Creative	   exploration	   of	   the	   online	   identities	  of	   media	   students	 ...
Contact	         	         Jean	  Baptiste	  Mac	  Luckie	         Blog:	  www.jbmacluckie.net	         CV:	  http://www.d...
AbstractBlogging, tweeting, commenting a Facebook status, pinning, online networking, onlinedating, liking and disliking o...
AcknowledgementsI am particularly grateful to my supervisor Dr Caitriona Noonan, who supported methroughout this long jour...
Table of contentsAcknowledgements	  .........................................................................................
List of figures and tablesFIGURE 1 - A SCHEMATIC PRESENTATION OF THE METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH ADAPTED FROM FOSTER (1998,   ...
I.     Introduction       Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, tumblr, LinkedIn, Blogger, Viadeo, Doyoubuzz oreven Yupeek; since ...
considered as necessary because of the job insecurity (Elmore 2010). Indeed having acoherent professional online identity ...
II.       Literature review          A.    The concept of identityFrom the Ancient Greek to the 21st century, the concept ...
As seen in the previous paragraph, self-identity is in the realm of the private sphere.To what extent is self-identity dis...
Defining identity in a univocal way seems to be impossible. Each discipline of Humanand Social Sciences, from philosophy t...
B.     Online identity on the Web 2.0       Surfing on the Web, chatting with strangers online, signing up to social netwo...
resources and supports”, also called social and emotional supports, “shared identities”, i.e. anawareness of being part of...
sculpture to the metaphor of a ‘candy floss‘, which echoes Goffman’s notion of self-identity(1968).Although the conception...
C.     Professional identity of media students and workers in the Digital AgeWorking in media has become a complex situati...
2007). Therefore workplace and home are less distinct, idea that collaborates with the conceptof ‘workstyles’ developed by...
Technologies (NICT) insomuch that they “would be constantly wired” (Le Deuff 2011, p.53), whereas non-digital natives are ...
“The process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate         themselves and stand out from a crowd by identif...
III.         MethodologyThis section aims to provide the reader relevant information about the methodology of thestudy. Th...
Regarding the purpose of the research and the research question, qualitative research appearsto be more adequate than quan...
1.      Pilot experimentIn order to assess the appropriateness of the visual method using Lego with my researchquestion, a...
during the building process. On the other hand, the script became more precise in order toguide participants in a more str...
relation to the research questions, problems, or hypothesis and the underpinning theories,which will be used to help find ...
IV.    FindingsThe previous chapter was an introduction of the methodology used. This following chapteraims to present the...
a window was used to represent openness to the world or the idea of observing and beingobserved at the same time. And a sm...
pipes, weapons, accessories, flowers, trees, grass, wheels, doors, windows or even fences. Allthese elements had different...
Factors which influence and shape online identity of students in media and                                            comm...
These factors are what David Gauntlett calls ‘agents’, that is to say “abstract or concrete,physical or psychological, obv...
Given that this research is based on a qualitative method and that the two samples arerelatively small (7 and 5 participan...
C.     Online identity as a complex constructionAs seen in the literature review, the concept of online identity has been ...
According to this participant, the only space of digital presence she had was Facebook andtherefore neglected other spaces...
George’s semiotic conception of the online identity: the digital hexis, which once created,becomes an “active sculpture of...
Figure 7 - Rémys online identity model (France)Rémy explained his construction as follows:       “The deep blue bricks rep...
These quotes emphasize the coherence of Rémy’s online identity as a whole. Even ifsome facets are disconnected from anothe...
construction. It is the reason why Aurélien (France) suggested that it would be interesting torepeat this experience to ob...
Figure 11 - Mickaels representation of the Self (France)This picture represents Mickael (France). He describes himself as ...
Figure 12 - How Mari portrays herself on Facebook (United-Kingdom)This is how Mari perceive herself on Facebook. She state...
5.     Constructing a professional online identity: a necessity for students             in media and communication?The ai...
The other French participants did not answer to the question directly but they stated that itwas for them a good way to fi...
V.     ConclusionThe Lego Online Identity Project has been conducted from October 2011 to April 2012. Afterseveral experim...
of online identity is crucial in the fields of information and communication sciences, mediastudies, sociology or even sem...
VI.          Bibliography       -­‐   Adesias (2011) Generation Y. Available at: http://vimeo.com/33023016 (Accessed: 26  ...
-­‐   Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1997) Creativity: Fllow and the Psychology of discovery             and invention. New Yor...
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
Exploring online identity with LEGO
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Exploring online identity with LEGO

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This document is an edited version of the dissertation I wrote for my Bachelor of Arts in Media & Communications at the University of Glamorgan.

This dissertation aims to explore the concept of online identity. By using LEGO bricks and figures, the media students who participated to the experiments were able to construct a model of their own online identity.

I hope you will enjoy it !

NB: English is my 2nd language, so if there's any typo, mistake, please forgive me ;)

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  • like Arthur replied I am shocked that a student able to earn $9035 in four weeks on the internet. have you seen this web link NUTTYRICH DOT com
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Transcript of "Exploring online identity with LEGO"

  1. 1.      Creative   exploration   of   the   online   identities  of   media   students   in   France   and   in   the  United-­‐Kingdom   Jean  Baptiste  MAC  LUCKIE   Dissertation  in  Media  and  Cultural  Studies  University  of   Glamorgan,  Cardiff  School  of  Creative  and  Cultural   Industries  2011  –  2012    
  2. 2. Contact     Jean  Baptiste  Mac  Luckie   Blog:  www.jbmacluckie.net   CV:  http://www.doyoubuzz.com/jean-­‐baptiste-­‐mac-­‐luckie   Twitter:  @jbmacluckie   LinkedIn:  Jean  Baptiste  Mac  Luckie             2  
  3. 3. AbstractBlogging, tweeting, commenting a Facebook status, pinning, online networking, onlinedating, liking and disliking or even friending have become integral part of our language andactivities on the Web. All these activities produce what researchers call ‘digital footprints’.These digital footprints are disparate, spread, fragmented and incomplete. Nevertheless thecollection of these digital footprints and their display enable peoples, companies or evensearch-engines, to re-form the online identities of Internet-users. The aim of this study is toexplore the online identity of media students in France and in the United-Kingdom, in orderto ascertain if they are aware of the complexity of online identity. The purpose of this study isalso to get a better understanding of the students’ constructions of online identities and moreprecisely their constructions of professional online presences.To do so, a creative research method is used. The latter consists of allowing the participantsof the experiments to construct a model, which represent their online identity with Legobricks and figures. This method led to a variety of findings, such as the media students’awareness of having an online identity, online identity as a reflexive project and onlineidentity management as a complex activity.Keywords: online identity, Lego, personal branding, online reputation, liquid modernity,students, media, communication, information-communication.  
