We had to do this for ESociety.. I chose this option:
Constructing a personal homepage, blogs or the use of social networking environments such as MySpace etc. is an act of bricolage – a term derived from the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss to describe how new things can be ‘cobbled together’ out of pre-existing materials. Illustrate and discuss the kinds of ‘borrowing’ and adaptation for new purposes which you have discovered on personal homepages and blogs. How does this technique demonstrate ‘personal identity’?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term ‘Bricoloage’ is defined as 1.(in art or literature) construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. 2 something created in this way.
Many homepages and blogs bring together ideas, images from other sources, almost like a remediation of the original source material. Using these, people create their own online identity through their own tastes and interests. However they still want to be a part of an online social group or community.
Our own personal identity is defined by what we think of ourselves and tell others about ourselves, however online our social identity is defined by what others also think about us and tell others about us. Identity Construction, according to Thurlow, (Page 96) is something we put together with the help of others.
Philosopher Michel Foucoult spoke of the ‘technologies of self’, how people represented themselves through letter writing and diary keeping. Daniel Chandler (cited in Thurlow Page 98) states that these ‘technologies of self’ allow us not only to think about our identity and to transform the way we think about ourselves, but also to change ourselves to who we want to be.
These ‘technologies of self’ have been transformed into online forms, one example is through blogging. A weblog or blog is ‘a regular publication appearing on the World Wide Web…Some are simply online personal diaries while others are commentaries on politics, culture, enthusiasms, science or education’
(page 38 Abercrombie and Longhurst)
An example of a personal blog is nessymon.wordpress.com, which has received over 13000 hits since January 2009. (WordPress account stats). Within this blog, the user writes about music, film, television and their thoughts on certain subjects.
The user also links to Flickr.com, Facebook.com, YouTube,com showing the visitors to the blog that they have other online locations and pages.
Posts on the blog reference where pictures came from, others where videos came from. For example, nessymon.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/droid-advert/, a video showing an advertisement for a Verizon Droid phone.
By bringing together these external sources, the user reveals their interests to create an online identity. Links on the site to a twitter feed also show some of what they talk about online and who their online friends are.
Nialler9.com is an award winning Irish music blog. This blog provides information about new music releases, videos and other music news. The majority of posts on this blog seem to come from links given by bands and record companies to the blogger directly. The site also links to the artist sites and YouTube where most of the video content has come from. In a post about the band ‘Vampire Weekend’ (www.nialler9.com/2009/11/19/video-vampire-weekend-cousins) the blogger also thanks ‘Noises in our Heads for the video link’.
Nialler9.com is an informative site with lots of music news, giving the impression that the writer has a good knowledge of the music scene but we rarely get to see the writer’s viewpoint. Instead links are provided to www.dayandnightmag.ie and www.state.ie where the writer reviews and gives their opinion on music.
One problem with blogging is writers on different blogs often double up with the same information. Leading to a mass of similar information on the same subject, usually originating from the same source. An example of this is www.nialler9.com/2009/11/23/efterklang-modern-drift-album-details/
Similar articles appear on www.Quarterlifeparty.com, www.knoxroad.com and www.hypem.com . The identity of the bloggers can merge together. It is only be the graphics, badges and images used on the site. that we can determine the identity of the writer.
The advent of the social network era has almost put a sense of pressure on participants to show that they have interesting personalities and interests, gaining social capital. 2005 saw people take Social networking seriously for the first time as Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace. (www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/jun/11/myspace-bebo-social-networking)
Although now in decline Myspace.com, was one of the websites on a massive scale to allow users to create, upload and change their profiles, all for free. The name itself, MySpace encourages users to create their own profile, not a profile about someone else.
Many users have now moved to Facebook, however Myspace is still used by many up and coming rock bands. The features on a Myspace page allow users to customize their profile, changing colours, fonts, adding video and images and most importantly for a rock band, the streaming of music. These features meant a band did not have to own their own website domain name. An example of this is Irish band www.myspace.com/houseofdollsofficial
A feature of Myspace is to ‘collect’ friends. A user can ask anyone with a Myspace account to be their friend. Online, Myspace friends were the equivalent of having lots of social capital, however this became one of Myspace’s downfalls as it led to an increase in spam messages to members.
Social networking sites such as Facebook draw the participant into online debate about everyday occurrences, sports and other interests. This opens the user to show their interests and take an active part in the online community. The user can express themselves in an environment of other common minded users. According to Jones Identity and Community are formed around the discourses that are shared by members inhabiting the cross national virtual space of computer and Internet. (Page 59)
Facebook has the added facility of enabling privacy and allowing you to choose who sees your own profile. Due to security settings, not all profiles can be publicly seen but because you can choose who sees your profile, the user is more inclined to befriend people they actually know.
Photo galleries, videos and external applications, all come together to create a profile of the user. While many users don’t use external applications, Zynga (www.zynga.com) applications, such as Farmville and Mafia Wars also bring users together to share a common interest.
Within a users profile on Facebook, they are asked about their interests, music, television, books as well as their private website, email address and phone number, which may or may not be publicly displayed. Each of these items are given a link to search for a corresponding ‘group’ with in Facebook.
A group or fan page can be set up by users who share a common interest. These can include a DCU group www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=21016990317&v=info and an online radio station www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=21016990317&v=info#/group.php?gid=62614092581
Again these groups link to external images and videos. The Facebook Page for Liverpool FC shows how the page has developed through adding external links, images and videos to provide a page for users with a common interest www.facebook.com/liverpoolfc
Many argue that the Internet is killing conversation but microblogging sites such as Twitter are doing the opposite. By ‘following’ certain people on twitter you create for yourself an identity by surrounding yourself by people you would like to be associated with. New communities have been formed by discussions on twitter, many of the discussions through the users use of an ‘@’ sign to reply to the original tweet. Only users who follow both of you will see the full conversation.
