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Different Layers of Web Presence (and Teaching Them)

The next session at ANZCA 2009 starts with Matt Allen, reflecting on the concept of Web presence, not least in the context of teaching and learning. (I'm afraid I missed out on Jack Qiu's keynote as I was talking to colleagues from the ABC's Pool project.) Web presence is operating as an organising device for Matt's students in Internet Studies at Curtin University, and he has an Australian Learning and Teaching Council project on authentic assessment using Internet tools. Finally, learning is a form of knowledge work, and the more knowledge becomes networked, so must learning - so, knowledge networkers must ensure they have a Web presence that is both centred and decentred.

Web presence is also a form of modelling for students ways of acting in the world, and it is therefore a kind of normative model for some forms of communicative practices online in collective knowledge work. Web presence, in this, is not 'the homepage' as a central locus online - not a single unique location competing with others for browser interaction, even if the homepage remains important, too. It is also not simply the continuing maintenance of a blog or similar site, or the driving of traffic to that site - or simple participation in various social media services, even if these are important in this context, too.

Web presence is an individual user's engagement with the Web outside of the more conventional, well-defined spaces of online participation (MUDs, IRC, etc.). Where the 1990s were about homepages and the 2000s were about blogs as single, central sites, now some of this is performed through MySpace and Facebook, but their single-site nature is challenged just as much. All of this must be reconsidered in the context of knowledge networking instead.

Knowledge work means breaking down activities into their components which can be distributed in time and space - knowledge and knowledgeable people form networks, and Web presence is then the total presence that an individual has across the overall Web, across which various identities may be performed. Knowledge networking depends on that presence - which builds the individual's capacity to perform in various networks.

There are three main elements to this: a core Web presence (a single, central place controlled by the individual - but possibly with user comments), not entirely unlike a homepage, and aligned with the identity that is to be established in the process (there can only be one such core Web presence, Matt suggests); an extended Web presence over which the individual has some control and which contains mainly their work, distributed across various Websites, and significantly interlinked with the core; and a linked Web presence, including the various activities and content items located in places not controlled by the individual (but again extensively interlinked with the core and extended Web presences).

Web presence, then, is distributed presence, maintained, understood, and exploited through linkage beyond the core. Extent and link depend on the core, but produce the difference of this concept from the conventional homepage. This Web presence must also be embodied by the individual, of course.

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