The culmination of the course Digital Identities taught by professor Annette Markham was an auto ethnographic study about digital identity. My research question was this: "What role does a single moment of changing a profile picture play in the performance of a person’s digital identity?".
Some people change their profile picture on Facebook every other week, some rarely changes it. But either way, your profile picture is an essential part of who you are in the universe of Facebook. And that is what makes it interesting for an ethnographer to study. Statistics will not tell us what a profile picture mean to these people and how it influences their digital identity. This paper wanted to investigate these otherwise tacit everyday practices of many people in the 21st century by zooming in on one person’s profile picture in the hope of providing new insights through thick description to the research field of digital identity.
The research paper provides the reader with rich, in-depth insights on some of the aspects of what a profile picture means to a person’s digital identity. At the same time, it it also offers a reflection on how to study the complexity of digital experiences. Furthermore, it makes these claims:
● The self is the message, because identity is a cumulative performance in which the profile picture plays an important and influential part in as our performed self representation.
● The selfie is the medium the medium communicates as much as the message and is an extension of ourselves.
● Comprehensive and productive qualitative research can come from exploring one single moment online by immersing oneself into the scene, and viewing it from different angles.
● Social media research should be inductive, explorative, and led by data in order to comprehend the depth and complexity of digital experiences.
● A remix of approaches, methods and techniques are a great way to open up data.
● There is no ‘final truth’ to be found when studying digital experiences. But being self reflexive, context minded and writing thick descriptions will produce larger knowledge claims.
I received an A for my research paper.