Grace + Identifying and Exploring the Nature of Online Identities as Expressed through the Platform of Social Networking Sites

Grace Kingston


Abstract This thesis is a series of explorations and comparisons of the corporeal and digital self; sites both real and virtual. The written and studio practice has come into being after a sustained artistic inquiry in to social media as phenomena. My work focuses on what the definition of self may be in a time where our presences and interactions are increasingly digital. I seek to compare how identity is presented and shaped for the purpose of mimetic display, through strategies of physical body modification and online representation. Specifically this thesis focuses on posthumanist relationships to a reconfiguring of the human body in juxtaposition to the mediated online body constructed of personal information in the creation of an online profile.

I will employ the themes of translations and actants found in actor-network theory (ANT) to exploit this duality in the creation of my studio work. My thesis is based on a written and practical component:

• The more abstract avenues of social network sites and activities with be explored through my written work, with a focus on how the nature of self-directed identity shaping is translated to online platforms

• My practice led research sets out to reverse translation, by creating a metaphorical representation of embodied restraints and online nodal spaces for the purpose of exploring what it means to mediate within online social networks.

This thesis will first present the differences between notions of self and interactions with others online in contrast with their real world counterparts. Secondly, there will be a discussion of the history of contemporary body modification in regard to the reasoning, symbolism and cultural implications of these practices. The final chapter knits together these differing concepts of personal representation and identification – I will link additions to corporeal bodies with the construction of a user profile on a social networking site and discuss the hybrid notion identity this presents.


Social media, bodymod, identity politics, avatar, self-representation, posthuman

This thesis is available via UNSW online and Open Libraries

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