Understanding Identity and Platform Cultures

Harry T. Dyer, Crystal Abidin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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This chapter explores current key debates and frameworks around the concept of identity on digital platforms. The chapter will begin by drawing on extant key sociological conceptions of identity, asking what we can learn from previous theorisations of identity, and crucially, what is unique about identity negotiation in online spaces. In particular, we will consider how to account for aspects of platform design that constrain our actions and interactions – such as limited
character counts or 15-second videos – which form the landscape upon which our identities play out. We will explore existing research looking at how these design choices constrain and shape our identities and social experiences online. At the same time, it is also clear that not all users experience and respond to design choices in the same uniform way. We must crucially also consider the ability of users to engage in unique and novel presentations of identity despite these
design choices. In this manner, this chapter will move on to consider how we avoid technological determinism while acknowledging that our actions and interactions are constrained and guided by aspects of platform design. We will consider literature that demonstrates acts of negotiation, novelty, and compromise between design choices and user experiences and desires.

Further, the chapter discusses the growing body of literature highlighting the socio-cultural dynamics of digital platforms, and the evident reality that not all users experience and respond to digital platforms in uniform ways. It is apparent that part of our unique experiences online are guided by the socio-cultural resources we bring with us as users to these platforms. In this manner, this chapter will consider literature exploring how we translate our extant identities onto these new platforms. Finally, it is also evident that these platforms prioritise certain users, voices, behaviours, and bodies and minimise others, recreating, translating, and exacerbating extant socio-cultural dynamics and manifesting them in new ways upon these platforms. Given this, this chapter will consider the growing body of literature exploring the ways in which platforms contain
baked-in biases, and what impact these have upon the user. In the conclusion of this chapter, we will bring together these four elements - the impact of the design of digital platforms on our actions and interactions, the agency of individual users in novel identity performances, the impact of the extant socio-cultural resources of the user, and the ways in which platform design act of ‘architectures of violence’ for different communities – to consider the broader sociological picture
of the overlaps between identity, culture, and platform design and platform design and future directions for research in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Sage Handbook of Digital Society
PublisherSage Publications
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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