  4. 4. AcknowledgementsI am particularly grateful to my supervisor Dr Caitriona Noonan, who supported methroughout this long journey.Many thanks to all the people who supported me and showed interest to my project: CamilleAlloing, Olivier Le Deuff, Olivier Ertzscheid, Nikos Smyrnaios, Antonio Casilli, FlavienChantrel, Mark Deuze, David Gauntlett, Nancy Baym and the many bloggers and Twitter-users who were interested in my project.   4  
  5. 5. Table of contentsAcknowledgements  ...........................................................................................................  4  List of figures and tables  ...................................................................................................  6  I.   Introduction  ................................................................................................................  7  II.   Literature review   ......................................................................................................  9  A.   The concept of identity  ..............................................................................................................................................  9  B.   Online identity on the Web 2.0  ............................................................................................................................  12  C.   Professional identity of media students and workers in the Digital Age  ...............................................  15  III.   Methodology  ..........................................................................................................  19  A.   Research purpose   ......................................................................................................................................................  19  B.   Research approach: Qualitative  ...........................................................................................................................  19  C.   Research strategy: a visual method using Lego  .............................................................................................  20  D.   Data collection: Lego in action  ............................................................................................................................  20   1.   Pilot experiment  ........................................................................................................................................................  21   2.   Modifications of the experiment  ..........................................................................................................................  21   3.   Experiments in France and in the United-Kingdom  ...................................................................................  22  E.   Sample selection  .......................................................................................................................................................  22  F.   Data analysis  ...............................................................................................................................................................  22  IV.   Findings   .................................................................................................................  24  A.   Findings on the creative method  .........................................................................................................................  24   1.   The experimental process in question: the importance of “flow”  .........................................................  24   2.   A range of meanings for a single Lego brick: participants have different systems of representation  ......................................................................................................................................................................  24   3.   The Lego method as a method of co-constructing meaning and knowledge  .....................................  25  B.   Online identity as a whole model  ........................................................................................................................  26   1.   A map of the factors that influence and shape the online identity of the participants  ...................  26   2.   Spatial construction of online identity models  ..............................................................................................  29  C.   Online identity as a complex construction  .......................................................................................................  30   1.   Participants are aware of having an online identity  ...................................................................................  30   2.   Online identity as a reflexive project  ................................................................................................................  32   3.   Online identity management: a control of digital footprints  ...................................................................  35   4.   Online identity management: a performance?  ..............................................................................................  36   5.   Constructing a professional online identity: a necessity for students in media and communication?  .................................................................................................................................................................  38  V.   Conclusion  ...............................................................................................................  40  VI.   Bibliography  ..........................................................................................................  42  VII.   Appendices –  .........................................................................................................  46  A.   Lego online identity models explained - France  ............................................................................................  46  B.   Lego online identity models explained – United-Kingdom  .......................................................................  53    
  6. 6. List of figures and tablesFIGURE 1 - A SCHEMATIC PRESENTATION OF THE METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH ADAPTED FROM FOSTER (1998, P. 81)  ................................................................................................................................................................................................  19  FIGURE 2 - THE INTERACTIVE MODEL OF DATA ANALYSIS (MILES AND HUBERMAN 1994)  ............................................  23  FIGURE 3 - FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AND SHAPE ONLINE IDENTITY OF MEDIA STUDENTS IN FRANCE AND IN THE UK  ....................................................................................................................................................................................................  27  FIGURE 4 - RADAR CHART OF THE SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA USED BY THE PARTICIPANTS  28  FIGURE 5 - JESSICAS ONLINE IDENTITY MODEL (UNITED-KINGDOM)  ....................................................................................  30  FIGURE 6 - MICKAELS ONLINE IDENTITY MODEL (FRANCE)  .....................................................................................................  31  FIGURE 7 - RÉMYS ONLINE IDENTITY MODEL (FRANCE)  ............................................................................................................  33  FIGURE 8 - RÉMYS REPRESENTATION OF THE SELF (FRANCE)   ..................................................................................................  34  FIGURE 9 - AURÉLIENS REPRESENTATION OF THE SELF (FRANCE)  .........................................................................................  35  FIGURE 10 - ISMAILS REPRESENTATION OF THE SELF (FRANCE)  .............................................................................................  35  FIGURE 11 - MICKAELS REPRESENTATION OF THE SELF (FRANCE)  ........................................................................................  36  FIGURE 12 - HOW MARI PORTRAYS HERSELF ON FACEBOOK (UNITED-KINGDOM)  ...........................................................  37  FIGURE 13 - MASLOWS HIERARCHY OF NEEDS ADAPTED BY ERTZSCHEID (2011)  .............................................................  38  TABLE 1 - DIFFERENCES BETWEEN QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE RESEARCH (ADAPTED FROM BAUER AND GASKELL 2000, P.7)  ....................................................................................................................................................................  19     6  
  7. 7. I. Introduction Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, tumblr, LinkedIn, Blogger, Viadeo, Doyoubuzz oreven Yupeek; since the beginning of the 2000s, the number of online services allowingInternet-users to share, interact, communicate and express their opinions has considerablyincreased. This change in the ecosystem of the Web led to the emergence of number of issuessuch as: information architecture, file sharing or even online identity. As soon as individualssurf on the Web or use Internet, they have an online identity. Indeed according to OlivierErtzscheid, online identity is composed of “IP address, cookies, emails, name, surname,pseudonyms, address (private, administrative, professional, social), photos, avatars, logo,tags, links, videos, blog posts, comments on forums, geolocated data, etc.” (2011, p. 16).Therefore Anonymity on the Internet appears to be a utopia insofar as individuals have to facethe ubiquitous nature of their digital footprints. Regarding their online identity, individualsbehave differently regarding several factors such as their need for privacy or theirprofessional identity. Internet-users sometime prefer not to be visible by using pseudonymsand fake profiles, whereas other Internet-users enjoy having a maximum of visibility onsearch engines by using social media, personal blogs and even personal domain name topromote their online identity. The most relevant example of the latter tendency regardingonline identity is the use of the social media in order to construct a professional onlineidentity. This dissertation aims to explore the construction of the latter within the fields ofmedia and communication industries. The sector of creative industries is wide and complex. Often used as a synonym forcultural industries or even knowledge industries, creative industries can be considered as“commercial and industrial production sectors involved in generating new culturalcontributions through creativity, skills, and talent” (Chandler and Munday 2011, p. 80).Creative industries include a wide range of economic activities such as “art, music, film,performance arts and games; architecture, design, designer fashion, and craftwork; books,publishing, and software; television and radio; advertising and public relations.’ (Chandlerand Munday 2011, p. 80). Theorists, such as Deuze (2006, 2007), emphasize the highlycompetitive nature of the creative industries and the need for media and communicationworkers to develop a certain approach of their job, based on flexibility, creativity, dynamismand autonomy. Having a professional online identity can be seen as a way for workers todifferentiate themselves from the crowd. This tendency becomes a common currency formedia and communication professionals (Hackley & Tiwsakul 2011) and having a well-constructed professional online identity in a competitive labour market is sometimes  
  8. 8. considered as necessary because of the job insecurity (Elmore 2010). Indeed having acoherent professional online identity is sometimes helpful to construct a professional network.Several studies highlight the importance of social media and more widely online identity inthe process of screening applicants for jobs (Reppler 2011, RegionsJob 2011), whichemphasizes the importance of having a professional online identity. This study aims to explore the professional online identity of students in Media andCommunications as “workers-in-the-making” (Ashton 2010), both in France and in theUnited-Kingdom. As a French studying and living in Cardiff, this comparison between thetwo countries appeared to be an opportunity to understand the perceptions of creative andcultural industries and to see the similarities and differences of these perceptions between thetwo countries. During my year in Cardiff, I had the impression that the perception studentshave of their future profession, as media and communication workers, was slightly differentfrom the French students. In order to provide elements for a better understanding of thesedifferences, I chose to explore the online professional identity of students. Moreover the studyof media and communications students’ online identity is consistent with my own interestabout this concept. Indeed since my first year of studies in France, I am aware of theimportance of the construction of a professional online identity as a professional “in themaking”. Finally, the emergence of social media in everyday life and the ubiquitous nature ofthe Web in the different spheres of Western societies also imply an awareness of the issuesrelated to online identity. In order to explore the concept of online identity and its perception by students inmedia and communication from France and from the United-Kingdom, a qualitative creativemethod has been used. Developed by David Gauntlett (2007) this creative method allows theparticipants to construct a representation of their whole online identity out of Lego bricks andfigures. To do so, participants associate metaphors to bricks and figures in order to representthe intangible with tangible elements. This dissertation is composed by four interdependent and interconnected main parts,which are the literature review, i.e. the outline of the current position of the knowledge onidentity, online identity and professional identity of media workers; then the methodology,which explore more deeply the creative method used and the whole experimental process; thefindings then aims to introduce the findings of the research project. Finally the conclusionwill be a summary of the findings and an opening on the issues of online identity.   8  
  9. 9. II. Literature review A. The concept of identityFrom the Ancient Greek to the 21st century, the concept of identity has been discussed byplenty of authors. Already in the Ancient Greek, Plato used the aphorism “Know thyself”,which assigns to individuals the duty of being aware of themselves. Nowadays, the notion ofidentity is used in several contexts and has several meanings, such as national identity, onlineidentity or professional identity. These examples highlight one of many aspects of thisconcept: identity is multifaceted. Towards this aspect, it is important to notice that the studyof this concept if multidisciplinary. Indeed, philosophers, psychologists, researchers incommunication and media studies, anthropologists or even sociologists have tried to explainand define identity. The variety of studies about identity is, according to Bauman (2001) due to theWestern contemporary society itself. Indeed Bauman claims that the emergence of “liquidmodernity”, that is to say a modernity characterised by a fluid and changing nature, a rise ofindividualization, uncertainty and risk (2001). According to the author, “the search foridentity is the on going struggle to arrest or slow down the flow, to solidify the fluid, to giveform to the formless” (Bauman 2000, p. 82). This definition establishes identity as a changingconcept; Bauman deepens his reflection and highlights the impact of the rise ofindividualization within ‘liquid modernity’ on identity: “individualization consists intransforming human ‘identity’ from a ‘given’ into a ‘task’” (Bauman 2000, p. 31). AlthoughGoffman claims that self-identity is comparable to a “candy floss, becoming then the stickysubstance to which still other biographical facts can be attached.” (1968, p. 74-75), AnthonyGiddens collaborate with the idea of identity as a ‘task’ and deepens it by considering self-identity as “reflexive project” (Gauntlett 2008, p. 107). According to Giddens, self-identity is“the self as reflexively understood by the person in terms of her or his biography” (1991,p.53). In other words, self-identity is possible thanks to a perpetual introspection, whichallows an individual to create and maintain a certain type of autobiographical narrativethroughout his or her life, which corroborates one of Gauntlett’s findings about identity(2008).  