According to Howard Rheingold (cited in Thurlow Page 111), ‘communities are almost inevitable and are constituted on the basis of social interaction, the length of people’s involvement and the strength of their feelings.’ Being a part of these online communities reveal some of the user’s identity. These online communities are now branching into the real world as online social groups are now meeting in person for example twitter.com/#search?q=%23dubtweetmas .
These groups however are initially formed when users share a common interest in a particular subject and then discuss it. For example from Twitter.com/RobbieWilliams Robbie Williams interviewed in this weekend’s Telegraph Magazine – http://bit.ly/2iEY02
or from http://twitter.com/cloudsteph My computer needs coffee. Or RAM. One of those.
‘CMC… not only structures social relations, it is the space within which the relations occur and the tool that individuals use to enter that space. ‘ (Page 39 Jones 1997 citing in Jones 1995 Virtual Culture..)
This microcontent can also be linked through a widget to a user’s homepage or blog providing real time microblogging updates. Twitter updates must be 140 characters or less. When a blogger uses Twitter as external content for their website or blog, this gives the impression they are have technical knowledge and are up to date or ‘hip’ with online communities. This adds to their ‘social currency’. (p 117 Douglas Rushkoff We’ve Got Blog)
Since the mid 1990’s more people have access to computers and the Internet. While before this, identity was seen as who your friends were, what football club you supported, what your hobbies were.
Now, as Henry Jenkins, describes the ‘Convergence Culture’ we are bringing old media ways of creating identity for ourselves to technologies where we can change our online identity on one mobile device.
Were in a moment of time in which theres been an explosion of new media technologies which makes it possible for the average person to archive, annotate, recreate, recirculate media, to create their own blogs, to create their own podcasts, to sample, retool, media in a variety of ways…. There’s a credibilty attached to amateur media right now, people care passionately about these channels of communication and they’ll listen to other amateurs with more credibilty with more attachment, more sense of urgency than they are going to listen to mass media.’
Henry Jenkins 2007 (http://www.thoughtcast.org/thoughtcast-shorts/beyond-broadcast-2007/)
As details can be changed without fuss, our online identity is always changing. If a user makes a blog post about a topic and later rethinks what they said they can edit it without having to inform anyone, it is possible, therefore for an online identity to be different from a real life situation. While a visitor to a users homepage or blog must take the information they are given at face value, it is possible be have make multiple identities online, as Anthony Giddons said in Sociology The great thing about the Internet is no one knows you are a dog. (Page 596)
Turkle is cited as saying ‘You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself as much or as little as you want. You don’t have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much. They don’t look at your body and make assumptions. They don’t hear your accent and make assumptions. All they see are your words. (1995: 184 cited in Thurlow Page 99)
In October 2009, Yahoo! Closed its GeoCities sites. This site which began in 1995 gave users the ability to have their own web page, long before many knew how to have their own personal domain name. It felt like the beginning of an era of jetpacks and food pills and robots doing all the work. It felt like the future was here. According to Bruce Lawson Most homesteaders plastered their sites with as many animated under-construction notices, rainbow dividers, rotating email buttons and tinkling Midi soundtracks as possible. http://resources.zdnet.co.uk/articles/comment/0,1000002985,39860596,00.htm This was the users way of creating an identity for themselves.
As Daniel Chandler said these technologies of self allow us not only to think about our identity and to transform the way we think of ourselves, but also to change ourselves to who we want to be. (Page 98 Cited in Thurlow)
What does that mean for 38 million first generation user content providers of the Geocities sites ? Lawson said it is appropriate that MySpace, with its auto play music and gaudy backgrounds, should inherit the tradition of democratic web design from GeoCities, as both sites fulfill a similar function: they both shout: “I’m here.”
But what about the content? Thurlow states Personal homepages may not always be of great importance to those who comes across them, but they’re profound, creative opportunities for people to reflect on themselves…It’s the various processes of writing, recording and presenting their chosen facts and thoughts for the webpage which construct their thoughts, feelings and identities (Page 99)
Abercrombie, N., Longhurst, B., Dictionary of Media Studies, London, Penguin Books Ltd.
Bolter, J & Grusin, 1999 Remediation, Understanding New Media 2000 reprint, USA, The MIT Press
From the Editors of Perseus Publishing*, We’ve Got Blog, 2002 Cambridge MA, Perseus Publishing * Douglas Rushkoff chapter used
Giddens, A, Sociology, 5th Edition 2006, London, Polity Press
Green, L, 2002, Communication, Technology and Society, SAGE Publications Ltd, London
Jenkins, Henry, 2006 Convergence Culture, NewYork, New York University Press
Jones. S, 1995, Cybersociety, Computer Mediated Communication and Community, London, Sage Publications London
Jones, S, 1997, Virtual Culture, Identity & Communication in Cybersociety, London,Sage Publications Limited
Scott J, Marshall G, Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, 2005, Oxford University Press
Storsul, T, & Stuedahl D eds, 2007, Ambivalence towards Convergence, Digitalization and Media Change, Sweden, Nordicom
Thurlow, C, Lengel, L, Tomic A, 2004 Computer Mediated Communication, Social Interaction and the Internet. London,Sage Publications Limited
©Vanessa Monaghan 2009