Thesis: Digitized Identity – Identity online and its consequences

Today was the final deadline - today I handed in my 28099 word thesis. After a final oral exam in the middle of August I'll have a master's degree and be a cand.scient.bibl. :)

I've spent 5 months working on my thesis and it's been a long ride filled with moments of both happy- and sadface. Mostly happy. I'm extraordinarily pleased with the final outcome and I'm in love with the subject I wrote about. I will definitely be studying it further, reading many more books, new and old, about it.

Curious what I wrote about? Here's a little summary:

Digitized Identity – Identity online and its consequences

This thesis deals with the formation and construction of identity online, looking specifically at how the use of the internet and similar digital technologies and media affect the way we form our identity, and which challenges people face when constructing an identity online. In line with this, the thesis also investigates what consequences this may have on the way we relate to others and ourselves in both physical and virtual environments.
The hypothesis is that we are affected by the use of the internet and we change the way we behave and act when online. In order to investigate this I use several different literary works by prominent authors on the effects of social media and digital technologies particularly Luke Tredinnick, Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, Andrew Keen and Nicholas Carr.
First I present the new phenomenon Web 3.0, the third generation of the internet, which is all about massive amounts of data being generated by real identities. Then follows a look at how the use of the digital technologies physically affects and changes the way our brains work.
Identity theory and identity in our present day and age is briefly explained in order to contrast it later on with the digital identity, which is explained in further detail as well as the connection with digitized culture. The hypothesis that we develop a second identity online, an e-personality, is presented along with the theory to back it up. It’s further investigated and explained how a digital upbringing differs from being introduced to the digital technologies later in life.
Using an auto ethnographical approach I depict my own existence online and drawing on the theory presented in this thesis I see how my identity online has been formed in the more than 10 years I’ve been logged on. Using a marketing discourse I explain how I’ve tried to optimise both my blog and Twitter account in order to gain more followers and popularity.
The influence of the information economy is discussed ; an economy based on web 3.0 where social media is the market and the users via their updates and private information are the product. Taking a look at concepts like privacy and disclosure I describe the general loss of privacy online drawing on relevant examples that very recently unfolded.
Reflecting on the somewhat cautious approach taken to identity online and its consequences, it’s put into perspective what other discourse could have been chosen (i.e. a more praising/appreciative one), but in conclusion it’s summed up that a somewhat negative approach may be necessary to serve as a warning for those who take no precautions online and bare and share it all.


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