  10. 10. As seen in the previous paragraph, self-identity is in the realm of the private sphere.To what extent is self-identity displayed in a social context? According to Giddens (1991, p.58) “All human beings, in all cultures, preserve a division between their self-identities and the‘performances’ they put on in specific social contexts”. The term “performances” is borrowedfrom Goffman’s theory of self-presentation (1991). According to the American sociologistidentity is constructed during interactions between individuals. Goffman develops the idea that “all the world’s a stage” (1959, p. 246). The keyconcept, which is important to understand Goffman’s dramaturgical theory, is that personsduring an interaction are “performers” (1959, p. 33). An interaction can be displayed on threetypes of stages: front stage, back stage and off-stage, from the most public: front stageincludes performers and an audience who witness the interaction, to the most intimate: off-stage excludes the audience and include only one performer. Taking it further, Frenchlinguists Christian Baylon and Xavier Mignot (1999, p. 245), about Goffman’s dramaturgicaltheory, describe interaction as a “continuous game of self-dissimulation and search of theother”. According to these authors (1999), each agent during interaction claim an identity thathe or she cannot really control, because of the influence of the other agent. French sociologistLouis Quéré collaborates with this conception of self-identity: “Subjective identity ofindividuals is not a priori given […] in the contrary it is the result of the confrontation of thedefinitions of self claimed and attributed (allocated ?); [subjective identity] is perpetuallyparlayed” (1989, p. 57). Therefore, identity is not fixed but is constantly negotiated duringinteractions. By quoting Robert Ezra Park, Erving Goffman summarizes the interdependenceof identity and performance: “In a sens, and in so far as [the] mask represents the conception we have formed of ourselves – the role we are striving to live up to – this mask is our truer self, the self we would like to be. In the end, our conception of our role becomes second nature and an integral part of our personality. We come into the world as individuals, achieve character, and become persons” (Robert Ezra Park, quoted in Goffman, 1959: 30) This quote highlights Goffman’s idea that the self performs a variety of roles regarding thecontext and the social interactions and cannot be conceived as unique (Goffman 1959, Baym2010). Turkle collaborates with this particular conception of identity by considering it as “theaspect of the self that is accessible and salient in a particular context and that interacts withthe environment” (1996, p. 14)   10  
  11. 11. Defining identity in a univocal way seems to be impossible. Each discipline of Humanand Social Sciences, from philosophy to sociology or even media and communication studieshave tried to define this concept as precisely as possible. However, these attempts produceduseful outlines of what is identity. What must be remembered is that identity is a liquid,socially constructed concept rooted in a paradigm of complexity. With the emergence of theInternet, the concept of identity is still relevant today insofar as the concept  
  12. 12. B. Online identity on the Web 2.0 Surfing on the Web, chatting with strangers online, signing up to social networks,broadcasting videos and sharing photographs on online platforms. Nowadays theseexpressions appear to be common currency in a society where new media have an ubiquitousdimension. What is the place of individuals in such a digital age? In order to understand theonline identity of Internet users and the issues that it raises, it is important to clarify thereason why the Web is favourable for the emergence of digital identities.Internet and World Wide Web are wrongfully often seen as synonymous. Chandler andMunday define the Internet as a “vast network of interconnected computers that acts asworldwide distribution system for digital information” (2011, p. 220). Internet is therefore the“medium associated with the variety of communication technologies” (2011, p. 220).Conceiving Internet as a network of networks, that is to say from a technical perspectiveallows to make a more precise distinction between the latter and the World Wide Web. Indeedthe World Wide Web, created by Berners-Lee in 1989, is the visual and graphic part of theInternet, the digital space that includes the entirety of websites (Fayon, 2010). Since 2003 andthanks to Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty, the Web can be seen as “a platform forparticipation” where Internet users become producers of content (Chandler and Munday,2011). This notion of participation confers a social dimension to the Web. Indeed Internetusers interact, share and collaborate with each other (Fayon, 2010).Social media leans upon this particular aspect of the Web 2.0. Researcher danah boyd definessocial media as “the collection of software that enables individuals and communities togather, communicate, share, and in some cases collaborate or play » (2009). The emergenceof social media on the Web seems to be favourable to the creation of online communities.Writing in 2009, French author Eric Scherer agrees with this point of view and defines onlinecommunities as groups of individuals having common interests. According to him, thesepersons “communicate between themselves, update information and create value” (2009, p.42-43). Howard Rheingold (1993) highlights the importance of interpersonal bonds in virtualcommunities. In this regard, Ertzscheid, Favérial and Guéguen (2010) show that links invirtual communities do not have always the same intensity. Baym’s approach is more global,insofar as she identifies five main features of online communities “: “the sense of space”,virtual and metaphorical, “shared practice”, such as same languages or norms, “shared   12  
  13. 13. resources and supports”, also called social and emotional supports, “shared identities”, i.e. anawareness of being part of a broader community and “interpersonal relationships” (2010, p.75). These characteristics lead to rethink the place of individuals in such a digital context.As the concept of identity, online identity is a complex construction and a polysemous word.According to French researcher Olivier Ertzscheid (2011), online identity is the collection ofdigital footprints, such as comments on blogs, messages on forums, statuses on social networksites (SNS), etc. that an individual leaves online. Ertzscheid distinguishes three types ofdigital footprints: “profile-related”, which correspond to the information an individual fill inon a profile, “web-browsing related” that give information about the activities an individualhas online and “declarative” footprints, such as posts on a blog (2011, p. 16, translated fromFrench). Fanny Georges (2007, 2009) distinguishes declarative, acting and calculatedidentities. According to the researcher, online identity is composed by the details anindividual provides on his/her profile, his/her online activities, such as liking a fanpage,accepting a friend request or even playing and quantitative aspects, such as number of friends,videos, photos. These definitions of online identity help to understand the complexity and theequivocal dimension of this word. Using also a three-dimensional typology, researcherAntonio Casilli (2010) also considers that online identity is composed by digital footprints,but the typology of these footprints is different from Ertzscheid’s one. Indeed Casilliconsiders that digital footprints are “dimensional, bi-dimensional and tri-dimensional” (2010,p. 124, translated from French): From a simple username to a “potential body” (Casilli 2010,p.130), through an online profile.The relationship between body and a digital environment is important to understand theparticularity of online identity. Writing in 2010, Casilli says “body traces attest to an [online]presence” (2010, p.124). How is it possible for the body to be present in a digital world?According to Casilli (2010), online identity is an incarnation made of pixels, which ismanipulated by a person in the flesh. Fanny George (2007, 2009) collaborates with this ideaby using the concept of digital hexis, defined as “a scheme of user self-representations. Theselatter are transformed like a body, which is shaped by habit or by repetitive practice” (George2009, p. 1). This very conception highlights the fact that online identity results above all froman active construction. The digital hexis, once created, becomes an “active sculpture of theself in a digital world” (George 2008, p.1). Fanny George (2008) compares this active  
  14. 14. sculpture to the metaphor of a ‘candy floss‘, which echoes Goffman’s notion of self-identity(1968).Although the conception of online identity as a digitalization of the self seems appealing, theevolution of the Web has made the reality more complex. The variety of social media ergo thevariety of way of expression (statuses, profiles, comments, like and poke on Facebook, +1 onGoogle + or even tweets on Twitter) has an impact on what Olivier Ertzscheid calls the“granularity” of online identity (2011, p. 64). An individual’s online identity is spread all overthe Web, fragmented because of the multiplicity of digital footprints that are present ondifferent social media. Publishing a blog article, synchronizing this publication with anautomatic tweet and a status on Facebook with a link redirecting to the blog article. Thissynchronicity and this interoperability is possible thanks to the links between social media.Olivier Ertzscheid (2011, p. 64) designates by “porosity” these particular aspects of socialmedia, which allow to make links between fragments of online identity. According to theresearcher (2011, p. 65) the danger of the fragmentation of online identity resides in theaggregation of the digital footprints that are scattered on the Web. The third pillar of onlineidentity is, according to Ertzscheid, “percolation” that is to say the uncontrollable gathering ofdigital footprints by other agents of the Web such as search engines.   14  
