The digital footprints being created for my family, or more to the point of this post, being created by me for my children, gives rise to some reflection about the future of family history in our societies.
Family history has been revolutionised by the internet. Ask anyone who did research prior to the 1990s about their roots and see what they say. Following the breadcrumbs no longer, necessarily, means visiting record offices in other countries or making expensive long distance calls to clerks or names in dusty phone books.
Of course, currently, this family history is very much records and databases that have been uploaded to the internet. There are range of scholarship issues, as with all research, but more and more people are able to be amateur sleuths, investigating their family trees. My own research, on behalf of my partner into her great grandfather, accessed his war records from WWI and uncovered some extremely interesting, not uncommon, details of his time in the army. I know that controversial and amusing trivia is half the joy of constructing a family tree. My father’s first ancestor to arrive, on the Second Fleet, had a number of aliases and eventually met his demise, drunk, falling down a well. The convict stain we are all happy to acknowledge was not always one to be shared.
In the future, the not so distant future, the primary sources will be digital footprints left by our ancestors online.
We have been talking about digital citizenship and leaving positive digital footprints for some time now and education systems are slowly updating curriculum and courses to address the needs of students. We will need a generation for anywhere near tipping point to be achieved whereby most citizens have a good skills in this respect.
For babies, born this century and a little before, their digital footprint commences with announcements of pregnancies at social networking sites, via email or chat. The ultrasound imagery of the foetus posted, names debated and finally, those first birth pics and the agreed name will find their way online.
It is obvious (but largely undiscussed to my knowledge) that adults, people other than the individual, at first, will be creating that footprint. Family snapshots, anecdotes and all kinds of medical information is online, or will be. Pupils will increasingly have their portfolios and school records online. Kids will then start to make their own imprint with creations for school, fun and for friends.
The establishment, including mainstream media, government, police, courts and schooling systems have concentrated on ‘the danger’ that young people, especially but not just teenagers, are in from online predators, cyber-bullying or themselves by posting compromising photos, messages and being unsafe online with risk-taking behaviours that will haunt them in adult years. There has been some focus on simple online security issues (such as safely rotating passwords, using anti-virus software, avoiding phishing sites and spam) but largely, this is very little, very late and not in any way formalised for large numbers of students in Australia.
The point to this post is largely personal which, for me, so often informs the professional for an educator. Since 2006, when my first daughter was born, I have shared images and anecdotes, family events and our travels online. I can envisage many positive future scenarios where this ‘family history’ is useful, to us and others.
One can also imagine less salubrious scenarios.
I believe no one set of rules serves all. We have different values, beliefs and levels of paranoia. For me, every time my kids are in a car it seems like an enormous risk. The internet doesn’t even register a s a blip on that scale – for me.
What ‘rules’ do you personally have for sharing details of your family and personal life online?
I would really value your reflections, on what I believe, is an important question.
SLIDER PHOTO CREDIT: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by ((brian)): http://flickr.com/photos/brian-m/168440003/