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Presentation of Self on Personal Homepages
 

Presentation of Self on Personal Homepages

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This article was written in 2002, presented to the International Conference of TEFLIN in Mandarin Hotel Surabaya in 2002.

This article was written in 2002, presented to the International Conference of TEFLIN in Mandarin Hotel Surabaya in 2002.

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    Presentation of Self on Personal Homepages Presentation of Self on Personal Homepages Document Transcript

    • THE PRESENTATIONS OF SELF ON PERSONAL HOMEPAGES: A new phenomenon in the post-traditional age By Yusuf Kurniawan Introduction In 1991, Alvin Tofler’s The Third Wave proclaimed the dawn of the Information Age. 1 One decade later, it was proven that cyberspace 2 is an extraordinary extension of the human experience. The advent of the World Wide Web just commenced in 1991 after its Inventor, Tim Berners-Lee succeeded in releasing his masterpiece. 3 However, in less than ten years, it has become the worldwide phenomenon. Today, for groups of people they cannot even work without the Internet. It has become one of the integral parts of their life. The emergence of personal homepages on the WWW has been increasingly an important issue in media and cultural studies because first, their number kept increasing and added up quickly. According to the research conducted by Geocities.com and Tripod.com on January 2000, there were more than four million active homepage builders registered at their each server. What’s more, Xoom.com claimed a further two million in the same year. 4 Millions more homepages reside in the numerous other free services, the web space provided by Internet services. Second, personal websites have been used by the authors to present their ‘selves’ and identities. The latter reason, according to many theorists recently, led to the phenomenon that we call ‘constructing new identities.’ 5 Many media theorists such as Joshua Meyrowitz argue that the adoption of new media seems to involve a shifting or blurring of the boundaries between public and private. 6 Without adopting the stance of hard technological determinism, 7 we may perceive such a shift in the new genre of the personal homepage on the World Wide Web. The fundamental technical difference between the medium of speech and that of writing is that writing is automatically recorded, web pages introduce another key feature: what is written on a web page (and stored on a web-server) is automatically published on a global scale. Web pages that are ‘personal’ are simultaneously public, and it is such ‘personal homepages’, which are the subject of this paper.
    • 2 Constructing new ‘self’ and identity The new phenomenon that personal homepage is not merely used for exhibiting family photos and identity, but it is employed as the place for building a new self and identity is inescapable in media studies. Even, it has formed a new genre i.e. web studies. It is stated by Miller that ‘the personal home page has developed as a new form of self- presentation over the last few years. 8 Having a personal homepage is just like having a personal printing press that is always ready to publish and advertise the owner. As it is argued by Chandler that ‘being able to produce webpage is like owning your printing press, and what some might call ‘self advertisement’ seems to be a key function.’ 9 Since the presentation of self on personal homepages is somewhat unlimited by bandwidth –unlike other media, which have many limitations, especially bandwidth limitation--, the author of a personal homepage can make his presentation twenty-four hours a day for the whole week and even for the whole year without stopping. Moreover, the author can give his detailed information and continually revise his web pages until he is satisfied. He can always experiment with colors, graphics, clipart, background pictures (wallpapers) etc. Erickson argued that it is the first time for individuals to be able to project massive amount of detailed information about themselves to a mass audience through the medium of the World Wide Web. 10 The presentation of ‘self’ on personal homepages mostly transfers and transforms the self and identity from the real life to the virtual world. Home pages are a medium in which conventional relationship between public and private are visibly in the process of transformation. 11 John Seabrook comments that ‘a home in the real world is, among other things, a way of keeping the world out. An on-line home, on the other hand, is a little hole you drill on the wall of your real home to let the world in.’ 12 The content of what is meant here by personal homepages can be recognized as drawing on a palette of paradigms that includes:  Personal statistics, biographical details and/ or CV  Interests, likes and dislikes (music, art, films, TV, books, travel, sports, hobbies)  Ideas, beliefs and causes (religious, political, philosophical)  Current activities  Original creative work by the author (photographs, artwork, poems, stories, articles, music)  List of (and links to) friends, family, workmates and web acquaintances