  15. 15. C. Professional identity of media students and workers in the Digital AgeWorking in media has become a complex situation influenced by several factors such as theinstability of media work, the ubiquity of technology in media fields and the convergencephenomenon. In Western contemporary societies, the distinction between life and work hasbecome more and more blurry until they become comparable (Deuze, 2006). Indeed they havesimilar characteristics, such as “permanent flux, constant change, and structuralindeterminacy” (Deuze 2006: 1). These characteristics are proper to what Zygmunt Baumancalls ‘liquid modernity’ (Bauman 2000), concept well summarized by Mark Deuze: “this is atime when most people experience their lives as a perpetual white water, living in a state ofconstant flux and uncertainty” (Deuze 2007, x). Does this particular context have an impact ofwork? According to Deuze (2007), the answer is yes. ‘Liquid life‘ affects the entire economy;therefore it affects job security. Deuze argues “the nature of work is changing rapidly in ourrunaway world” because of its precariousness (2007, p. 21), consequently work and life tendto melt in what Deuze calls “workstyles”. This portmanteau word composed of ‘lifestyle’ and‘work’ refers to the pervasive nature of work in all the spheres of life. According to Giddens(1991) and Gauntlett (2008), the choice of a lifestyle in modern societies is essential forindividuals. Lifestyle refers to “wider choices [than job and consumption practices],behaviours, and (to greater or lesser degrees) attitudes and beliefs“ (Gauntlett 2008, p. 111).As Deuze highlights it, “Life has come to mean: work” (2007, p. I). Indeed, there isinterdependence between these two spheres that is not harmless, insofar as “uncertainty,paradox and risk” (Deuze 2007, p. I) impact on both work and life.Another factor that impacts on media work is the predominant use of information andcommunication technologies (ICT) by professionals. ICT is a “umbrella term for the variousmedia employed in communicating information” (Chandler and Munday 2011, p. 208). Thiswide definition embraces technologies such as television broadcasts, computers, Internet, andcellphones. According to Deuze (2007), media workers are expected to be familiar with thesetechnologies and their convergence. According to Deuze, “Technological convergence refersto the coming together of audio, video, telecommunications and data onto a commonplatform, enabled by digitization of all these formerly separate technologies” (2007, p. 70).Therefore, professionals use a same device to do different tasks, from video editing tovideogames playing through Internet surfing. Therefore a device becomes a “universalmachine” (Deuze 2007, p. 70) that makes the boundaries between work and life blurry (Deuze  
  16. 16. 2007). Therefore workplace and home are less distinct, idea that collaborates with the conceptof ‘workstyles’ developed by Deuze (2006).To what extent do job insecurity, ICT and technological convergence impacts on theprofessional identity of media workers? French sociologist Jacques Ion defines professionalidentity as “what allows to actors of a same profession to recognize each other and to promotetheir specificity to others” (1996, p. 91). Sociologist Claude Dubar (2001) corroborates thisidea of professional identity as a way for professionals to identify their peers. Regarding thesedefinitions, what are the features common to professional identities of media andcommunications workers? Deuze (2007) claims that job insecurity in the media andcommunications field impacts on workers’ professional identities. Indeed according to theauthor: “The worker of today must become an enterprise of her own: perfectly adept at managing herself, unlearning old skills while reflexively adapting to new demands, preferring individual interdependence and autonomy over the relative stability of a lifelong workstyle based on the collective bargaining power of a specific group sector, or union of workers” (Deuze 2007, p. 10)According to the author, media workers need to become autonomous, which means thatmedia workers need to work regarding their own rules. Deuze also highlights the need formedia workers to be flexible in order to adapt to the changes of their work. This flexibility ischaracterized by several aspects such as “(re-)schooling and training, unlearning “old” skillswhile adapting to changing technologies and management demands, moving from project toproject” (Deuze 2007, p. 21). According to the author, media and communicationsprofessionals appear to be constantly ‘in-the-making’ (Ashton 2010) because of the need to beperpetually up-to-date with the changes of their work. Therefore professional identities ofmedia and communications workers are not fixed but changing and unstable.Considering students in media and communications as future professionals appears to belogical. To what extent can students be considered as workers in the making? Undergraduateor postgraduate students, either from France, from the United-Kingdom, or from the United-States of America, can be described as ‘digital natives’, regarding Prensky’s concept (2001),that is to say that “students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language ofcomputers, video games and the Internet.” (Prensky 2001, p.1). According to Prensky’sconcept (2001), digital natives were born with New Information and Communication   16  
  17. 17. Technologies (NICT) insomuch that they “would be constantly wired” (Le Deuff 2011, p.53), whereas non-digital natives are ‘digital immigrants’, i.e individuals who were not bornwith NICT. However these categorisations try to simplify a more complex reality (Bayne andRoss 2007, Casilli 2011) and are “caricatural” and “incorrect” (Le Deuff 2011, p. 53).Considering digital natives as a uniform and fixed category of individuals is a simplificationof a sociological complexity (Casilli 2011). Contemporary studies highlight disparities among‘digital natives’ regarding NICT and informational culture (The New Media Consortium andEDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2011, Hargittai 2010). These elements lead different authorsto talk about ‘digital naives’ instead of ‘digital natives’ (Le Deuff 2011, Hargittai 2010).Simultaneously with the end of the 20th century, the emergence of the NICT and in a moreglobal scale, the emergence of ‘liquid modernity’, several researchers and authors has takenan interest in the education of the 21st century. What do students need to develop and improvein order to be efficient professionals in the contemporary Western society? According to thePartnership for 21st Century Skills (2011) and the Apollo Research Institute (2011), studentsneed to improve skills and literacies, which are respectively “the underlying ability that canbe refined through practice, such as communication, analysis, creativity, intuition, leadership,decision making and planning” Waller & Hingorani (2006, p.2) and “the progressivemovements of learning with continuities and ruptures between educational and domesticspheres” (Le Deuff 2011, p. 69). A variety of literacies are promoted, from digital literacy toinformation literacy through social literacy (Le Deuff 2011). As seen previously, work conditions in the media and communication industries havebeen impacted by ‘liquid modernity’, job insecurity, NICT and convergence. According toDeuze, “the individual has become the center of all things” (2007, p.5), idea whichcorroborates Bauman’s conception of individualization in Western societies (2000). Deuzeclaims that individuals need to become “enterprise of [their] own” (2007, p.10) and due to thechanging nature of the industry, professionals need to choose a “portfolio lifestyle” (Deuze2007, p. 11) where a career is composed of a succession of jobs. These trends, combined theubiquitous nature of the information and communication technologies, lead to the creation ofprofessional digital identities by media and communication workers. Hackley & Tiwsakulclaims “individuals are utilising web 2.0 and mobile in a mirror image of the trend foragencies to market themselves at a personal level through interactive technology” (2011, p.5). This assertion is corroborated by the popular literature about the process of ‘personalbranding’, which designates:  
  18. 18. “The process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leverage it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establishing reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence. " - (Schawbel, 2009 p. 4)Personal branding is a strategy of differentiation by which individuals emphasize their assetson the Internet, through social media, blogs and job boards and ‘in real-life’. Although digitalidentity is “what I communicate to the world”, the other facet of professional online presenceis digital reputation, that is to say “what people communicate about me” (Zara 2009, p. 17).Therefore having a professional digital identity implies an awareness of the risks about onlinereputation and employability (Delengaigne, Mongin, Deschamps 2011). According toDelengaigne, Mongin and Deschamps, many students forget the importance of their digitalidentity despite their status of professionals in the making (2011). Indeed 49% of Frenchrecruiters use social networks and social media to hire (RegionsJob 2011) and onlinerecruitment increases in the UK (Ask Grapevine HR 2012)This introduction section provided insights on three main topics: identity, online identity andprofessional identity of media students and workers in the Digital Age. Although these threetopics might seem separated, it is important to think about them as three interdependentconcepts.   18  
