In October, I am planning to go Internet Research 11.0 – Sustainability, Participation, Action as part of a panel on mutual surveillance in social media. My contribution to the ongoing academic debate about issues of privacy, surveillance and identity (particularly on Facebook) is anticipated in the following abstract:
“When Avatars Go On Facebook”
In this paper, I explore what happens when virtual communities expand their avatar-based internal relations to the context of the online social networking of Facebook. This is based on an empirical study of two different online communities in which members have expanded, or in some cases, moved their relationships from being relatively anonymous in the context of the community to presenting more of their offline lives in the context of Facebook.
I focus specifically on the communicative strategies which members of these communities employ in order to distinguish between both online and offline selves and between their avatar/alter ego in the community and the offline person they present themselves as on Facebook. How does the communication between members as well as the communication of personal identity differ in these two contexts, and how are the boundaries of informativity managed?
The broader discussion that this study leads to involve questions such as: What does “private identity” mean in the context of the various possibilities of self-representation on the web? And what consequences does this have for the researcher as a participant observer who must respect the anonymity of her object of study?
I am really looking forward to participating in my fourth Internet Research conference. It is usually a vibrant, relaxed and inspiring experience, and I learn something new every time.