Tag Archives: internet studies

The web is us/ing us

I’ve just been reminded of this video in an article I’m reading.

It’s one of the first videos we show the (mostly) first-year students in the unit I teach. It’s really interesting to watch it now, I think, in a “look how far we’ve come” kind of way. I research the Internet for a (pseudo) living, and the speed with which it evolves still blows my mind on the reg.

The guy who made it, Michael Wesch, is a cultural anthropologist who does some really interesting stuff in digital ethnography, which is right up my alley (of course). I’d definitely recommend having a read of his blog if you’re at all interested that kinda thing.

Researching networked, place-based identities

(or: four years of work in a couple hundred words)

My PhD research is a complex thing. And by “complex”, I mean “super geeky”.

It started out as an exploration of place identity – that is, our sense of self that ties us to the places that we inhabit, and the places that we are from – in the context of blogging.

Over the past four years it’s changed a thousand times, but I’m now nearing the end and need the hard data to back up what I’ve been observing for the past few years.

I’m looking at the idea of re-placing the self online.

Once upon a time, in the 1990s, there was no room for place or bodies online: you sat behind your computer (no mobile Internet back then!), left your physical self behind*, and adopted a new identity. Slow connection speeds and clunky interfaces made it difficult to represent the real online, and as such the virtual world looked very, very different.

Now though, thanks to a number of factors (including mobile technology, social media platforms, and the general ubiquity of the Internet) place has begun to matter once again. When we’re online, we tend to replicate our offline selves, rather than adopting a persona. Indeed, this line between online and offline doesn’t really exist anymore. Our profiles tell other users what our name is, where we’re from, and show them what we look like.

My research looks at the way that physical place influences our online sense of self. Online, we re-place our “real world” place networks, through blogs and social media.

Through gathering information about Perth bloggers, the platforms they use, and the networks they share, I am trying to paint a picture of what Perth looks like online. I’m also interested to know how far these networks extend offline, and will be getting in touch with bloggers over the next month to see if anyone would like to participate in providing me with this information that isn’t so easily seen online.

If you have any questions, please just leave a comment or email me.

*to some degree. We never have quite reached that cyberpunk fantasy of being able to detach ourselves from our physical being and live online forever!

Some proof that I do actually study, sometimes.

I just submitted an abstract to a conference to be held at Oxford University in July this year. It would be exceedingly sexy if I was to be accepted, except for the fact that I’m broke as all hell and would have to live off food scraps for the week I am away. If I am accepted, I’m hoping to stay a bit longer and spend some time in London (<3), and a week-ish somewhere else in Europe. Somewhere warm. I’ll turn Old when I’m away so I want to spend my birthday somewhere sunny and beachy.

Anyway, here is my abstract. For those playing at home, this is pretty much the focus of my PhD research. In fact, I might update my research page right now. Enjoy!

Online/offline: Personal blogging, corporeality, and the issue of the real.

Over the past five years, as use of the Internet – formerly better known as the realm of geeks, elites, and researchers – has become more “everyday”, the phenomenon of blogging has taken the world by storm. Never before has the voice of the people been so prominent, or the means by which to promote this voice, accessible. There are blogs discussing every topic one can imagine, and yet despite (or perhaps because of) this almost saturation of information, more and more people create, update, and read blogs every day. One of the most intriguing forms of blog is the personal blog, wherein individuals document even the most banal minutiae of their lives for the reading pleasure of the public.

This paper will contemplate the ways in which personal blogs contribute to the exploration and experience of selfhood – both its construction and comprehension – by thinking about the way that blogs do two things. Firstly, a personal blog – often documenting events that happen away from the keyboard – operate as a space wherein the online and offline intersect. In doing so, blogs offer snapshots not only of the author, but also of the author’s physical surroundings, and their embodied experience. A far cry from the non-corporeal sentimentality of early Internet theory, it is my argument that blogging (and being online as a blogger) is indeed very much an embodied undertaking. Place, space, location, and physicality are all important factors in the construction of online selves. Secondly, I will discuss the notion that online spaces such as blogs, and in fact the blogger-self, are a form of simulacra, as they come to operate as entities in their own right, divorced from the original (that is, the “real” person who writes the stories, and has the experiences that are documented) by the tyranny of the screen, or the ability of the online persona to be present, even when the individual behind that persona is not.