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There has been a gap in my postings, but rest assured I have been working hard to combine all my ideas and findings into a presentation to be given tomorrow.

I’ve tried to include as much theory as possible without making it too dull, but was sure to include Danah Boyd, Jill Walker and Heather Champs ideas as i think they were most influential in the shaping of my research. I also included several of the images i recieved via MySpace and tried to analysis them using the theory and ideas i have come across. Asides from the the actual standing up and speaking, i am confident that i have succinctly presented all the key points.

If you look in the reading and comments section i have also added a more detailed write up on Boyd’s and Walker’s essay and will add further comments soon. Once my presentation has been given i will also add my notes to this sections as they act as a good summary of all the ideas.

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After showing my research in progress to the group I’m now aware that I have found a large amount of information covering a range of ideas all focusing around the idea of online representation and identity construction. I must now start reading through it all, narrowing my focus and drawing some conclusions in preparation for my presentation on the 28th March.

While I want the majority of my focus to be on the self-portraits and images we post for all to see on MySpace, I also want to provide some background to the social networking phenomenon and also look, in general, at how we represent ourself and construct our identity through the profiles we create and the text we add. I think this approach will give a better overview to my ideas and put my self-portrait research into context.

For now, I’m going to focus on going over all the essays, links and blog entries I have cited, picking out relevant information that I can use in my presentation and honing my research.

I have started collecting and posting the self portraits that have been sent to me through MySpace. The comments people have proivided are very insightful and offer good explanations to the photographs.

Common themes I have identified are that people will often take multiple photographs, allowing them to choose from the best ones, so these images are carefully planned, rather than ‘off the cuff’ snap shots. In this sense the image, and therefore the representation of identity, is constructed. For those who ‘photoshop’ their images, it is used as a tool for removing features they would like to edit in real life, such as spots or blemishes. These photos cannot be said to be true representations, but this begs the question, can any photo be said to be a 100% accurate representation?

For all the images and comments click on my Self Portrait section

Searching through Google and others blogs I found some relevant news articles which can be found here.

These articles talk about the importance of the self portrait as a form of representation online, and how and why people use certain photographs to show their personality to others. There are several references to the emergence of cheap and accessible digital technology that has led to the up-surge in online self portraits.

In order to fully engage with my project and understand social networking sites, I must first understand Web 2.0 and it’s emergening practices and concepts. For a full, indepth summary of Bryan Alexanders article Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? see my Readings and Comments section.

This reading looks at Web 2.0, not as a brand new phenomenon, but rather a gradual evolving from more traditional web pratices and concepts. He looks at:

social softwaree.g sites that allow the sharing of thoughts and information such as blogs, wiki’s and Myspace
microcontente.g the move away from the ‘book/page’ structure of the web, such as blogs, podcasts, rss
openesse.g the 2-way flow of information found in collaborative projects such as Wikipedia and P-2-P file sharing and RSS
folksonomye.g photo tagging, for example the type used in Flickr

All of these concepts, which i have discussed in more detail in my reading summary, are concepts which have emerged and developed through original Web practices, but, unlike more traditional webpages, encourage the 2-way sharing, editing and consuming of information.

As a starting point i posted this bulletin via MySpace this morning and also posted it as a blog entry on my profile:

“hands up who wants to help me with my social networking project???

I’m looking at MySpace and the way we represent ourselves for all the world to see through our profiles and, in particular, our self portrait photographs. If you’d like to get involved then all you have to do is send me the photo (preferably one you’ve taken yourself) that says the most about you, and maybe a few sentences about how it represents your personality. This photo may be used in my final presentation and possibly posted on my blog

I’ve got a blog entry on my page about the project and also a research blog which is
https://digitalizzie.wordpress.com/. Who would have thought that i’d make something academic out of all my time on myspace??

Any questions, just message or comment me”

I hope that people will offer some photographs and comments that will help me reach some conclusions about self portraiture and representation.

I’ve decided to focus the majority of my MySpace research project on Photography and the way we represent oursleves through photographs and in particular, self portraits.

This idea developed from talking to a Digital Photography student at my university who created a collection of photographs taken from MySpace members who defined themselves as ‘depressed’. He used the photographs, as well as extracts from their blogs. I find this concept really interesting and like the idea that photographs can be used to express personality and character.

I was told of an article called Mirror and Shadows: The Digital Aestheticisation of Oneself’ by Jill Walker. In this paper she looks at the digital self portrait and how we use it to represent ourselves alongside autographical online narratives and weblogs. One particular site that is of interest is The Mirror Project , a collection of photographs that show self portraits taken in a range of reflective surfaces. Walker suggests that images of ourselves that we show the world are “not about trying to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about oneself”, and so we can alter and manipulate our images before we make them public.

In this sense, the photos we choose to post on sites such as MySpace are very important, as they are an opportunity to demonstrate and show others our personality. The photo must show elements of our character, and we can choose whether these elements are truthful characteristics or ones we would like to have.

Heres some possible questions that i’ve come up with in narrowing my focus on such a huge potential topic such as myspace. These questions come from others research projects i have looked at:

With our myspace profiles, are we creating a ‘real’ representation of ourselves?

Are our profiles an extenstion of ourselves? Or do we alter the ‘real’ via our photos or written thoughts?

Do we put as much time and effort into our layouts and backgrounds as we do, the clothes we put on in the morning?

These questions all relate to the production of identity and it would seem that social networking has provided us with options about the way we are able to produce and shape our online identity.

I’ve begun looking into others research surrounding social networking and have found it to be a popular topic. One particular site Apophenia, the personal blog of social networking scienctist Danah Boyd. This is a great resource for ideas and avenues to explore. She encourages collaboration and sharing of ideas between all those carrying out social networking research I particulaly like the work of Danah Boyd herself, the site has links Boyd’s papers. In Why Youth ♥ Myspace she talks about how American youths use Myspace and social networking sites for “identity production and socialisation in contempoary American society”, talking about the phenomenon since it’s beginnings in 2003 to present day where it has more ‘hits’ a day that any page on the Internet, asides from Yahoo. For a review of this paper see my Readings and Comments section.

As I mentioned in my previous posts i’m keen to find out how and why people are using MySpace, the age range of it’s users and what they hope to gain from their experience, so i may begin my own research by posting a bulletin out to my personal ‘friends’ (a some might say measly 71) asking specific questions such as:

1. A/S/L?
2. Total of Friends?
3. How many of those Friends do you actually know in person (approx)?
4. Do you use MySpace Video, MySpace Music etc?
5. Do you use it in a Proffessional capacity?

These sorts of questions will allow me to gather my own statistics and data.

March 2007
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