    • 3  Details of the author’s real-world home, town, region and or country  Contact details 13 There are two distinctive ways a homepage author presents her self and identity on her web pages, i.e. directly and indirectly. Homepage authors frequently use direct way instead of indirect one. We can quite easily learn their self and identity if they do this way. Nearly all the information about the author is explicitly stated/ written on the homepage, such as physical details, biographical statistics, and hobbies. Usually, the photographs of the author and her family, and sometimes her pets --cats or dogs-- accompany such homepages. On the other hand, when a homepage author presents her self and identity indirectly, the audience will not be able to recognize the author easily, because usually she uses stories and poems to tell about her self and identity. As Vibeke, from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA admitted that, she presented her true and untrue self through her stories. As she writes: ‘There are perhaps some parts that seem concealed, but they have been reflected in some of my short stories, and even though I may be the only one who knows how to interpret these stories in the right sense, this fact makes me feel like it really does represent a full honest reflection of who I am.’ 14 No wonder if it frequently leads to misunderstanding. Chandler suggests the images individuals present on their homepages also have ‘unintended consequences in they way they may be interpreted by others independently of their builder’s intentions or presence. Thus, Chandler says that homepages ‘may involve both intentional and unintentional disclosures (as well as sometimes leading to misinterpretation)’. 15 However, it doesn’t mean if the author does not want to tell directly or explicitly, then we cannot learn her self and identity. Indeed, we can still know the author’s self and identity from the metaphor she uses in her stories or poems, and from the links that she puts on her homepage. Sherry Turkle notes that in a homepage, ‘one’s identity emerges from whom one knows, one’s associations and connection.’ 16 Even, another commentator said more boldly ‘Show me what your links are, and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are.’ 17 For example, if we find a personal homepage with full of links to a certain game hero and the images of the hero, then we may judge that the owner must be a game enthusiast. Chandler’s study might be the best to explain this. In building personal homepages, the authors reflect active and discursive involvement regarding
    • 4 how and why they create their homepages in the way they do. Tristan, one of the people in Chandler’s investigation, for instance, comments on his homepage: ‘It helps to define who I am.’ 18 Certain feature film lovers may also be creating online community by building homepages that feature the film actors and or actresses. Several number of media scholars also acknowledge this phenomenon in web culture studies. Many fans of a certain film or film actor or actress have made online communities which are linked to one another. Many of them exchange and give information to each other about their idolized actor or actress. There is a large number of such personal homepages, such as those of Xena’s fans from all over the world. 19 Personal homepage authors usually focus on a certain theme in their presentation. There are definitely many themes of presentation presented by personal homepage authors, but those that are frequently incorporated by homepage authors are: (1) the pleasure of promoting towns and regions, (2) the pleasure of promoting oneself (3) the convenience of having global communication (4) the convenience of self-presentation. 20 The large variety of themes shows the rapid themes development of personal homepages in these recent years. For instance the theme focuses on the pleasure of promoting oneself is considered new. Personal homepage is used to promote its author to web surfers. Rio’s personal homepage provides a good example for this theme. He writes, ‘I hope people are interested to know me especially future employers and the rest could use my good links.’ 21 Webcam women With the emergence of new gadget, web camera, communication through the Internet has become more vivid. We cannot only hear the voice but we can also see our counterpart beyond the screen who may be thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. However, there is likely a new phenomenon regarding the usage of the device. Since web camera can also be used to make surveillance, personal websites’ authors have been trying to incorporate it into their homepages. 22 Interestingly, the majority using this device are women. They set up some web cams in certain places – such as in living room, balcony, and in even more private ones, like in bathroom and bedroom—in their homes. Internet audiences can monitor the personal website’s owner when she is at home. With certain refresh-rate that can be controlled by the owner, the
