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The Facebook Project - Performance and Construction of Digital Identity

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Title: The Facebook Project - Performance and Construction of Digital Identity
Author(s): Ginger, Jeff
Subject(s): Facebook social networking service digital identity privacy identity management Goffman construction of identity peformance of identity undergraduate students
Abstract: 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.
Issue Date: 2008-07
Genre: Dissertation / Thesis
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/8818
Publication Status: unpublished
Peer Reviewed: is peer reviewed
Date Available in IDEALS: 2008-08-04
 

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