Performance and Construction of Digital Identity
By Jeff Ginger | Last updated 08.2008 | Revision 4
In the meantime check out the abstract and table of contents of an older version.
In recent years an impressive number of youth have taken to joining popular online social networking service (SNS) websites. One of the most famous and prosperous of these within the US college student community is Facebook.com. Facebook functions as a purposed network of identities, deposited expressions, and interactive media that make for a meaningful digital space that has become interlaced into the day-to-day lives of most students. The Facebook ecology facilitates an emergent, intricate, and robust arena of interactions and representations that serve to mediate the construction of identity.
How is it then, that participants perform—and thus construct—their identities on Facebook.com? This paper begins to answer this question within the folds of an intriguing, if not elaborate exploration. It reviews pertinent background information on Facebook, as well as its social relevancy, and highlights some of the applicable psychological and sociological theories on identity, starting with Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical approach. Several salient, mediating elements of digital architecture are discussed, including anonymity, disembodiment, virtual space, temporal context, interface and metaphors, and their correspondent relation to Facebook. The literature review includes a concise analysis of much of the material already available on Facebook and should bring readers up to speed with the perspective employed for the research questions in this work.
The scope of this study includes examination of Facebook activity, perceptions, and personal identity management specifically found in two surveys conducted on the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign undergraduate student population roughly a year apart – one from May of 2006 and one from May of 2007- that shared inquires into the same topics. These data are employed in order to offer insight into and examples of the various social intricacies at play in Facebook, particularly with a focus on the representation of identity information, privacy and sharing preferences, and social norms.
Among instances of identifying examples of audience and performance the findings indicate that users of all kinds are active on Facebook. Interestingly enough, many students do feel Facebook is invasive to their privacy, but clearly not enough so to reduce their constant use of the system. With only a few exceptions, the level of personal identity information people share on Facebook is pretty similar to what they would announce in the face to face world. These conclusions hold important implications about the state of social norms and digital identity and may serve as the basis for future research on Social Networking Services.
Keywords and Tags
Facebook, social networking service, digital identity, privacy, identity management, Goffman, construction of identity, performance of identity, undergraduate students
- Keywords and Tags
- 1 | A Short Introduction to Social Networking Services
- 2 | Background On Facebook
- 2.1 | Popularity
- 2.2 | Potential Worth
- 2.3 | The Facebook Experience
- 2.4 | Origins of Success
- 2.5 | Substantive Influence and Sociological Importance
- 3 | Theory and Literature Review
- 3.1 | Defining Identity
- 3.2 | Identity in the Digital World
- 3.4 | Identity on Facebook
- 3.5 | Privacy through Identity Management
- 3.6 | Current Views Of Privacy and Identity on Facebook
- 3.7 | Building an Alternative Picture
- 4 | Construction of Identity on Facebook
- 5 | Research Questions
- 6 | Study Design
- 7 | Findings
- 7.1 | Activity
- 7.2 | Perceptions of Safety and Privacy
- 7.3 | Digital Identity Management and Subsequent Expression
- 7.4 | Differences in FTF and FB identity sharing
- 7.4.1 | So Wait, What is a Friend on Facebook?
- 7.4.2 | How Students Appear to Act on the Surface
- 7.4.3 | Tests of Statistical Significance
- 7.4.4 | All-Network Sharing
- 7.4.5 | Friends-Only Sharing
- 7.5 | Bringing it Together
- 8 | Conclusion
- 8.1 | Limitations
- 8.2 | Questions For Future Research
- 8.2.1 | Perpetuation of Power on Facebook?
- 8.2.2 | Information Organization and Access
- 8.2.6 | Science and Technology Studies Powered Research
- 8.2.3 | The Politics of Interface
- 8.2.4 | Comparison to Other Digital Inventions
- 8.2.5 | Everyday Meaning and Purpose
- 9 | References
- 9.1 | Journal Articles, Books, Masters Theses and Conference Papers
- 9.2 | Papers and Blog Entries
- 9.3 | News Articles and Press Releases
- 9.4 | All Sources
- 10 | Appendix
- 10.1 | 2006 Questions.
- Privacy and Trust Survey
- Pictures Survey
- 10.2 | 2007 Questions.
- 10.3 | Proportions for face-to-face vs. Facebook sharing tendencies
- 10.4 | Complete Findings
- 10.1 | 2006 Questions.
See the full references.