The Powers That Be

: How Collective Identity Performance Sustains Online Fan Communities

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

    Abstract

    Postmodern narratives concerning the internet and modernity focus on the premise of a self fragmented and unmoored from the relationships and processes that work to stabilise it and produce a cohesive social identity. Online spaces are posited as a place where amorphous and fickle persona are created on a whim, where people use the anonymity and freedom from the conditions of their material existence to play with identity and become new people. However, those narratives prove to be over-exaggerated and unrelated to the experiences of the majority of internet users. Furthermore, contrary to postmodern assertions, data indicates people actively seek out opportunities that offer the presentation of a cohesive self, allowing them to build up communities of like minded individuals through mutually defined norms and values, a trend which media fans have shown a strong orientation towards and embraced enthusiastically. However, such commitment to a community has interrelated effects on the self.

    This thesis therefore examines the role of performance in an online fan culture to prove how individual and group identity is continually shaped, negotiated and interpreted through collective performance, with users creating their own symbolically mediated, hierarchically organised culture in the process. Using a symbolic interactionist framework to underpin Goffman’s (1959) theory of performance, this thesis will prove that Goffman can be profitably connected with interactions outside of a co-present setting. His dramaturgical metaphor argues we perform contextually every day in our co-present encounters; by extending and updating it in an online context, it makes redundant the online/ offline distinction users complain promotes the conception of their experiences as inauthentic, trivial and pathetic. Furthermore, it demonstrates instead how the majority of users need to feel they present a cohesive self across contexts, proving how integrated their online identity performance and sense of self are.
    Date of Award9 Mar 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Bristol
    SupervisorThomas S D Osborne (Supervisor) & Lee K R Marshall (Supervisor)

    Cite this

    The Powers That Be: How Collective Identity Performance Sustains Online Fan Communities
    Merrett, K. (Author). 9 Mar 2011

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)