How do you act when you’re online? Does your behaviour change depending on who you are talking to and which platform you are using? Have you carefully constructed a personality especially for social media? Do you keep personal and professional identities separate? Or are you just happy to be yourself, whoever that might be?
When we started thinking about all of this, inspired by a blog post Sarah wrote, we realised it was actually a complex issue with lots of strands to tease out - and we couldn’t resist attempting to do this.
Our aim is to build a taxonomy of personas for social media. This session will introduce our preliminary list and ask the audience to help us refine the ones that we have and to help us fill in the gaps. We’ll also share our findings on social media before, during and after the event, and provide an online method of joining in.
What have we missed? Ask each audience member to submit a new persona/offer a modification to one of ours/suggest a new name - either on paper or via a Google form
A taxonomy of online personas
A Taxonomy of Online Personas
Sarah Honeychurch @NomadWarMachine
Lenandlar Singh @Lenandlar
Apostolos Koutropoulos @Koutropoulos
Aras Bozkurt @ArasBozkurt
Who are you online?
Thesis: Our online identities are constructed,
whether we realise this or not.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;”
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
“God has given you one face and you make yourselves
Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1
"masks" flickr photo by NomadWarMachine https://flickr.com/photos/sarah-
nomadwarmachine/45714109955 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license
● Global Village (McLuhan 1964)
● Identity-as-performance (Goffman, 1959) - individuals construct identity
performances according to their milieu
● Online: heightened consciousness (Chan, 2000; boyd and Heer, 2006)
● Social Media blurs the boundaries between public and private (Pearson,
○ We never know who is watching
○ We often forget that we are acting in front of an invisible audience
"Earth" flickr photo by reery https://flickr.com/photos/33544745@N02/25579422684 shared into the
Glass Bedroom Metaphor
The metaphor can take a number of forms, but at its core it describes a bedroom
with walls made of glass. Inside the bedroom, private conversations and intimate
exchanges occur, each with varying awareness of distant friends and strangers
moving past transparent walls that separate groups from more deliberate and
constructed ‘outside’ displays. The glass bedroom itself is not an entirely private
space, nor a true backstage space as Goffman articulated, though it takes on
elements of both over the course of its use. It is a bridge that is partially private
and public, constructed online through signs and language.
“Accessible privacy” “experiment without risk” “low cost ways to engage” (Pearson
"Image from page 175 of "Building with assurance" (1921)" flickr photo by Internet Archive Book Images
https://flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14740849406 shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)
● A social media profile allows us to show ourselves as we want to be
perceived (Maranto and Barton 2010)
● We must write ourselves into being in order to exist online (Sunden,
● We can create and edit multiple identities for ourselves (Barnes, 2002)
● Idealised selves (Manago et al 2008; Back et al 3010)
● Plus actual personalities (Higgins 1987)
● “A reflection of the self in a conscious or unconscious way” (Bozkurt
and Tu, 2016)
● We might not be as autonomous as we think: McLuhan’s Media
Ecology Theory suggests that we have a symbiotic relationship with
mediated technology; we create technology, and technology in turn re-
creates who we are. (West and Turner 2010)
Selfie "il selfie" flickr photo by Gina.Di https://flickr.com/photos/ginadi/39536605184 shared into
the public domain using (PDM)
Towards a taxonomy ...
● Academic: adds relevant academic references
● Networker: links to others/brings other tweeps into the conversation
● Self-publicist: always twists the conversation to talk about their work; provides
links to their work over and over again
● Cheerleader: RTs with added positive comments about the original post
● Enthusiast: replies to say how great everybody and their ideas are. Subdivides
○ Newbie (who is impressed by everything)
○ Sycophant (not necessarily new, but promotes things just to promote them)
● Lurker: likes posts, might RT without added comment, but does not post
● Critic: disagrees, adds alternative points of view, but does so in a positive way
● Troll: no need to define these
● Superstar: has lots of followers, follows very few
● LION: follows indiscriminately, has lots of followers
● ?? sends annoying boiler-plate DMs when you follow them
● ?? just broadcasts, never responds
● Educator/Teachers - actually help others learn stuff - like how to use twitter things, maybe
other stuff...how to do this and that?
