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Title: A study into the processes of identity evaluation and politicisation on the Internet : the case of stigmatised sexuality in two different national contexts
Author: Zervoulis, Karyofyllis
ISNI:       0000 0004 2697 0574
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2011
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Three studies were conducted to investigate how men who have sex with men (MSM) use the Internet and particularly gay-themed websites (GTWs), and what are the effects that such use might have on aspects of their lives and communities, from sexual behaviour to gay identification and gay-related social action. The research took place in the capital cities of Greece and the United Kingdom, Athens and London respectively, two places with different levels of openness and acceptance of gay people. The first study included 20 Internet-based and face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 10 MSM living in Athens and 10 MSM living in London. The findings of thematic analysis showed that GTWs provide a parallel gay scene to the existing offline scene that, above all, facilitates the initiation of communication between MSM who then meet offline, mainly for sex. With its ease of access and the relative anonymity it provides, this online scene appeared to be very important to the sexual identity of MSM who feel unsafe or unable to disclose their sexuality offline. Challenges in terms of particularly its individualistic nature and the adoption of commodification and standardisation practices of gay men were flagged for the negative impact they might have on a sense of community and collectiveness. The second study was a survey completed online or offline by 173 MSM living in Athens and 188 MSM living in London. It aimed to investigate perceived and internalised homophobia of MSM of each city and found that those living in Athens reported higher levels of perceived homophobia, disclosed their sexuality less but had a higher global self-esteem compared to MSM living in London. In terms of the relationship between GTWs' use and self-esteem, findings showed that self-esteem was not related to greater dependence on the 'Gay Internet'. For MSM living in Athens, greater perceived homophobia of others related positively to greater use of GTWs, and communicational rather than informational facilities were preferred by those who appeared to feel less comfortable with their sexuality. The final study, a survey completed through the Internet by 151 MSM living in Athens and 225 MSM living in London, examined different patterns of use of the online gay scene, its evaluation and its contribution to explaining the participants' Internet-initiated sexual behaviour, gay identification and willingness to undertake gay-related social action. Findings showed that the online compared to the offline gay scene appears to be more addictive and a space with less healthy intra-group behaviour that does not facilitate as much a sense of community. Then, there was some evidence that communicational use of GTWs, which is mainly linked to satisfying sexual needs, contributed to explaining gay collective identifications in the case of MSM living in Athens. Also, more positive perceptions and experiences of the online scene, especially in terms of social capital, were found to relate to gay identification and willingness to undertake gay-related social action. The assumptions of Klandermans's (1997) Expectancy Value Model for collective action were not supported as they were tested within the Athens survey only. The results are discussed in the light of the implications they may have for the way the Internet is seen to be changing stigmatised people's individual and collective identities and actions, and in particular those of gay people and their communities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available