Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Online Identity in the Case of the Share Phenomenon. A Glimpse into the on Lives of Romanian Millennials

Academic journal article Journal of Media Research

Online Identity in the Case of the Share Phenomenon. A Glimpse into the on Lives of Romanian Millennials

Article excerpt

1. Introduction and theoretical background

This paper examines online identity as part of an individual's identity system, in the specific context of current Internet development, generalized connectivity and participation through the share web. The discussion centers on Romanian young adults, seeking to uncover their perceptions of online identity as a potentially strategic self-representation process.

It is no longer a debate that society is under profound transformation because of today's multiple possibilities to interact and communicate through the mediation of digital technology.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have irreversibly altered the nature of the informational environment, the informational agents and their interactions (Floridi, 2005: 186). Individuals' observable technology-dependent behavior has spread to become a global social phenomenon, attesting to the fact that society's new habitat is the infosphere.

The infosphere emerged as a concept in the seventies and was popularized by Alvin Toffler a decade later. He employed the term to express the totality of communication channels carrying personal and mass messages and discussed it parallel to the techno-sphere, socio-sphere, power-sphere, bio-sphere and psychosphere (Toffler, 1980). More than three decades later, the original meaning of the term has expanded to encompass all other spheres. Philosopher of technology Luciano Floridi (2006: 59) refers to the infosphere as society's new eco system: "[...] the whole informational environment constituted by all informational entities (thus including informational agents as well), their properties, interactions, processes and mutual relations". Floridi (2005:188-189) theorizes what he calls a reontologisation of the infosphere, attributing it to a growingly digital informational environment, an organic integration of technology (the Internet of things), a new generation of informational agents and the generalized informationalization of interactions. This new infosphere, humanity's new Umwelt with infinite expansion possibilities, is associated with three notable tendencies: synchronization (time axis), delocalization (space axis) and correlation (interaction axis) (Floridi, 2006: 60).

These projections are not far from Castells' (1996) idea of a network society. Standing at the basis of Castells' theoretical discourse, the network society is humanity's "new form of society [...], made up of specific configurations of global, national, and local networks in a multidimensional space of social interaction" (Castells, 2009: 19). This network of networks social structure precipitated the advent of an entirely new paradigm of communication, labeled mass selfcommunication: "a new communication realm, and ultimately a new medium, whose backbone is made of computer networks, whose language is digital, and whose senders are globally distributed and globally interactive" (Castells, 2009: 70). Castells introduced the concept of mass self-communication in order to capture a mutation in mass communication, set in motion by the widespread penetration of digital ICTs. Mass self-communication reflects the historically new role of individuals as both empowered senders and selective receivers of information, accountable - on the one hand - for message generation and target audience selection, on the other hand, for message filtering and appropriation. Individual communication power is thus the foundation of Castells' new theoretical construct; digital ICTs have empowered the individual over traditional multimedia outlets and have consequently strengthened agency over structure, allowing a shift from the vertical one-to-many communication model to the horizontal many-to-many model.

While Castells' focus is on expounding the mechanics of mass self-communication as socio-communicational phenomenon, examining mass self-communication from the perspective of content adds yet a new angle to Castells' original theory and proves to be valuable in the study of online identity. …

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