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New media and identity

Introduction

The intent of this dissertation is to explore new media and identity both in terms of their relationship and their meaning as single entities.

New media allow people to connect all over the world and overcome the obstacles of time and space, however technology can be detrimental causing distraction, stress and isolation. Although new media and instantaneous communication allow people to engage in numerous relationships, ‘the quantity of these associations leaves people feeling qualitatively empty’ (Human Kinetics, 2013). Current research has shown the profound effect of new media on identity construction in modern society. Furthermore, some have argued that ‘today we don’t just live in a society with technology; in fact, technology has essentially become our society’ (Giselle, 2012). Undoubtedly, the proliferation of technologies in our society affects the way we interact with others and perceive ourselves as individuals. This dissertation will focus on these aspects in relation to identity construction. In particular, the notion of identity will be examined to see how it is shifting and to question what happens as a consequence to the so-called ‘Digital Natives’.

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The role of Social Media as a communicative tool has transformed the way we approach and think about media. In fact, as opposed to traditional media technologies, Social Media allow people to be actively involved by creating, sharing and consuming content. Examinations of this process will be key to this dissertation, in order to help analyse not only the way we interact with new media, but also where this affects our self-perception and therefore our identity.

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Chapter 1: Identity

This chapter will explore the meaning of ‘identity’, conducting a language analysis on this highly discussed concept. Cambridge Dictionary describes identity as ‘who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others’. However, most dictionaries fail to delineate the word’s ephemeral meaning in modern society. In order to overcome this philological issue, this chapter will also provide an historical overview investigating the meaning of identity over time.

Literature Review

In this chapter, Erik Erikson’s concept of ‘identity crisis’ will be highly relevant when providing an historical overview of the meaning of identity. Erikson acknowledges that ‘In psychological terms, identity formation employs a process of simultaneous reflection and observation, a process taking place on all levels of mental functioning, by which the individual judges himself in the light of what he perceives to be the way in which others judge him in comparison to themselves and to a typology significant to them.’ (Identity: Youth, and Crisis, 1968, p. 22) Erikson’s work lead to the inclusion of the term ‘identity crisis’ into dictionaries, ‘the condition of being uncertain of one’s feelings about oneself, especially with regard to character, goals, and origins, occurring especially in adolescence as a result of growing up under disruptive, fast-changing conditions.’ (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1979, p. 696) Furthermore, this chapter will avail of this concept for a reflection upon the meaning of ‘identity’.

Giddens’ book ‘Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age’ will be key to this chapter as the ‘the overriding stress of the book is upon the emergence of new mechanisms of self-identity which are shaped by – yet also shape – the institutions of modernity’ (1991, p.2) Throughout the book, Giddens provides a sociological approach on how individuals perceive and shape their identity in modern society. His work will provide further reflection upon the meaning of ‘identity’ and will link to the next section of this chapter, Identity Construction.

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