(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!