Friday, May 21, 2010

Who's Who?

Ok, so thanks to my ENGL 295 classmate Becca, I looked at an excellent article that touched on three ways to look at how adolescent bloggers define themselves: identity, language, and interactions with others. These kids are going to be my "Native" population. Now, today I looked a little at identity. In this article, bloggers often mesh online identity with offline identity. They can pretty much choose to be whoever they want on the internet, but most bloggers choose to stick with presenting the person they are in real life. So, there is a singular identity between the two places.

However, with my handy-dandy newly installed diigo toolbar, I was able to see "Alix's" (some random guy) sticky note. Alix thought that "the internet, and the new communication capabilities, help a person identify who they are. It encourages the creation of different and sometimes multiple identities." So there's another theory about what new technology does for identity.

There's also a third theory floating around among us. Two more classmates, Ben and Allison, shared the article Does Social Media Produce Groupthink? which asserts that the digital age hurts individual identity, and people instead tend to form group identity.

So what do you guys think? How does social networking/the internet affect identity? Does something like a blog promote a singular identity, while social networks like facebook lead to group identity? Does it depend on the person? Have you guys found any research on identity in whatever wonderful things you are studying?


  1. I think we choose to show who we are to the world by using social media. We can tag and untag pictures that show certain characteristics about ourselves, our likes, our dislikes. I think identity is greatly shaped on an individual basis and not as a group identity. Then again, identity is based on groups...think about gangs, sports team members. They represent themselves in a way that subjects people to say they are in a certain group.
    I know of some BYU athletes who are not members and who had filters placed on their facebooks so that certain pictures could not be seen (aka drinking pictures or other things that do not represent BYU). An athlete I know is now leaving BYU because he is sick and tired of having something represent him differently than who he really is. By making this decision, his education and sports career, are placed on hold. Maybe this gives you something else to think about.

  2. I think that your question aligning the blog with individual identity and social networks with group identity is worth pursuing. Consider, also, that there are small group identities (a circle of blogs/bloggers that one may follow) and overlapping group identities.

    Three prominent fields in which identity construction have been explored are adolescence (see Danah Boyd), gender, and religion. Check out Religion and Cyberspace (Morten T. Højsgaard, Margit Warburg).

    Another general principle to consider is the way social connections create social capital. Robert Putnam distinguishes between social connections that are built through bonding (more internal to a group) and those built through bridging. Identity is constructed differently (and achieves different degrees of social capital) depending on which variety you consider. Just a thought.

  3. You talk about what new technology does for identity, and this article raises some interesting concerns. It's from the Yale Law and TEchnology web site, and addresses the ways that new technology can allow people to predict the character and behavior of others:

    And if you can predict whether someone is gay, might it be conceivable that you can also encourage them to become the prediction, thus validating you? There will come a time when highly interactive advertisements will do a similar thing: "Yes, Heather, you know you want to buy a porche, don't you. We could tell by analyzing data from your facebook account where you said you like to drive we know you're the kind of person who would buy our product." How many people would say, "yeah, I guess I am. I mean, they have the data, right?"

  4. Pertaining to the language element of identity, I think you were on to something when you speculated about the idea of "digital fluency" a while back. As our classmate Audrey pointed out in her earlier comment, we portray ourselves to the online world in the way that we want to be thought of.

    How fluent we are in using the various features of a social networking site like this one, for example, enables how well we can communicate and express that identity. Like spoken language, the digital language of words and images is only as good as the vocabulary one knows and can use.

    See this article starting on page two for greater elaboration.

  5. I don't know if you've seen this article yet, but it relates pretty directly to your question of what technology does for identity - I think it's worth looking at. It's titled "Can You See the Real Me? Activation and Expression of the "True Self" on the Internet"

    This article distinguishes between the multiple perceptions of "self" we possess, such as the ideal, ought, and actual self-concepts, and it relates these to the personas people create for themselves on the Internet. It suggests the idea that the true self might be more easily expressed in an Internet setting than in face-to-face communication.