Saturday, August 09, 2008

beware, your imagination leaves digital traces

Artefacts tell a story.
Texting leaves digital traces inside of which imagination, thoughts, preferences can be located.
Artefacts, such as policies, documents, purchasing orders, emails, letters, texts...provide traces. Such tracings don't just substantiate or refute whats said by research participants.
They also provide a way of accessing voice. Whether that voice wants to be heard, or not. In this there are also multiple ethical concerns in making visible what might have appeared invisible.

This then begins a story told using the 'voices' of txt artefacts evidenced in txt counselling.

15% of texters to the Youthline service are requesting/demanding a text option for counselling.
Examples of texts (based on, but not actual) are reflected in the following type of comments:
"Il neva b abl 2 tlk bwt it. S0ri 4 bthrn u"
"k but na thankz.i cant.g0ta h0use fill n same1 c0uld easly hear me..."
"I cant fukn ring ny1 0k !!"

The pressure to provide a text service is clearly evident.

However, as pointed to by Bruno Latour, beware.
The cost of digital tracing needs consideration.
There are costs of privacy, confidentiality and trust evident here.
What's digitally texted stays.
In my own performance of pointing to this here, there is risk.
Does a community get damaged or empowered by having it pointed out that a trace stays?
In the past, counselling was a private affair.
Current costs are not recognised.
Such traces as are left in txting became evident in the Kahui twins murder trial; where you are, the calls connected, the messages texted...remain in the digital trace.
And as expressed by Latour "the inner workings of private spaces are prised open".
Those most likely to use this service, aimed as it is at a young audience, may not know of digital posterity.
For me as a social science researcher, my use of such tracing remains cautious.

Further potential stories from this 'silent' actor of txt artefacts include the trace of a service that changes over time and the variation that occurs in counselling
across a range of actors, and by the same actor distributed across a range of media.

Nonetheless, I am disconcerted. In the trace there is potential for a panoptican surveillance of Foucaudian proportions.


  1. Also of interest to me is not so much a "digital trace" but a "digital daub" left by people charged with privacy confidentiality and trust in the day job ...

    You might like to look at this discussion it is also relevant for all educators who digitally daub - blog or twitter for that matter to consider carefully what they put in their reflective posts ...

    I think it clarifies the what is appropriate when we talk about our professional practice thing quite well ..

    Second attempt at responding to this very thoughtful post.
    I can't see any difference between blogging and writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. If you wouldn't consider disclosing information that could identify a person to the newspaper, why would you think it's OK in a blog?
    I've followed the guidelines from HonCode regarding ethics - it's very helpful - and I also have placed a comment about any cases being discussed being composites of many people rather than a specific client. I also have stated that the blog represents my own personal views and not that of my employer/s.
    Another 'golden rule' is to always ask yourself whether you would be prepared to say what you write directly to your employer, your client, your colleagues. If you don't think you would, perhaps it's an indication that you're not quite ready to write about it - for me it's about being authentic and honest in what I do.

    I am reading Blown to Bits by Abelson, Ledeen and Lewis ... adds a lot to my understanding of the extensiveness/ pervasiveness of both the digital trace and the digital daub in our lives.

  2. I take care, knowingly.
    But i have a concern for the teaching of digital literacies. Seems concerned with students as consumers, or as active participants, knowingly contributing, but there's unexpected traces.