What is your ‘digital capital’?

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Put simply, this term refers to what you are ‘worth’ digitally, or, what your digital identities say about your ‘worth’ in an age when so much value is placed upon them. Let me explain…

I frequently work with students to help them form and manage their digital identities, through:

  • Selecting and using appropriate social networks and media to use professionally.
  • Using a blog or personal Website to act as a ‘hub’ for social media profiles and to link/embed digital content.
  • Boosting the visibility and usefulness of digital profiles, and developing them to better represent personal skills and a professional identity. This involves encouraging students to:
    • Share their knowledge and experiences online.
    • Share and showcase their digital content in order to creativity.
    • Critically engage in online conversations.
    • Curate and share carefully chosen content.
    • Follow, like and engage (where appropriate) with other professionals.
  • Understanding their digital footprints and manage what is shared publicly.

Critically thinking about digital identities allows students to not only engage more deeply with digital technologies, but also allows them to develop a digital presence which could be useful when hunting for job opportunities, managing their careers, and undertaking professional development/lifelong learning.

These career elements of digital identity formation got me thinking about what the sum of our digital identities (and the content they contain) say about us as individuals to people searching for our names, or our names plus other keywords, in search engines/tools. In a world where connections made through online networking very often lead to real job opportunities, perhaps our ‘worth’ as a candidate is decided by the quality of our digital content and profiles, the number of influencers following and interacting with us, and the posts (positive and negative) about and by us. Perhaps then, what is widely described as our ‘digital footprint’ is better thought of as our digital capital.

I have used this terminology with a group of third year undergraduate students, where I explained the ideas behind the term ‘digital capital’ and engaged them in an activity to critically look at their own digital identities. We then thought about what criteria we could use to define ‘digital capital’, and to rate and attach a points score to it. This was very revealing to say the least! With some participants focussing primarily on ‘positive’/’favourable’ content and disregarding everthing else. Others meanwhile applied penalties of varying degrees for ‘negative’/’unfavourable’ content. Feedback suggested that the exercise encouraged deeper thinking about what they posted online, and some reported that it was interesting to ‘think like an employer’.

Obviously, the idea of us each having a ‘digital capital score’ was used in this context as a platform to encourage critical thinking. I am sure though that the idea could be explored further, maybe to find out if ‘digital capital’ is a useful and meaningful term with resonance to employers, professionals and students. I would be very interested to receive feedback on this and ideas for further research.


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