    • 5 web cams will be changing the displays from one angle to the others. Usually, the display changes every five to fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, the owner can still put and position the cameras on the places, which she desired. In other words, even though web cam provides more vivid and live pictures and displays of the owner, she still has vast opportunity to manipulate her appearance before the audiences. For instance, if the homepage owner does not want the audience see her naked, then she will not put the web cam in the bathroom or in the bedroom. There are many such kinds of websites today, e.g. www.jennicam.org, www.anacam.com, www.CollegeCutie.com, 23 etc. On one side, the owners want to show their existence by having such websites, and on the other side, they could reap a lot of profit by selling their images to the Internet audiences. Linking Goffman’s and Gidden’s Notions to the Web When Goffman wrote his book The Presentation of Self in Daily Life in 1969, the WWW and personal homepages definitely had not existed. Even until his death in 1985, the WWW was just about to be scripted. However, there is relevant correlation between the phenomenon of presentation of self on personal homepages and Goffman’s notions about the presentation of self. Goffman suggests that presentation of self in everyday life is a delicate enterprise, subject to moment-to-moment mishaps and unintentional misrepresentations. 24 Individual’s interaction is seen as a ‘performance’ that is shaped by environment and audience. It is constructed to give other ‘impressions’ to other individuals who are in agreement with the actor’s desired goals. An individual develops her identity or persona as consequence of interacting with other people. While presenting her self on personal homepage, an individual is actually making an interaction with other people (Internet audience) as well. The difference is that in face-to-face interaction an individual will be more able to manage her performance to fit the people she encounters. Most self- presentation in everyday life is not like a formal job interview in which we can do a 3- minute self-introduction. Most face-to-face interaction runs in a more spontaneous manner, during which we will never be able to present ourselves in an orderly and systematic fashion. 25 On the contrary, the interaction occurred on personal homepage could not be as direct as face-to-face interaction. The audiences meet the personal homepage owner in her absence.
    • 6 In addition, Goffman states that there are many ‘sign vehicles’ besides the ‘verbal assertions.’ 26 Sign vehicles such as sex, age, racial characteristics, facial expressions, bodily gestures, speech pattern and clothing can be recognized by other people as expressions that some of them can change spontaneously. For instance facial expressions that can change nearly every moment when people have interaction. As Goffman suggests that “… some of these sign vehicles are relatively mobile or transitory from one moment to the next.” 27 The expressions given off by someone will be evaluated by the audience, how serious or successful she made her self-presentation. Facial expressions, bodily gestures and speech pattern are much easier to manipulate. However, the other signals like race, gender and age are somewhat difficult to conceal in face-to-face interaction. In relation to the phenomenon that personal homepage is used by the author to have self-presentation, it is likely leading to what Giddens calls the ‘reflexive project.’ Self-identity becomes unobservable characteristics in the post-traditional order. It is individual’s own reflexive understanding of her biography. 28 Anyone can make her own narrative about her own self. Furthermore, Giddens says: In traditional societies, roles and identities were more-or-less given to people. But in post- traditional (modern) societies, people have to make their own identity. Everyone necessarily has to face the questions, ‘Who am I? What do I want from life? Where am I going?’ 29 The World Wide Web and personal homepages emerged in the post-traditional order, amongst modern societies who (many of them) are also definitely challenged to set out their identity. Homepage authors present anything about any aspects of their ‘selves’, about the things they associate with, about what they are proud of. They want to show themselves to the world. Moreover, with the increasing availability of mediated experience, the project of the modern self has become a symbolic project. As Thompson explains: it is a project that the individual constructs out of the symbolic materials which are available to him or her, materials which the individual weaves into a coherent account of who he is or she is, a narrative of self-identity …To recount to ourselves or others who we are is to retell the narratives – which are continuously modified in the process of retelling – of how we got to where we are and of where are going from here. 30 Here we find the correlation between Giddens’ and Goffman’s notions and the presentations of self and also the construction of identity on personal homepages.
