„ … Do Not Try to be Anything Other Than What You Are” : Tactics of Authentication and Denaturalization in the Construction of Digital Identities on Facebook

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Nora SCHLEICHER, Budapest Metropolitan University of Applied Sciences, Hungary
Bucholtz and Hall[1] in their article on identity and interaction outline three different „tactics of intersubjectivity”: adequation and difference; authentication and denaturalization; authorization and illegitimation. The paper discusses how these tactics are applied in the process of digital identity construction on Facebook.

Social network sites have become increasingly important public spheres where identity constructions take place. Identities on these sites are intersubjectively and dynamically constructed with the help of content provided by the profile owner, his or her social network and the system itself.

The analysis is based on data coming from a representative survey, whereby more than 600 Hungarian teenagers were asked about their social media use. As part of the survey, students’ FB profile pictures were also collected resulting in a pool of 359 profile pictures. A smaller portion of the pictures also includes self-comments and comments by others.

The choice of the profile picture and the potential self-comment, together with the comments it received from others construct digitally, visually, linguistically and intersubjectively the identity presented for the audience of this public sphere. The paper presents multimodal analysis of some of these pictures focusing on tactics of authentication and denaturalization. It looks at a number of contextualization cues, like location, clothes, body posture, gaze, etc. indexing different aspects of identity and studies how these identities and confirmed or challenged by onlookers. It also looks at statistically significant differences among different user groups, focusing especially on gender, ethnicity and class, to answer the question: how the degree of freedom and agency in constructing one’s identity is dependent on the wider social structure and its unequal distribution of power. It is concluded that offline inequalities re-appear in the online world.

[1] Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005) Identity and interaction: a sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, Vol. 7(4-5), 585-614.