Oddly enough, this is something I’ve been thinking about the last two weeks anyway, as I’ve worked with a Southern-California-based PhD student I’ve never met in person to organize a panel proposal for a big conference. He met my PhD advisor, who put us in touch since our work is somewhat similar. We emailed back and forth, then talked on Skype. From there, we emailed around to try to find a third panel member, a commenter, and a chair. I’m not sure what the connections were that helped him find the panelist and commenter, but I found the chair by asking a historian who will be visiting UMW later in the semester, and who was recruited for that in part because she attended grad school with one of my historian colleagues. That’s a lot of different mediums for communication, and a variety of types of connections, and none of them are all in the same place despite the fact that we’re all historians.

However, in some ways I find that process, messy as it is, more attractive than some of the alternatives. Sure, if there was a centralized location, things might be easier, and certainly things like Twitter might have potential for sending a CFP/panelist search into networks of people likely to respond (those “pools of expertise” Frey mentions), but I also think some of those elements of a Personal Learning Network could be overwhelming. In most of those categories, I’m somewhere on the edge of “Between Two Worlds” and “Entrenched in Real-World Networks,” and mostly I’m okay with that. I think it’s only in the Writing and Commenting that I’d want to even approach “In the Matrix” levels (I want to write more habitually, whatever the context, and whether or not the majority of it gets read/used), in part because that seems to require a level of commitment that demands too many of my resources (time, energy, etc) without a ton of immediate payoff for me (as far as I know, I get no credit for those in terms of production/scholarship, though some sort of recognition of those conversations as akin to participating in academic panels, conferences, etc might motivate me more). The social bookmarking/archiving I don’t find especially appealing (I don’t like watching stuff, YouTube account unlikely to ever happen). I have enough obligations, and this creates more, and I feel could pretty quickly grow beyond its capacity to be meaningful and/or manageable. Thus I appreciate the Hackademic Guide suggestion about seeing Twitter as a live conversation, and dropping in occasionally for just a bit, as even more attractive than Frey’s suggestion to vett and weed your networks (which in itself would require a lot of time and attention).

This is part of the reason I don’t aggressively expand, explore, search, and share a ton–the time, energy, effort, and attention are being spent elsewhere. I know there’s a lot out there, I know some people love those connections. I suspect quickly scanning, identifying the most useful, and paring/controlling these networks in ways that keep them from getting unwieldy is a skill acquired largely through experience, but that means I would need to make the commitment and deal with the learning curve and expenditures if I want to benefit. And I’m not sure these pieces acknowledge those kinds of costs.

Prompt: Spend a moment and consider what makes up your current digital identity. Write down what you think people would find out about you if they were to search for you on Google. Then do an actual search and see what you find. How does your perceived presentation of your digital identity compare with your actual one?

My expectations: my presence will be fragmented. I suspect I’ll show up with some connections to UMW (on the History and American Studies page), as well as U.C. Irvine (I know at least the grad program keeps a list of graduates and their current employment status). I know I’m on RateMyProfessor.com as far back as Irvine, though I made a conscious effort to avoid returning to the site and haven’t been there in a couple of years. Though it may not be clear it is the same Jason Sellers, I may show up in the by-lines for news stories I wrote for the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review; stories for the Daily Californian more clearly connect with me, since I’m a Cal grad. Some conference programs are probably floating around, as well. I believe my Facebook settings are such that that page won’t show up (I try to pay attention to when FB changes its settings and defaults and makes people opt out, and go update settings then); Academia.com and LinkedIn may appear since I have accounts, but I rarely/never do anything with them, so there shouldn’t be much there. I also know there will be those pages of phone numbers and home addresses that I’ll appear on. As far as Jason Sellers people who aren’t really me, I know there’s a country singer/song-writer who will show up, presumably higher in the search results than I will.

First, an interesting aside: Google displays a profile on the right side of the page that includes just my Gmail address, notes my profile is only 20% complete, and suggests, “Stand out from other people named Jason Sellers, update your profile.”

And there are plenty of them. As expected, country singer Jason Sellers dominates the top of the list, with a Wikipedia entry, a YouTube video, and three other pages. I want to distinguish myself from a Texan with a background in gospel music. My UMW profile does show up in the 6th spot, which seems respectable. That, however, is followed by a Facebook Jason Sellers with spiky hair (yeah, not me–though I also don’t appear on the list of “Other Jason Sellers” on this page, so apparently I’ve got the settings right), Jason Sellers Racing, a German photographer, and an actor in New Zealand. That’s the first page of results. Page two has some more of those guys, a Chevy dealer in Kalamazoo and a chef in Asheville, NC, while page 3 turns up a BMX racer, a high school baseball prospect, and a University of Washington scientist with the same middle initial as me.

I also make my return to the results via RateMyProfessors; On page 6 we get one of my book reviews, published in a digital-only journal.

Interesting, the Irvine stuff cropped up only in one of Google’s “searches related to jason sellers,” specifically “jason sellers california.” There I got top billing, but still have to share the first few pages with tons of others. More intriguingly here, the bottom of page 3 is my new domain.

I also tried “jason sellers history,” where I don’t have to share top billing. With that, I get UMW, Bemidji, and Irvine hits; the first 6 results, and 8 of 10 results on page 1; plus the top two spots on page 2, including my new domain.

So basically I have a presence, but it’s sort of buried in the midst of a lot of other guys named Jason Sellers (a not uncommon name). Unless you add my discipline on the end, which helps, though there’s still no one-stop shop. I’m actually surprised not to see any of my newspaper stories show up, though I’m also not complaining–the Boyd reading made me wonder about whether I would have an outdated public identity. I can find my stuff in the Daily Californian by adding the newspaper name to my search, but the Chico newspapers don’t turn up. I’m fairly happy that most of what comes back quickly is related to the last few years of grad school and my early career (which I guess makes sense). I wouldn’t mind the RateMyProfessors stuff getting pushed down in the results, whatever it says, but that motive is part of why I want my syllabi up and visible on my page.

Jim asked us to collect other sites and places on the web that are important for our professional community. Here’s my initial list.

Professional organizations:

The American Historical Association, our big professional organization (with their recently revamped–and much-improved–website).

American Society for Ethnohistory, an interdisciplinary organization committed to creating “a more inclusive picture of native groups in the Americas.”

The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, located in Philadelphia. The Center hosts a variety of events, sponsors conferences (I’ll present at one in March), edits a book series, and issues a journal.

The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture is based at William & Mary. It hosts conferences and symposiums, issues the premier journal in colonial American history, and partners with UNC Press to publish monographs.

More casual and/or closer to home:

My people in the Department of History and American Studies at UMW.

The website of Jeff McClurken, UMW History and American Studies department chair. Jeff is incredibly active in the digital humanities.

The Junto, a group that can explain itself: “The Junto is a group blog made up of junior early Americanists—graduate students and junior faculty—dedicated to providing content of general interest to other early Americanists and those interested in early American history, as well as a forum for discussion of relevant historical and academic topics.”

Historiann, which I include  in part because of the blog, in part because I love Ann Little’s scholarship.

The website of Jana Remy, a graduate school colleague and historian who teaches Digital Humanities at Chapman University.