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Title: Investigating Identity Communication Online in Forum-Based Virtual Communities of Consumption with Comparison to Face-to-Face Social Interactions
Author: Presi, Caterina
ISNI:       0000 0001 3499 2368
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2007
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How identity is communicated in forum-based Virtual Communities of Consumption (VCCs) and the role of the medium in identity communication are investigated by comparing what occurs online and face-to-face, using a conceptual framework of Symbolic Interactionism and Medium Theory. Ten qualitative case studies are applied, where one individual's online and offline experience represents a case. Principal data gathering techniques in the two environments (online and omine) were observations and semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using socio-semiotics and grounded theory. The findings reveal that reading identity online is a much richer and complex process than conveying identity. Reading identity online is involves medium, social and individual factors. The medium acts both as enabler constraint in identity communication with both similarities and differences, in comparing the process online with what occurs face-to-face. The research makes a literature contribution to identity communication online with a critique of Symbolic Interactionism, suggesting Sensemaking as a finer framework. It also contributes to an understanding of VCCs as places of consumption with a typology of the threads present in VCCs and the type of social interaction occurring in them; with different focuses of attention when interacting online influencing online relationships; it also offers some qualitative insights into how social identity is communicated. Knowledge of VCCs as objects of consumption in their own right is also enriched regarding the multidimensional and ontologically fluid nature of VCCs as a 'virtual product'. Further insights are offered into distinctivity about the intemet environment in relation to identity communication. An adapted version of Kress and van Leeuwen's socio-semiotic framework and the added data capturing accuracy through Virtual Network Computing can benefit future research, with the multilayered, comparative approach applied in other settings. Managerial recommendations include suggestions on organising and managing the community more effectively considering the role of the individual in shaping the community experience, the different worth and uses of online identity symbols/cues, the importance of members' accountability online to develop relationships, and impact of thread topic and structure on social interaction. Future research suggestions include the role of the medium in consumer experience wit.lJin Consumer Culture Theory, issues of media transparency and literacy, sensema..1dng as a framework for identity communication, exploring tensions between individual interpretations, micro-social influences and medium structure in identity communication, refining the typology of threads related to consumption, and the link between consumer socialisation and the nature of motive and focus of attention.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available