    • 7 BIBLIOGRAPHY Barnhart, Adam (1994) Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. [WWW document] URL http://www.cfmc.com/adamb/writings/goffman.htm. [02/02/01] Berners-Lee, Tim (1999) Weaving the Web: The Past Present and Future of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor. London: Orion Press. Chandler, Daniel (1995) Technological or Media Determinism. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tecdet.html. [20/03/01] Chandler, Daniel (1997) Writing Oneself in Cyberspace. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/homepgid.html. [27/02/01] Chandler, Daniel (1998) Personal Home Pages and the Construction of Identities on the Web. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/webident.html. [01/03/01] Connolly, Dan (2000) A Little History of the World Wide Web. [WWW document] URL http://www.w3.org/History.htm. [04/02/01] Erickson, Thomas (1996) The World Wide web as Social Hypertxt. Available at: http://www.pliant.org/personal/Tom_Erickson/SocialHypertext.html. [01/02/01] Gauntlett, David (2001a) Anthony Giddens: Modernity, post-modernity and the post traditional. [WWW document] URL http://www.theory.org.uk/gidens3.htm. [06/06/01] Gauntlett, David (2001b) Anthony Giddens: The reflexive project of the self. [WWW document] URL http://www.theory.org.uk/giddens5.htm. [04/03/01] Gauntlett, David (ed) (2000) Web.Studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age. London: Arnold Publishers. Gauntlett, David (2002) Media, Gender and Identity: A New Introduction. London: Routledge. Giddens, Anthony (2000) Modernity and Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin. (page references are to 1990 edition) Jarvis, Chris (no year) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. [WWW document] URL http://sol.brunel.ac.uk/~jarvis/bola/communications/goffman.html. [20/02/01] Kelly, Paul J. (1995) ‘Human Identity, Part 1: Who Are You?’ [WWW document] URL http://www-home.calumet.yorku.ca/pkelly/www/id1.htm. [26/03/01]
    • 8 Kurniawan, Yusuf (2001) The Presentation of ‘Self’ on Personal Websites (dissertation). Leeds: Institute of Communications studies, University of Leeds. Kurniawan, Yusuf (2002) Presentation of ‘Self’ on Personal Websites (paper presented to the English Department’s Discussion Forum, Sebelas Maret University, June 2002). Mackay, Hugh and O’Sullivan, Tim (eds.) (2000) The Media Reader: continuity and transformation. London: Sage Publications. Meyrowitz, Joshua (1985) No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behaviour. New York: Oxford University Press. Miller, Hugh (1995) ‘The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet’ [WWW document] URL http://www.ntu.ac.uk/soc/psych/miller/goffman.htm (paper presented at Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space conference, Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, June 1995. [02/02/01] Miller, Hugh (1996) The Hypertext Home: images and metaphors of home on World Wide Web home pages. [WWW document] URL http://www.ntu.ac.uk/soc/psych/miller/homeweb.htm. [01/02/01] Power, Richard (2000) Tangled Web: Tales of Digital Crime from the Shadows of Cyberspace. Indianapolis: QUE. Seabrook, John (1995) ‘Home on the Net’ [WWW document] URL http://levity.com/seabrook/homenet.html. [07/03/01] Slevin, James (2000) The Internet and Society. London: Polity Press. Thompson, John B. (2000) The Media and Modernity. London: Polity Press. Turkle, Sherry (1996) Life on the Screen: Identity on the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
    • 9 Notes 1 Power, Richard (2000) Tangled Web: Tales of Digital Crime from the Shadows of Cyberspace. Indianapolis: QUE, p. 1. 2 Cyberspace was originally a term from William Gibson’s science-fiction novel Neuromancer. 3 Initially Tim released the WWW only for the NeXT, second, the line-mode browser and third, the basic server for any computers outside CERN (Conseil Europeen pour Recherche Nucleaire) laboratory –the European Particle Physics Laboratory-- in Geneva Switzerland. Berners-Lee, Tim (1999) Weaving the Web: The Past Present and Future of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor. London: Orion Press. See also A Little History of the World Wide Web at http://www.w3.org/History.htm. 4 Cheung, Charles (2000) A Home on the Web in Gauntlett, David (ed) (2000) web.studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age. London: Arnold Publishers, p.43. 5 See in Chandler, Daniel (1997) Writing Oneself in Cyberspace. