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Research Report

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 11 months ago

 

Research Report: A Blog as a Virtual Space and Tool of Identity Exploration

 

By Andrea Ellickson, Timeline Project

 

 

Stern, Susannah. “Producing Sites, Exploring Identities: Youth Online Authorship.” Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. Edited by David Buckingham. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 95-118.

 

 

 

Abstract

 

    This article explores the personal blog as a tool to experiment with youth identity. Through management and design of blog features and content, Bloggers can have more strategic control over self-presentation in a social sphere. Susannah Stern examines such motives as desire for connection, validation, self-expression, self-documentation of personal growth, and a way to reach a broader audience. Blogs provide a relatively safe virtual space to experiment with current, possible, and ideal identities.

 

Description

 

    Susannah Stern from the Department of Communication Studies at University of San Diego investigates adolescent exploration of identity through the medium of online blogs. This extensive article focuses on the adolescent age group in particular, since they “frequently look to their social world for cues about what principles and traits to internalize” during identity development (97). Stern references Cooley’s psychological theory of the “Looking-glass Self,” which theorizes that an individual takes the perspective of the “other” to examine the self (106). People have an awareness of others’ perspective on the self; therefore, they can adapt their projected self-image in order to achieve a desired effect. Bloggers utilize strategic methods to attain meaningful feedback and to increase their site’s traffic flow. Such methods are aimed at both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Qualitative feedback can be attained through design elements such as comment boxes, email accessibility, or user surveys. Quantitative feedback can be attained through “counters” which measure the number of visitors and page views. A drive for connection and validation of identity pushes bloggers to use designs that promote interaction and attention. These may include color schemes that allow easy reading, smooth navigation buttons, images or music to entertain the audience, and fresh personal content (109). By attaining meaningful feedback Bloggers can gain a sense of empowerment, self-esteem, and potentially improve certain aspects of their identity.

    Furthermore, Stern reveals the process of “self-inquiry” and identity formation through Bloggers’ “decisions about what to reveal, exaggerate, and omit in their online communication” (97). Blogs, personal home pages, and social networking sites provide a virtual space to define and experiment with identity. This private space in a public forum provides a somewhat safe arena to test other aspects of the identity that may be stifled in the individual’s offline circumstances. On the other hand, blogs can be a space to present a “touched-up” (106) version of the self, which is more of an idealized self rather than a real self. A blog is a construction of identity, instead of a mirror of identity. Documentation of this “touched-up” self can allow for more insight into how to incorporate the ideal with the real. The internet provides an environment for strategic self-presentation through choices of content and page style. Bloggers have the opportunity to manage their self-image and their impressions on an audience to a greater extent than real life. A very insightful statement Stern makes is that blogs are “somewhat protected spaces for reconfiguring actual, possible, and ideal selves in various arrangements” (108). Similar to the nature of identity, a blog is not static since it allows the individual to update, delete, and revise the content and format. Other mentioned benefits of online journaling are self-reflection of personal growth, self-documentation, enhanced technological skills, emotional release, artistic expression, and learning to address an audience effectively.

 

Commentary

 

    This article lends insight into the notion of a blog as a model of identity. Understanding the motives of site design elements and content choices allows our group to construct and experiment with the chosen Caterbury Tales’ pilgrims in a more effective way. Our group will use specific page design elements, such as color, text type, page layout, commentary boxes, images, etc. to model the identities of the Caterbury Tales’ characters within a virtual space. Our group will also reveal the characters’ identities through the information that the particular Blogger exaggerates, discloses, or keeps hidden in their profiles and blog posts. Furthermore, we can investigate the written and unwritten interaction between Blogger and audience through the choice of self-projected image and the actual social interactions between characters. Also, we will try to capture the particular voice and mannerisms of each character to further flesh out their identities in a non-physical environment. As mentioned in Stern’s article, blogs “reconfigure actual, possible, and ideal selves in various arrangements.” Through our diverse Canterbury Tales’ characters, we can manipulate actual, possible, and ideal selves within the model of a blog. A blog reduces the richness and complexity of identity (including memories, personality, emotions, opinions, social connections, etc.) into chronological journal entries, photographs, page layout, color options, comments, avatars, and so on. Through this simplified identity model our group will gain greater understanding of the immense complexity of identity.

    On the other hand, this article also has some limitations. Stern only focuses on the adolescent age group, which limits the article’s generalizability to the larger population. The characters we will be constructing in a blog format are from a variety of age groups. Identity formation and self-presentation is definitely not limited to the adolescent sphere, though it may be very characteristic of that developmental period. The blog phenomenon extends to a wide range of social groups. Another small limitation of this article lies in the fact that it lacks more objective evidence linking motives to specific content and design choices. Since the article is primarily derived from interviews with adolescents and from well-established psychological theories, it gives much insight into the influences of identity formation in the context of blogs; but, it does not give many specifics of common and current trends among blog design and content. Overall, this article provides a strong foundation for our group’s blog exploration.

 

Resources for Further Study:

 

 

Arnett, Peter. “Adolescents’ Uses of Media for Self-Socialization.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 24, no.5 (1995): 519-534.

 

Dominick, Joseph. “Who Do You Think You Are? Personal Home Pages and Self-Presentation on the World Wide Web.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 76 (1999): 646-658.

 

Herring, S.C., Kouper, I., Paolilo, J.C., Scheidt, L.A., Tyworth, M., Welsch, P., Wright, E., & Yu., N. (2005). “Conversations in the blogosphere: An analysis from the bottom up.” Proceedings of the Thirty-eighth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38).  Los Alamitos: IEEE Press.

 

Huffaker, D.A., & Calvert, S.L. (2005). “Gender, identity, and language use in teenage blogs.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(2).

 

Parks, Malcolm. “Communicating Self Through Personal Homepages: Is Identity More Than Screen Deep?” Paper presented at the International Communication Association, San Diego, CA (May 2004), 3.

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