  19. 19. III. MethodologyThis section aims to provide the reader relevant information about the methodology of thestudy. This explanation of the methodology is composed of six steps (Foster 1998), which canbe schematically presented as follow: Research   Research   Research   Data   Sample   Data   purpose   approach   strategy   collection   selection   analysis   Figure 1 - A Schematic Presentation of the Methodological Approach Adapted from Foster (1998, p. 81) A. Research purposeThe purpose of the research is to provide a better understanding of the construction of aprofessional online identity by students in media and communications both in France and inthe United-Kingdom. Therefore, the following research questions have been established: - Do students in media and communications have a professional online identity? If they do, how do they perceive it? - Why do students in media and communications create or not a professional online identity? - How do students in media and communications construct their professional online identity? - How do students in media and communications promote their professional online identity via social media? B. Research approach: QualitativeChoosing the appropriate research approach is crucial insofar as the latter impacts on thewhole research, from the data gathered to the findings. Traditionally, a distinction is madebetween qualitative and quantitative research (Bauer and Gaskell 2000) because of theirdifferences: Quantitative QualitativeData Numbers TextsAnalysis Statistics InterpretationPrototype Opinion polling Depth interviewingQuality Hard SoftTable 1 - Differences between quantitative and qualitative research (Adapted fromBauer and Gaskell 2000, p.7)  
  20. 20. Regarding the purpose of the research and the research question, qualitative research appearsto be more adequate than quantitative because of its exploratory nature: the field of onlineidentity is wide, complex and recent according to French theorist Ertzscheid (2011). Indeedthe latter can be studied through different approaches such as semiotics (Georges 2007),sociology (Casilli 2010), media and communication studies (Baym 2010) or even informationscience (Ertzscheid 2011). C. Research strategy: a visual method using LegoAccording to David Gauntlett (2008), there is a range of research methods which have notbeen used enough in social science. These research methods can be called ‘visual methods’ or‘creative methods’ (Gauntlett 2008). A visual method refers to the “use of visual material asan integral part of the research process, whether as a form of data, a means of generatingfurther data or a means of representing ‘results’.” (Knowles and Sweetman 2004, p.5).Gauntlett (2007, 2008) claims that visual research methods are adequate to study identity andemphasizes what he calls ‘Lego identity study’ (2007) where he asks participants to representtheir identity by using Lego bricks and figures. Participants use Lego bricks and figures byassociating them with metaphors; the buildings become then vehicles of meanings. Accordingto Gauntlett, the use of a visual method where participants are asked to construct somethingwith their hands has several characteristics: - It gives participants the opportunity to communicate different types of information, such as emotions, ideas or even concepts. - The use of metaphors in social and media research is relevant because it allow the researcher to capture different kind of data - The process of constructing meaning with the hands is possible thanks to reflective time because participants are not used to reflect on their identity in such way. (Gauntlett 2007)Gauntlett’s ‘Lego identity study’ main asset is that the identity models, which are constructedwith Lego are whole identity models. Indeed participants are asked to represent their identityas a whole, with different elements and factors interacting with each other. Therefore thismethod allows to have an overview of the different elements that shape someone’s identity. D. Data collection: Lego in actionThe setting up of the Lego online identity study was made through three different steps:   20  
  21. 21. 1. Pilot experimentIn order to assess the appropriateness of the visual method using Lego with my researchquestion, a pilot experiment with three students in Media & Communication was conducted inCardiff in December 2011. In order to conduct this pilot experiment efficiently, it wasnecessary to write a script to guide the participants. The initial script was based on DavidGauntlett’s script (2007) and was composed of two main parts: - Introduction to Lego and metaphors - Exploration of the concept of online identityThe first part aimed to make participants able to manipulate Lego bricks and figures and toassociate them with metaphors thanks to step-by-step instructions. The second part wasfocused on online identity as a whole.Thanks to the pilot experiment, two issues were identified. First the participants emphasizedthe lack of diversity within the Lego bricks and figures present in each personal set of itemsgiven to the participants. Indeed the sets were mainly composed of Lego bricks to make theparticipants ‘construct’ their model of online identity but the lack of figures such as animals,wheels, trees or even doors and windows also implied a limitation for the participants.Because of this lack the three participants were sometimes unable to represent properly theirideas, concepts and feelings about their online identity.The second issue identified was that students had a tendency to focus on the socialnetworking site (SNS) Facebook, which is known to be generally dedicated to entertainment.In the initial script the exploration of the participants’ online identity started with thefollowing sentence: “Now I’m going to ask you to build your online identity. Think about who you are online and the different facets of yourself online.”The problem with this sentence is that even if the participants were asked to represent the‘different facets’ of their online identity, this instruction was too imprecise and they onlyrepresented their online identity by focusing on Facebook. Since the aim of the study is toexplore the construction of the professional online identity of media and communicationsstudents, one parameter of the experiment seemed to be inappropriate. 2. Modifications of the experimentOnce these issues identified, two aspects of the experiment were modified. On one hand, theset of Lego was enriched with a variety of figures in order to avoid the participants’ limitation  
  22. 22. during the building process. On the other hand, the script became more precise in order toguide participants in a more structured process. Therefore the introduction to the second partof the script became: “ Now I’m going to ask you to build your online identity. Make a list of your different profiles online, such as your Facebook or Twitter account, your blog, your Tumblr, your Spotify account etc. Once your list complete, start representing these different profiles on the Lego baseplate in front of you.”These details add value to the introduction insofar as they give concrete guidelines andexamples and allow participants to have a more detailed and global representation of theirown online identity. 3. Experiments in France and in the United-KingdomThe experiments took place in France: Toulouse and Lyon and in the United-Kingdom:Cardiff. The setting up of these experiments implied a succession of steps, from thepreparation of the Lego bricks and figures sets for the participants to the creation of surveysin order to have paper trails of the experiments, through the creation of consent forms in orderto record the experiments. The control of all the parameters of the experiments is important inorder to have data of quality, insofar as once the parameters controlled, the researcher canfocus on the collection of data itself. E. Sample selectionSample selection is one of the key steps of the methodology insofar as it conditions thequality of the data and the findings. As a French student studying in Cardiff, it appeared to bechallenging for me to provide a better understanding of the similarities and differencesbetween students in France and in the United-Kingdom. Moreover as the aim of thisdissertation is to study students’ ability to project into future and to reflect about themselvesas students and future professionals, choosing undergraduate students for the sample seemedto be more consistent with the research purposeThe sample for this research project is composed of 7 students in France and 5 students inCardiff. F. Data analysisData analysis is the phase by which all the data gathered makes sense. This process can bedescribed as the understanding of the “themes and patterns, which are emerging from it, in   22  
  23. 23. relation to the research questions, problems, or hypothesis and the underpinning theories,which will be used to help find a route through the data” (Wisker 2009, p. 161).Miles and Huberman (1994) consider data analysis as an interactive and iterative process,which can be represented in a schema as follows: Figure 2 - The interactive model of data analysis (Miles and Huberman 1994)As data collection has already been described, it is important to focus on the three otherphases of the data analysis process as seen by Miles and Huberman (1994). Data reduction isthe process of “selecting, focusing, simplifying, abstracting, and transforming the data”(Miles and Huberman 1994, p.10). Therefore this phase involves a processing of raw data.Then data display is the process by which data is shaped by the researcher in order tofacilitate conclusion drawing / verifying. The latter is the final step of the data analysisprocess and involves the own researcher’s findings in association with peer review andconnections with other theories and concepts.The data analysis process has been achieved thanks to a range of interdependent steps:transcripts of the experiments, coding and annotation of the data, data display has been madeby two means, which are the creation of diagrams and the display of all the relevant data on amind-map in order to have an overview of it. Then conclusion drawing and verifying hasalways been done in relation to the theoretical background outlined in the literature review.  