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/homepgid.html, Erickson, Thomas (1996) The World Wide web as Social Hypertext. [WWW document] URL http://www.pliant.org/personal/Tom_Erickson/SocialHypertext.html, Turkle, Sherry (1996) Life on the Screen: Identity on the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Miller, Hugh (1995) ‘The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet’ [WWW document] URL http://www.ntu.ac.uk/soc/psych/miller/goffman.htm and Chandler, Daniel (1998) Personal Home Pages and the Construction of Identities on the Web. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/webident.html 6 Meyrowitz, Joshua (1985) No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic Media on Social Behaviour. New York: Oxford University Press. 7 Chandler, Daniel (1995) Technological or Media Determinism. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/tecdet/tecdet.html. 8 Miller, Hugh (1996) The Hypertext Home: images and metaphors of home on World Wide Web home pages. [WWW document] URL http://www.ntu.ac.uk/soc/psych/miller/homeweb.htm. 9 Chandler, Daniel (1997) Writing Oneself in Cyberspace. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/homepgid.html. 10 Erickson, Thomas (1996) The World Wide web as Social Hypertxt. Available at: http://www.pliant.org/personal/Tom_Erickson/SocialHypertext.html 11 Kelly, Paul J. (1995) ‘Human Identity, Part 1: Who Are You?’ [WWW document] URL http://www- home.calumet.yorku.ca/pkelly/www/id1.htm. 12 Seabrook, John (1995) ‘Home on the Net’ [WWW document] URL http://levity.com/seabrook/homenet.html 13 There are many other features of personal homepages stated by media theorists, but they are more or less the same in one another. See Chandler, Daniel. Writing Oneself in Cyberspace. [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/short/homepgid.html and Cheung, Charles (2000) A Home on the Web in Gauntlett, David (ed) (2000) web.studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age. London: Arnold Publishers. 14 Email interview on 25 May 2001, one of the respondents of the research for the dissertation at the University of Leeds. Vibeke Courtney’s homepage URL http://www.gynodummy.com. 15 Chandler, cited in Slevin, James (2000) The Internet and Society. London: Polity Press, p. 172. 16 Turkle, Sherry (1996) Life on the Screen: Identity on the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, p.258. 17 Miller, Hugh (1995) ‘The Presentation of Self in Electronic Life: Goffman on the Internet’ [WWW document] URL http://www.ntu.ac.uk/soc/psych/miller/goffman.htm (paper presented at Embodied Knowledge and Virtual Space conference, Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, June 1995. 18 Cited in Slevin, James (2000) The Internet and Society. London: Polity Press, p. 173. 19 Xena : the Warrior Princess, the TV serial is proven the most admired by TV viewers in nearly the whole Europe and America. To show their admiration and love to their idolized stars they did not merely purchase accessories which represent the actress, but also set up online community through personal homepages that feature the ‘warrior princess.’ For more details about making online fans community, see Pullen, Kirsten (2000) I-love-xena.com: Creating Online Fan Communities in Gauntlett, David (ed.) (2000) Web.Studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age. London: Arnold Publishers, p. 52-61.
    • 10 20 I took these themes from the research I conducted for my dissertation, based on the respondents’ personal homepages. Kurniawan, Yusuf (2001) The Presentation of ‘Self’ on Personal Websites (Dissertation), Leeds: University of Leeds. 21 Rio was one of my research respondents from Jakarta. On his personal homepage, Rio emphasizes the importance of self-promotion. E-mail interview, 04 June 2001. His homepage URL: http://www.rio.allhere.com. 22 Kurniawan, Yusuf (2002) Presentations of ‘Self’ on Personal Websites (paper presented at the English Department’s Discussion Forum), Sebelas Maret University. 23 Snyder, Donald (2000) Webcam Women: Life on your screen, in Gauntlett, David (ed) (2000) Web.Studies: Rewiring Media Studies for the Digital Age, p. 69. 24 Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin. 25 Cheung, Charles (2000) Presentations of Self on Personal Homepages in Gauntlett, David (ed) (2000) Web.Studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age, p. 47. 26 Goffman, Erving (1959), p.34. 27 Ibid. 28 Gauntlett, David (2002) Media, Gender and Identity: A New Introduction. London: Routledge. 29 Giddens, Anthonny (2000) Modernity and Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. 30 Thompson, John B. (2000) The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media. London: Polity, p. 210.