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Archive for August, 2011

Political Me & Professional Me

August 15, 2011 2 comments

Do you keep your professional and personal identities separate online?  I’ve tried a few times to set up different accounts, but it never quite works. And I know you shouldn’t share anything online you don’t want everyone to see.  Once you share anything with a third party, they could do anything with it–by accident or on purpose. So mostly I try to keep my politics to myself.

This is particularly important to me, because I teach classes with students with a wide range of political views. In particular, I teach our class “Computers, Society, and Professionalism,” which touches on a lot of controversial content. Often I find I have the most in common ethically with some of the students whose political views are most divergent from my own. Whoever they are, I want them to feel comfortable in my class and know that their view of the world is respected and taken seriously (which it is).

I’m not always so careful–I often post things about freedom of speech online, privacy, or protecting our oceans. But I’m not as free to express my views as I’d like to be. This leaves me in a bit of a quandary: My new research project is about encouraging people to be involved in civic affairs. One of our working hypotheses is that giving people public credit for being involved may encourage them to be more involved.  But should they really do that?  I wouldn’t want to encourage people to be politically active in ways that will have unfortunate personal and work consequences for them in the future.  Is being reserved about one’s political views in public being a responsible, pragmatic grown-up, or being a coward?

The public exchange of views is a fundamental premise of democracy.  I believe that encouraging people to be involved is essential. But maybe the new system we’re developing needs to have some reminders–choose your issues carefully!  Or you may regret that posting, like you may come to regret a tattoo–a permanent record of a temporary feeling.

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