Again, thanks for your thoughtful reflection on my post- I appreciate the insight!

  4. Valerie,

    The design and format of your post is fantastic! It’s well organized and aesthetically pleasing. I really liked your definition for Web Presence and how well you broke it down in the “Curating Your Web Presence” section. Excellent job and I look forward to reading your future blog posts!

    1. Thanks Nikki! I am going to read through the rest of the class’s blog posts soon, and I’m looking forward to reading yours!

  5. Good stuff as always.

    I’m skeptical of the term “digital fluency” …is that different from information literacy/fluency? Can you be fluent in the digital? Is this just another example of trying to create a difference where none really exists and/or focusing on the wrong word in the two-word phrase?

  6. When I first encountered the term “transmedia literacy” (Henry Jenkins, I think…) I had a similar reaction. Is there more than one kind of literacy? Wouldn’t “fluency” be a better term than literacy? What about all the other literacies that we had to worry about–numeric literacy, visual literacy, etc.? Transmedia Literacy writ large is a thing now–there are international seminars and degree programs, even a transmedialiteracy.org for all your transmedia needs. But ultimately I think it’s just literacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *