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A Companion to New Media Dynamics by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, John Hartley

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Chapter 23

Online Identity

Alice E. Marwick

Introduction

What constitutes “identity”? If I am asked about my identity, I might describe myself as a woman, a New Yorker, or a feminist. Other people may mention their ethnic or racial background, politics, sexuality, or religion. Still other people would talk about their personality traits, emphasizing who they “really are” or their “true selves.” Identity can mean subjectivity (how we think of ourselves), representation (how different facets of identity are depicted in culture and media), or self-presentation (how we present ourselves to others). It can refer to our personal identity as an individual, or our social identity as a member of a group.

Online, most research on identity has focused on self-presentation (Wynn and Katz 1997; Papacharissi 2002; Baym 2010; boyd 2010). Social media such as social network sites, blogs, and online personals require users to self-consciously create virtual depictions of themselves. One way of understanding such self-representation is the information and materials people choose to show others on a Facebook profile or Twitter stream. But identity is also expressed through interacting with others, whether over instant messenger or email. Since there are fewer identity cues available online than face to face, every piece of digital information a person provides, from typing speed to nickname and email address, can and is used to make inferences about them.

In this chapter, I discuss some basic theories ...

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