  24. 24. IV. FindingsThe previous chapter was an introduction of the methodology used. This following chapteraims to present the findings of this research project in order to answer to the researchquestions. A. Findings on the creative methodSome would argue that the findings on the creative method using LEGO seem to beirrelevant. However the creative nature of this method and its recentness imply a reflection onits appropriateness to the field of social research. 1. The experimental process in question: the importance of “flow”When they first heard about the nature of the experiment and its purpose, 9 participants out of12 were confused about their ability to construct a representation of their online identity.Indeed taking online identity out of context, representing this intangible concept throughtangible elements and having an introspective approach of it may seem complex at first sight,hence the importance of a structured and step-by-step experimental process.However, once the aim of the experiment explained and the process launched, the participantsare immersed in it. This immersion is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’ (1997).‘Flow’ is the state where individuals enjoy an experiment and find it challenging and whereindividuals learn the most and produce knowledge. In this experiment the transition fromconfusion to the state of flow was possible thanks to a step-by-step process, from (re-)learning how to use Lego to the effective representation of online identity. By presenting theaim of the experiment in a challenging way and making the participants ‘play’ with Lego,laugh, share and enjoy, they all reached the state of flow and they all were able to representtheir online identity in a tangible way. 2. A range of meanings for a single Lego brick: participants have different systems of representationWhile preparing the sets of Lego bricks and figures for every participant, it was tempting toimagine what metaphor could be associated with such or such Lego item. It is important tonotice that most of the assumptions which were made before the experiments were wrong.Indeed the participants systems of codes and meanings were different from one to another.David Gauntlett (2007) highlights this particularity of the experiment in his book. Forexample, a figure such as a chain was used to represent: links between individuals, linksbetween social media profiles, reins (to control, command) or even obstacles. A figure such as   24  
  25. 25. a window was used to represent openness to the world or the idea of observing and beingobserved at the same time. And a small figure such as a flower was used to represent:happiness, creativity, entertainment or even Tumblr, which is a micro-blogging platform thatallows users to post and share texts, pictures, songs, videos and links. This aspect leads us tothe Lego method as a way of constructing knowledge. 3. The Lego method as a method of co-constructing meaning and knowledgeTo what extent is the Lego method a way of constructing meaning and knowledge? Accordingto Gauntlett (2007), the Lego method is based on the association of metaphors with Legobricks and figures. Beside this aspect, it is important to notice that the binary approach‘metaphor’ ⟷ ‘Lego’, i.e ‘intangible’ ⟷ ‘tangible’ is similar to Ferdinand de Saussure’sconcept of ‘sign’. The concept of sign is at the heart of semiotics. Chandler and Mundaydefine the sign as a “meaningful unit, which is interpreted as ‘standing for’ something otherthan itself” and claim that signs can be found “in the physical form of words, images, sounds,acts, or objects” (2011, p. 389).During the experiment, participants produce signs; they create them by combining conceptsand ideas with Lego. This production of signs is linked to the researcher’s ability to analysethese signs. Therefore the researcher’s approach is a semiotic one, i.e. the study of signs, thestudy of “how things signify” (Chandler and Munday 2011, p.382). These two processes(production ⟷ analysis) are not asynchronous: they are simultaneous. The step-by-stepexperimental process implies a continuous interaction between the researcher and theparticipants. Indeed the latters explain and share their constructions to the researcher and bythis sharing they involve the researcher’s ability to analyse the signs in real-time. Forexample, during an experiment, Stacy (United-Kingdom) said while introducing her model:“Use your imagination”. This very sentence highlights the fact that the researcher contributesto the construction of meaning: it is a co-construction of meaning involving the participantsand the researcher.Now that the method by which meaning is produced has been explained, it is important tohave an overview of what signifies, i.e. what are the aspects and elements of the Lego onlineidentity model which make sense. The participants’ models all involve the use of a range ofbricks and figures: Lego bricks of different sizes, figures of animals, human figures, chains,  
  26. 26. pipes, weapons, accessories, flowers, trees, grass, wheels, doors, windows or even fences. Allthese elements had different meanings depending on the participant and the context. Howeverthese elements are not the only ones that carry meanings. For example empty spaces wereused to represent absence, separation or loneliness, colours were sometimes used to representfeelings, directions were sometimes used to represent past / present or future and shapes weresometimes used to symbolize concepts or social network sites (‘F’ for Facebook for example).Last but not least: spatial organisation. All the participants at some point used the latter torepresent their own conception of their online identity; this aspect will be presented in thefollowing chapter: ‘online identity as a whole model’. B. Online identity as a whole modelThe main value of the Lego method compared to more ‘traditional’ methods such asinterviews, focus groups or surveys, is that it allows the participant to represent their ownperception of their online identity as a whole. Indeed other research methods are based on theability of participants to express their ideas, concepts, feelings with words, which involves acreation of list. Even if these research methods are deeply rooted in the field of socialresearch, it is interesting to explore a concept from a new perspective. According to Gauntlett(2007), the Lego research method allows the participants to construct a metaphorical model asa whole, where all the components are interdependent and interconnected. Rather than a list,this research method is a way for the participants to have an overview of their online identity.Romain (France) highlights this aspect when he says: “This experiment allowed me to visualize my online identity and to have a better understanding of the latter.” - (Romain, France)This ‘visualization’ of online identity as a whole enables the participants to construct a modelfrom a holistic perspective, i.e. as a whole instead of as a gathering of components. Thereforeit is possible to map the common factors that influence and shape the construction of theparticipants’ online identities. 1. A map of the factors that influence and shape the online identity of the participantsTo what extent is it relevant to map these factors? Since this research is a comparative studybetween France and the United-Kingdom (more precisely Toulouse, Lyon and Cardiff),mapping the factors will help the reader to visualize the similarities and differences betweenthe shaping of the online identities of the participants.   26  
  27. 27. Factors which influence and shape online identity of students in media and communication Sharing & connections 100% 90% Control and security Future career & (monitoring, security projection 80% settings…) 70% 60% 50% 40% Hobbies and passions News, information and 30% (music, associations, knowledge clubs…) 20% 10% France 0% United-Kingdom Professionalism (SEO, Activism Portfolio, Networking…) Technique (code, Friends and family programmation) Creativity (creation and promotion of creations…) Figure 3 - Factors that influence and shape online identity of media students in France and in the UKThis radar chart, also called web chart, allows the reader to have an overview of the commonfactors that influence the online identities of students in media and communication in Franceand in the United-Kingdom. At first sight the most common factors are: - Sharing and connections (100% for both samples), - Control and security (100% for both samples), - Friends and family (100% for both samples), - News – information and knowledge (43% in France and 40% in the United-Kingdom), - Hobbies and passions (57% in France and 40% in the United-Kingdom) - Future career and projection (57% in France and 40% in the United-Kingdom) - Professionalism (100% in France and 20% in the United-Kingdom) - Creativity (29% in France and 0% in the United-Kingdom) - Technique (14% in France and 0% in the United-Kingdom) - Activism (14% in France and 0% in the United-Kingdom)  
  28. 28. These factors are what David Gauntlett calls ‘agents’, that is to say “abstract or concrete,physical or psychological, obvious or subtle, near or far, large or small” elements thatinfluence the participants (2007, p.139). If the first six common agents have a similarrepartition within the samples, it is interesting to notice that ‘professionalism’ (i.eprofessional networking, online CV, online portfolio, personal domain name etc.) is a factorthat influences the entirety of the French sample whereas it concerns only 20% of the othersample (1 / 5 participants). Some elements of explanation of this gap between France and theUnited-Kingdom will be introduced in the third part: “online identity as a complexconstruction.” SNS and Social Media used by the participants Facebook 100% 90% 80% Online 70% Twitter games 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% France 10% 0% United-Kingdom Doyoubuzz Tumblr (CV online) Viadeo LinkedIn (French (professional equivalent of networking LinkedIn) site) Figure 4 - Radar chart of the Social Networking Sites and Social Media used by the participantsThis chart reinforces the gap between the France and the United-Kingdom in terms ofprofessional online identity, insofar as the use by French students in communication ofprofessional-related social media is more important than the same practice by students incommunication in the United-Kingdom.   28  
  29. 29. Given that this research is based on a qualitative method and that the two samples arerelatively small (7 and 5 participants), these assertions cannot be generalised. Howeverthey highlight a tendency within the two samples. 2. Spatial construction of online identity modelsAs said earlier, in this experiment the use of space by participants to represent their onlineidentity is also a way to produce meaning. Throughout this project, four main types of spatialorganisations have been found. Notice that ‘spatial organisation’ refers to the positions of thesocial media and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc. on the Legobaseplates. These can be considered as anchor points to map a representation of someone’sdigital identity; agents such as creativity, professionalism, sharing and connecting etc. are notconsidered in the following typology of structure: - Single structure (1 participant in the United-Kingdom): This structure is simple insofar as it is compound of a single element located in the middle of the Lego baseplate, such as Facebook. - Binary structure (3 participants in the United-Kingdom): This structure is composed of two elements. The three participants who used it represented Facebook and Twitter at the same level, not as two equivalent but as two platforms that they use in the same amount. - Ternary structure (1 participant in France and 1 in the United-Kingdom): This structure is composed of three elements which appear to be three different facets of the online identity. For example the French participant represented Facebook, as a platform of information – Tumblr, as a place of creativity – Deezer as place to discover and listen to music. - Radiating structure (6 participants in France): This structure appears to be the most complex one which has been observed throughout the research project. In astronomy ‘radiant’ designates the only point in the sky that seems to emit meteors. Therefore it is based on a central point which emits rays. The six participants who used this structure have a coherent online identity, composed of professional and personal aspects.Now that the findings about the method and the online identity as a whole have beenexplained, it is important to focus on the concept of online identity itself and its perception bythe students in media and communication in France and in the United-Kingdom.  
