Digital Trace Audit: A CLMOOC New Year’s ‘Unmake’ Cycle

In CLMOOC, Make Cycles are our jam. Make Cycles are open-ended invitations to make, play, learn, and connect.

To kick off 2018, we thought we’d try something new…an Unmake Cycle! While it is still an open-ended invitation to make, play, learn, and connect, the focus of this cycle will be on checking in on the digital tracks, traces, and trails that we’ve made online that we may want to delete (like an account), erase (like an image), edit (like a profile description), clear (like a browser history), or otherwise ‘unmake.’

CLMOOC participant Anna Smith recently wrote about some of the potential benefits and detrimental costs in education of the traces we leave when we write digitally:

Though the electronic pulses that transmit data packets across the Atlantic in milliseconds can make digital writing seem ephemeral, writers composing with digital devices and within digitally networked environments leave traces. Through new media’s social practices and algorithmic designs, these traces can be fed back and used, making them long lasting, seemingly indelible marks.

User metrics and analytics—though still early emerging socio-technological phenomena—have quickly become foregrounded in big business, policing, and governmental decision-making. At the same time, they have also become backgrounded in social life—an everyday, “unseen” aspect of the social ecologies of daily life. (Smith, Cope & Kalantzis, 2017, p. 235)

In addition to energy costs of storing information, as well as the costs to personal privacy and security, a cost that this hints at is how our data traces are used as a commodity. What’s the saying? “If it’s a free app, you are the cost.” And yet, in order to realize some of the potentials with online writing and creating tools, we have to agree to terms of service that are written in such broad and inclusive language that we don’t really have the choice but to, in essence, sell our digital souls.

With that in mind, the idea for this cycle was inspired when Wendy posted a tweet about a Digital Detox.

Using the Digital Detox as a base, here’s a New Year’s CLMOOC Unmake Cycle:

For the month of January, we’ve made a ThingLink grid with several ways to check in on our digital traces that we have been collecting the last month or so. These activities are not labelled so that you can randomly pick one each day or week, or you can work your way through them sequentially.

As you work through these and reflect on your digital traces, you might choose to delete accounts, erase images, edit profile descriptions, clear browser histories, or otherwise ‘unmake’ your digital traces along the way. However, there can be plenty of making opportunities as well!

  • We might check out a new app to replace an older one that isn’t functioning, and post something we create with it.
  • We might remix (or annotate) the terms of service of our favorite platforms as a way to actually, finally read those darn things.
  • We might make a network map of our personal learning network, including the digital platforms and tools that serve as the gatekeepers to the folks and ideas with whom we want to connect.

And please let us know what you’re up to on the usual #clmooc channels!


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