● Pacificists? - help to keep things calm and under control? Helps to negotiate issues,
● Moderator - monitoring others’ behaviour and using it to abuse/tell them off/ etc
● ‘Imposer/enforcer’ - forcing/demanding others to believe what you think and believe and know
● Protestors - contest everything, campaigns against random stuff...etc
● ?? Keeps tweeting the same thing over and over again (e.g. their latest blogpost every hour to
the same hashtag)
● Engager: A mix of several of your suggestions. The defining characteristic is reaction,
sometimes positive, questioning, supportive, and like the critic may mix in alternative ideas,
but not in an acrimonious way. - Algot Runeman
Framework Matrix (version 0.99)
Profile information Fully Personal <------------------> Fully Professional
Posting activity Low <------------------> High
Posting length Measured in Characters <------------------> Measured in Paragraphs
Posting “quality” Throw-away posts <------------------> Detailed Analysis posts
Post emotive type Personal <------------------> Professional
Post content type Report/Retweet/Recycle <------------------> Fully Original
Content Purpose “I” focused <------------------> “We” focused
Engagement Attitude Trolling
(maintain some distance)
Engagement Actions Lurking <------------------> Super-posting
Post type One-off, little follow-up <------------------> Sustained engagement
Engagement Structure Free-flowing. Engagement has “moods” <------------------> More structured, less fluctuation in
Network Connections Selected & pruned connections <------------------> Open Networker “indiscriminate”
A (brief) personal example
● What type of tweets do you post?
● Do you expect/hope for reciprocation?
● Do you see yourselves/others in our taxonomy?
● What have we missed?
● What could we improve?
Link to online form: https://goo.gl/forms/w8QT9D9wUvCVNKZW2
By Seattle City Council from Seattle - CM Johnson's City Hall Open House, CC0,
Back, M. D., Stopfer, J. M., Vazire, S., Gaddis, S., Schmukle, S. C., Egloff, B., & Gosling, S. D. (2010). Facebook profiles
reflect actual personality, not self-idealization. Psychological Science, 21, 372–374.
Barnes, S. B. (2002). Media ecology and symbolic interactionism. In Proceedings of the Media Ecology Association (Vol. 3).
Retrieved from http://www.media-ecology.org/publications/MEA_proceedings/v3/Barnes03.pdf
boyd, d. 2006. “Friends, friendsters, and top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites,” First Monday, volume
11, number 12 (December), at http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1418/1336, accessed 11
boyd, d. & Heer, J. 2006. “Profiles as conversation: Networked identity performance on Friendster,” Proceedings of the
Hawai’i International Conference on System Science (HICSS–39), and at http://www.danah.org/papers/HICSS2006.pdf,
accessed 11 April 2008.
Bozkurt, A. & Tu, C-H (2016) Digital identity formation: socially being real and present on digital networks, Educational
Media International, 53:3, 153-167, DOI: 10.1080/09523987.2016.1236885
Chan, S.Y. 2000. “Wired_Selves: From artifact to performance,” CyberPsychology and Behavior, volume 3, number 2
(April), pp. 271–285.http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/109493100316120
Goffman, E. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy theory. Psychological Review, 94, 1120–1134
Manago, A. M., Graham, M. B., Greenfield, P. M., & Salimkhan, G. (2008). Self-presentation and gender on MySpace.
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 446–458.
Maranto, G., & Barton, M. (2010). Paradox and promise: MySpace, Facebook, and the so
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media. New York, NY: Mentor
Pearson, E. (2009). All the world wide web’s a stage: The performance of identity in online social networks. First Monday,
Sunden, J. (2003). Material virtualities. New York, NY: Peter Lang
West, R. & Turner, L. (2016) Introducing communication theory: analysis and application Boston, McGraw-Hill