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

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Chapter 24

Practices of Networked Identity

Jan-Hinrik Schmidt

Introduction

One of the most-cited cartoons on online communication shows two dogs sitting in front of a computer screen, the one saying to the other “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.”1 It expresses an important insight that has been observed, pondered, and discussed ever since computer-mediated, networked communication entered social life: when online, we have to explicitly construct and present aspects of ourselves in order to engage in communication. The particular practices—that is the nexus of individual routines, technological affordances, and cultural norms and expectations—of identity management through new networked media may vary widely.

This chapter discusses various aspects of networked identity, the very idea of which combines two ideas central to the argument developed here. First, identity always refers to the social context; identity without others is impossible. Second, identity is increasingly constructed and performed via networked media that include their own affordances and limitations. After briefly summarizing key ideas of classical theories of identity, some of the characteristics of networked identity will be discussed. Finally, a framework for analyzing practices of networked identity will be developed and discussed, with particular emphasis on the connection between self-disclosure and privacy.

Basic Concepts of Identity

The idea of identity as something unique to every person is ...

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