  30. 30. C. Online identity as a complex constructionAs seen in the literature review, the concept of online identity has been studied from differentperspectives by different researchers; trying to combine all the theories outlined in thischapter would be irrelevant and probably impossible. However common findings have beenobserved throughout the research project. 1. Participants are aware of having an online identityThe awareness of having an online identity may seem obvious for the reader. After all we allknow that we have digital footprints on the Internet. Nevertheless it is interesting to noticethat all the participants had a certain awareness of having an online identity. This aspecthighlights a crucial point: by having an online identity and by being aware of it, theparticipants abandon the idea of anonymity on the Web.Nevertheless the participants’ awareness of having an online identity takes different forms,which can be analysed by observing their constructions. By comparing a single structure witha radiating one, it is possible to notice similarities and differences: Figure 5 - Jessicas online identity model (United-Kingdom)This model, made by Jessica (United-Kingdom), is composed of a single anchor point whichis her Facebook profile (the ‘F’), and several influences, such as friends, security, and the factthat she is in the Navy (the boat on the Lego baseplate). Therefore when Jessica has beenasked to construct a representation of her online identity, said: “I only have Facebook so that’s why I put the F “ (Jessica, United-Kingdom)   30  
  31. 31. According to this participant, the only space of digital presence she had was Facebook andtherefore neglected other spaces where she has a digital presence. Indeed a quick research viathe search engine Google shows that Jessica has an inactive profile on LinkedIn and arelatively empty profile on Scribd, platform dedicated to the uploading and sharing ofdocuments and books. Therefore it is possible to establish that Jessica’s awareness of havingan online identity is biased by the opposition between: activity and inactivity. Her Facebookprofile is active whereas her LinkedIn and Scribd profiles are inactive, so she forgot ordeliberately omitted to represent the latters in her construction. The active dimension of heronline profiles therefore conditions her representation of her own online identity.Another interesting construction is Mickael’s representation of his online identity (France): Figure 6 - Mickaels online identity model (France)Mickael represented his online identity as radiant: he is in the centre of the baseplate and he issurrounded by his online profiles: Facebook and Twitter in the upper part of the picture;Doyoubuzz (CV online), Viadeo and LinkedIn in the lower part of the photo. Compared toJessica, Mickael multiplied his number of online profiles and maintains them active, that iswhy his construction is composed of more elements than Jessica’s construction. However, asJessica, Mickael constructed a representation of his online identity based on the onlineprofiles that he uses the most and that he keeps active. These two examples are consistentwith the constructions of the other participants, insofar as the latters represent their onlineidentity as composed of a collection of active online profiles. This finding reminds of Fanny  
  32. 32. George’s semiotic conception of the online identity: the digital hexis, which once created,becomes an “active sculpture of the self in a digital world” (George 2008, p. 1). This ‘activesculpture’ becomes then a presence composed of a collection of autobiographic details suchas identity, friends, interests, hobbies, and opinions, which enrich this ‘active sculpture’. 2. Online identity as a reflexive projectThroughout the experiments, it has become more and more obvious that online identities ofstudents in media and communication both in France and in the United-Kingdom could beconsidered as reflexive projects of the self. According to Giddens (1991), self-identity is not apriori given anymore but is a personal construction, an autobiographical narrative created byindividuals in order to have a coherent existence. While analysing the participants’representations of their online identity, it is interesting to notice that they consider their onlineidentity more like a coherent story rather than a list of traits and facets. Olivier Le Deuff(2011) reinforces this idea by considering that the management of online identity is anautobiographical process, which needs to be constructed.All the participants represented their online identity as a particular story, a narrative, whichwas a coherent construction, anchored in a certain (digital) spatiality, i.e. the narrative takesplace in certain digital spaces such as forums, Facebook, Twitter, online games etc., andanchored in a certain temporality. Although all the models are relevant in this case, Remy’s(France) one appears to be particularly relevant to show the narrative dimension of onlineidentity.   32  
  33. 33. Figure 7 - Rémys online identity model (France)Rémy explained his construction as follows: “The deep blue bricks represent Facebook, the light blue one represent Twitter and the black and yellow part stands for whole the professional facet: CV on Doyoubuzz, LinkedIn, Viadeo. We can see that Facebook and Twitter are linked, they are chained to each other, whereas all the professional side of my online identity is not linked to Facebook or Twitter.” (Rémy, France)This quote highlights the coherence of the use of such and such social media by Rémy.Indeed he distinguished the professional facet from the personal one on purpose andemphasizes its coherence within the whole model and reinforces the idea that online identityis a project rather that something a priori given.He continues: “In the corners, every pole is decorated with eyes […] because on the Internet […] you do not know who look at your profile […].” “The open doors represent the fact that everybody have access to my online profiles: Doyoubuzz is accessible to everyone, Twitter and Facebook too […]” (Rémy, France)  
  34. 34. These quotes emphasize the coherence of Rémy’s online identity as a whole. Even ifsome facets are disconnected from another (Personal – Professional for example), thereis no discordant element. Rémy’s online identity is a coherent system withinterdependent and independent aspects that form a whole. Figure 8 - Rémys representation of the Self (France)Another interesting aspect of Rémy’s online identity is the representation of the Self, i.e. therepresentation of Rémy himself in his own Lego construction. Described as a ‘creation’,Remy explains: “With the creation I fly over my own digital identity, I watch it. The man on the right commands this creation and the latter’s purpose is to always move forward. The creation has eyes in the front to look at the future, to anticipate, and eyes on the sides to watch the concurrence. However the creation does not have any eye to the rear because it does not look at the past” (Rémy, France)This particular quotation highlights the importance of temporality in the construction ofonline identity. Although this experiment explores the participants’ online identity at a precisemoment, the exact moment of the experiment, temporality is present in every Legoconstruction. It may take different forms, such as photos archiving on Facebook (Clare,United-Kingdom), previous job experiences (Mickael, France) or even the participants’ statusof professionals ‘in-the-making’. Indeed 48,5% of the participants, both samples merged,integrated elements to show that they also think about their future career in their Lego   34  
  35. 35. construction. It is the reason why Aurélien (France) suggested that it would be interesting torepeat this experience to observe the evolutions of the digital identity of the participants. Thiscomment is relevant insofar as the fact that online identity is a construction rather than fixed,implies that it is adaptable, flexible, which is consistent with ‘liquid’ dimension of theprofessional fields of media and communication claimed by Mark Deuze (2006, 2007). 3. Online identity management: a control of digital footprintsOnline identity management is a popular expression on the Web, which designates a complexactivity; the latter is too often simplified as lists of tips and good practices instead ofexplained as complex and iterative process.The control of digital footprints has been represented by several means throughout theresearch project: Figure 9 - Auréliens representation of the Self (France)This is Aurélien’s metaphor of the control of digital footprints. He represented himself ‘at thewheel’, controlling his whole online identity. Figure 10 - Ismails representation of the Self (France)This picture is an extract from Ismail’s model (France). He is ‘holding the reins’ of his onlinepresence.  
