Jenny Davidson is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Your ‘personal brand’ is affected by online information and your online presence, whether you’re active online or not. For Thing 5, we’ll be exploring a number of ways to manage and keep tabs on your digital footprint.
Once you’ve analysed how you appear online, start to think about how you’d like to appear and what you might be able to do to make that happen.
If you feel you already have a handle on your online presence, or if you’d like to take what you’ve just done a little bit further, there’s always more you can do to ‘curate’ your online brand. One of the best parts about a 23 Things programme is the ability to interact with and draw on the expertise and learning of a community of participants. Creative Commons23 Things for Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. I find them fairly continuous, in that it is a lot of trouble to write any sort of book and I wouldn’t bother to write a novel if it weren’t that it is a very good way of working out what I think about something, just as an academic book is a very good way to define and explore the dimensions of an argument and an archive. The first thing many people (including potential and current employers!) will do when they hear your name is Google you, and it’s important to learn how to ‘curate’ that brand, which should be considered part of your professional identity. Many choose a middle ground and let their personality shine through their professional presence.

Over the course of the week, we’ll be adding to the participants’ blog list in the sidebar. Seeing what others are doing can often help answer your own questions and can offer inspiration for your own work!
Though I do find that if I want to write or exercise first thing in the morning, it is very wise for me not to turn on the computer; that said, it is usually an irresistible temptation. I read the LRB through my university library digital subscription but have a paper subscription to the NYRB, which I do usually (contrary to what seems the general practice) read pretty thoroughly. I aspire to write a major book about fiction on the order of works by Erich Auerbach or Wayne Booth (there’s grandiosity for you), but I am more of a sideways associative thinker than either of those two and I imagine my book will take a quite different form. A good way to think about it is as an extension of the professional you. A strong online presence can be a powerful tool in achieving your professional goals, particularly in promoting your work and reaching a wider audience. Take some time to look at other blogs and read about what other community members hope to get from 23 Things.
Both of those sites have a few free articles out of each issue with the others behind a subscriber paywall; I’m lucky I can get them through the library, and am always regretful when there’s a great piece I’d like to link to on my blog but that isn’t freely available online.
Katharine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a remarkable book because of the nature and extent of her reporting. One of my favorite critical books of recent years was Roland Barthes’s The Neutral, lectures from the 1970s only published this past decade in English by Columbia University Press in a very good translation by Rosalind Krauss: in practice I would imagine (or perhaps hope is the less hubristic word) that my book would have more of that sort of feel.

If you’re pretty comfortable with the basics, we’ll provide some additional options you may wish to explore. Make sure accounts you already manage are up to date and reflect the persona you want to share – including your name and photograph, if relevant. You may also want to consider whether anonymity does or does not fit in with your professional goals. Two other novels I read and enjoyed greatly were Heath Lowrance’s The Bastard Hand and Lavie Tidhar’s Osama; both of these could be categorized as neo-noir with fantastical components, but they’re totally different from each other and strikingly memorable. Next try running your name through MIT’s Personas project, which is a fun way to visualise the types of content associated with your name and clue you in to other people with the same name.
If you haven’t already, fill out the ‘About’ page on your new or existing blog, and consider adding a photograph.
This spring I was teaching a seminar on Richardson’s Clarissa, so I was rereading a good chunk of that every week; it is an extraordinary novel, not as much read as it should be due to its extreme length, but I have a fantasy that Vintage or the Modern Library will publish a beautiful reader’s edition (like the Pevear and Volokhonsky War and Peace, only probably in two or three volumes in an attractive box set) that will let it reach readers who know that Proust is on their bucket list but don’t realize yet that Clarissa should be also.

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