Response to Identity Articles

David Buckingham and Guy Merchant provide frameworks for thinking about identity of young generation who have been able to use and communicate by new technology. Both of them mainly indicate that their identity have been constructed in different way from old generation. Thomas (2004, cited in Merchant, 2006: 235) points out ‘new technology undoubtedly provides us with a range of tools which enable us interact in different ways within more diverse and dispersed networks than previously imaginable… [N]ew tools for communication provide a context for new kinds of identity performance… have helped to create a new kind of person’.

While considering young generations’ identity, one of the most crucial points is that ‘identity is not about being myself’. Buckingham (2008: 1) indicates that identity is about ‘identification with others whom we assume are similar to us (if not exactly the same), at least in some significant ways’. As Buckingham also mentions in section about the psychology of adolescence, identity is a matter of “becoming” rather than “being”, so it has to be recognised and confirmed by others (ibid: 3).

The notions of Prensky’s “digital natives” and Tapscott’s “net generation” is also important point for thinking about identity of young generation. It suggests that they have totally different brain structure from old generation, and identities of them are “more open, more democratic, more creative, and more innovative than their parents’ generation’ (Buckingham, 2008: 13). In fact, their definitions are often criticised as blur, especially Prensky’s digital natives and digital immigrants is only distinguished by ages (born before 1985 and after 1985). Yet, it is obvious that young generations learn interactively and actively access information to develop themselves. Moreover, the important point Prensky mentions is their features that ‘they value graphics before words, they want random access,… they are dissatisfied with old styles of instruction, based on exposition and step-by-step logic (ibid.: 13)’.

In terms of writing on blogs or social networks, Wellman’s notion of “globalised networks” and “networked individualism” (2005, cited in Merchant, 2006: 240) is provide interesting and crucial point to think about online constructed identity. Because ‘in globalised networks, blog can serve the purpose of providing communicative links, and a degree of interactively between local and dispersed individuals who have common interests, constitute a community of practice (Wenger, 1998) or operate in an affinity space (Gee, 2003)’ (Merchant, 2006: 241). It implies that blogging is an opportunity to build different identity, and connect to people who might be un-known with non-face-to-face communication. Also, Merchant (2006) mentions that the blog provide a space for authoring social identities. It is indicated that the slide bar, widgets, favourite web-links, or link to photo-sharing site helps to provide what author is currently consuming (ibid.). Therefore, the appearance and format of blog page is tool for showcase of both anchored and transient identities.

Those argument by Wellman could be related with Giddens’s argument about identity that ‘many of the beliefs and customary practices that used to define identities in traditional societies are now less and less influential’ (cited in Buckingham, 2008: 9). Identities of young generations could be described as democratised, yet ‘the self becomes a kind of “project” that individuals have to work on: they have to create biological “narratives” that will explain themselves to themselves, and hence sustain a coherent and consistent identity’. Therefore, ‘individual multiple possibilities to construct and fashion their own identities, and they are now able to do this in increasingly creative and diverse ways’ (ibid.).

So, as far as sharing activities by young generation on social networks are concerned here, it could be argued that young generations construct their identity while they are gathering information from others and post/share those collection, to identify themselves with others who is similar with them as Buckingham’s term. Moreover, although Erving Goffman’s notion of “front-stage” and “back-stage” behaviour (cited in Buckingham, 2008: 6) imply that online identities are more authentic and closer to the truth of the individual’s real identity, I would argue in the end online identities are less honest and truthful than offline ones, because online space also allow users to easily build superficial identity through collecting contents from others.

  • Buckingham, D. (2008) “Introducing Identity.” 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. 1–24.
  • Merchant, G. (2006) Identity, Social Networks and Online Communication, E–Learning, Volume 3, Number 2, 2006

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