  36. 36. Figure 11 - Mickaels representation of the Self (France)This picture represents Mickael (France). He describes himself as “controlling everythingfrom his tower”. The two red flags warn him about the fact that “on the Web, everythingstays”. This personal motto allows him to stay careful about what he posts and what he doeson the Web.From these three different representations, one common trait: the participants control theironline identity by two means, which are visible in the two samples. First, the participantsmonitor their online profiles (content, accessibility, indexation by the search engines…) andthe security settings; and then they care about what they say, post, publish, comment on theWeb.The monitoring of online identity is close to the concept of ‘self-writing’ developed byMichel Foucault and adapted by Olivier Le Deuff (2011). According to Le Deuff, self-writingimplies a gathering of the digital footprints and a monitoring of the production of data andmetadata, because these latters can be gathered in order to re-form “portraits” of Internet-users (Le Deuff 2011, 102). The process of re-forming portraits of Internet-users fromdisparate data is called, within the field of information sciences, ‘re-documentarisation’(Ertzscheid 2011). According to Le Deuff, only few students are aware of the importance ofself-writing for the online identity (2011). 4. Online identity management: a performance?Throughout the Lego online identity project, participants in France and in the United-Kingdom stated that their attitude and the content they publish change depending on thesocial media platform and on their interlocutor.A relevant example is the construction of Mari (United-Kingdom):   36  
  37. 37. Figure 12 - How Mari portrays herself on Facebook (United-Kingdom)This is how Mari perceive herself on Facebook. She states: “This is me. On Facebook you usually try to portray yourself as a certain person and here it’s happy, with the smile, but then it’s not necessary me. When the window is open, then it’s me.” (Mari, United-Kingdom)What does Mari want to say by “you usually try to portray yourself as a certain person”? Doesit mean that on Facebook, or other social networking sites, individuals are superficial? Theanswer is no. What Mari highlights is related to Erving Goffman’s conception of self-identityand interactions (1959). Goffman claims that self-identities are not a priori given but dependson the everyday interactions. Indeed these interactions are social occasions where individualscreate a “social performance” (Gauntlett 2008, p. 266) regarding their audiences. A ‘socialperformance’ is in fact an individual’s image of himself that he wants to get accepted by theothers (Baylon and Mignot 1999).On the premise that on the Web, every social media platform and social networking siteinvolves at least one audience, for example on LinkedIn the audience will be mainlycomposed of professionals whereas on Facebook there will be several audiences (family,friends, colleagues etc), Internet users have to manage a range of social performancesregarding their audience. Therefore the more an individual have online profiles, the more thisindividual’s online identity needs a careful monitoring. All the participants of the study, bothin France and in the United-Kingdom, were aware of having different attitudes depending ontheir online profiles and their audiences. That is why they avoid letting their Facebook profileaccessible to the public and potential employers.  
  38. 38. 5. Constructing a professional online identity: a necessity for students in media and communication?The aim of this last paragraph is not to provide answers to such a vague and sensitivequestion. However it will be a place of confrontation of ideas in order to explore the reasonswhy students in media and communication in France and in the United-Kingdom construct ornot their own professional online identity. An important element to consider is that 100 per-cent of the French sample have a professional online identity, whereas only 20% of thesample in the United-Kingdom have one.To the question “what are the main reasons that lead you to construct your professional onlinepresence?”, which was asked to the French sample, only on participant clearly answered: “If I do all this [i.e. the construction and promotion of his own professional online identity], it is to be seen, to be recognized professionally, to be hired and maybe to get a job.” (Mickael, France)This desire of being recognized professionally reminds of Ertzscheid’s adaptation ofMaslow’s hierarchy of needs to the field of online identity (2011): Self-­‐actualization:  adequacy  of  the  online   reputation  and  the  claimed  identity   Esteem:  strategies  of  construction  and   management  of  an  online  reputation,   narcisssic  dimension,  self-­‐esteem,   conHidence,  achievement   Love  &  belonging:  presence  on  social   networking  sites  (Facebook  etc)   Safety:  security  settings,  user  ID...   Physiological   Figure 13 - Maslows hierarchy of needs adapted by Ertzscheid (2011)Indeed the need for esteem matches with the desire of being recognized professionally. AsErtzscheid reminds us, this hierarchy of needs “allows us to have an overview of the steps ofa basic construction of identity” (2011, p. 31).   38  
  39. 39. The other French participants did not answer to the question directly but they stated that itwas for them a good way to find job placements. For example Ismail managed to get a jobplacement in 2012 thanks to an unsolicited application via Twitter and a video resumeuploaded on Youtube. Again, having a coherent professional online presence appears to servethe students’ need for esteem.The participants of the sample in the United-Kingdom appear to be less disposed to start theconstruction of their professional online presence. The only two students who explained whythey do not have a professional online presence are Sara and Stacy. Sara states that she isplanning to construct hers after her graduation: “I don’t have a professional online identity because from everyone I know, I’m the only one studying media, apart from my friends here [in Cardiff]. […] But I’m actually planning to do something when I’ll graduate, to prove them [family and friends] wrong, to show them that media is completely different from what they actually think. “ (Sara, United-Kingdom)Sara perceives her future professional online identity as something challenging that will helpher proving to her friends and family that they were wrong about the media industries. Hereagain, the construction of a professional online presence seems to be related to the need foresteem.Stacy’s perception of her future professional online identity is different, insofar as she doesnot want to have a career in media: “At the moment I’m doing media but I want to have a career in make-up artistry. And just because I think I haven’t got enough experience yet… I haven’t got experience really in that area. But I will definitely… [Construct a professional online presence]; my Twitter does say ‘Make-up artist’ on it, I have got a bit of experience but not enough to set up an account.” (Stacy, United-Kingdom)Therefore what stops Stacy from constructing an active professional online presence seems tobe the lack of experience in make-up artistry. This lack of experience is related to the need foresteem explained in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs adapted by Ertzscheid (2011). Theseexamples, both from France and from the United-Kingdom, show the links between theconstruction of a professional online presence and the need for esteem. However, even ifthese links are showed, they cannot be explained in this research project.  
  40. 40. V. ConclusionThe Lego Online Identity Project has been conducted from October 2011 to April 2012. Afterseveral experiments conducted in France and in the United-Kingdom, several findings havebeen noticed. Regarding the Lego research method itself, the three main findings are thatparticipants need to be in a structured and framed step-by-step process where a challengingaim is stated at the beginning in order for them to reach the state of ‘flow’ which allows themto enjoy an experiment and produce knowledge; then participants have different systems ofrepresentations, different codes, which enable them to represent same ideas and concepts indifferent ways; the last finding about the method is that the latter is a process of co-construction of meaning and knowledge, where participants produce signs and the researcheruse a semiotics approach in order to understand and interpret these signs.Regarding the online identity itself, a variety of findings have been noticed. The use of theLego research method allows use to map the factors that influence and shape the onlineidentities of media students in France and in the United-Kingdom. These factors have certainsimilarities and certain differences from a sample to another. The structure of the Legoconstruction is also important. Throughout the experience it had been noticed that the morestudents maximize their online presence, the more they have a tendency to represent theironline identity as radiant: the Self is central, it is the hub where everything facet is connected,and the facets of the online identity are diffused by this hub.Above all, online identity can be considered as a complex construction that all the participantsare aware of. Moreover the study highlights the online identity narrative dimension: onlineidentity is not a priori given but can be considered as an active construction, a reflexiveproject of the self. Therefore it needs a management, a monitoring, which is composed of twomain elements: a monitoring of the digital footprints and a performance. Finally theconstruction of a professional online presence appears to be more natural for the Frenchparticipants, whereas participants from the United-Kingdom have a tendency to think abouttheir professional online identity as project they will start after their graduation. In all theexamples, the construction of a professional online identity seems to contribute to thesatisfaction of the need for esteem identified by Abraham Maslow as a crucial part in identityconstruction.With hindsight, the Lego research method and the whole project seem to be in adequacy withthe research questions. Moreover this project contributed to the exploration of the concept ofonline identity from another perspective, which may be used by other researchers. The study   40  
  41. 41. of online identity is crucial in the fields of information and communication sciences, mediastudies, sociology or even semiotics. The recentness of this issue is accompanied by a realpassion for themes such as ‘personal branding’, ‘online reputation’, ‘personal knowledgemanagement’ etc. These relatively popular expressions highlight the range of studies thatcould be conducted in order to get a better understanding of these trends. One thing is certain,although the Lego online identity project is relatively complete, there are gaps that could havebeen filled in order to have a deeper understanding of the concept of online identity and itsappropriation by media students.  
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