The study of digital literacies began to take shape when the internet became widely available to the public, and that direction of study continues on to present day. Web 2.0 applications have changed the internet and the way individuals and groups view information online. Adolescent girls in the digital age have a wide variety of social networking sites where they can spend their time. A large majority of adolescent girls choose Facebook as an alternate form of communication. The literature in this review will solidify the information relating to adolescent girls and how their interactions on Facebook have shaped their online identity, particularly in terms of how language choices vary depending on their audience.
The first of the three classifications in the review is gender in online environments. Susan Herring’s article “Gender and genre variation in weblogs” discusses the linguistic variation in genre based on gender. Likewise, the idea that computer-based text has created a concept of complete anonymity is not supported by Herring’s research, which shows that gender differences are just as present in computer-based text as it is in spoken discourse (442). Herring highlights the different language used by the different sexes. The seven year gap between the two articles is telling of how much has changed since the beginning of our Web 2.0 society. There is more information given and received online than at any other time in history.
The increase in information given over the internet has lead to a change in the way language is presented, particularly language among young people. Guy Merchant’s research centers around teenagers and their use of language in chatrooms. Merchant suggests that young people are rapidly changing the way humans communicate, even if some see the changes negatively (293). His research also introduces the term linguistic capital which describes how specific language use can increase the lingual currency in certain social situations. Sali Tagliamonte also looks at the way teenagers use language, specifically via instant messaging platforms. She discusses the linguistic variations that occur online as they juxtapose standard written English (3). Each of these two articles are useful to distinguish the amount of code-switching teenage girls do online, especially when their audiences are different. For instance, my own research shows that adolescent girls are susceptible to distinct changes in their own language use depending on to whom they are speaking.
Online identity is tied to both gender and language use, but it is distinct because it is a conglomeration of those and other things. Bronwyn Williams’ short article discusses the changes that web 2.0 applications create in adolescents. She writes, “One of the more intriguing developments has been the way online technologies allow young people to manipulate and play with their identities” (Williams 683). Williams also asserts that the idea that adolescents are more socially isolated now because of the amount of time spent online is a false determination. In fact, she posits that young people are using social networking to talk to more people than they ever would have otherwise. H. Andrew Schwartz’s research “found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age” (1). His particular type of research looks at what people actually say on social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter) and correlate certain attribute with one another. While this article seems like it should be among the group based on language, it also applies more specifically to identity because of the way Schwartz includes personality (1). Similarly, Caleb Carr’s article demonstrates how users express themselves online as opposed to through face-to-face communication. Carr specifically studies Facebook status messages as they pertain to self-presentation online (176). One of the most useful terms I have found for this research is social capital and Paul Godfrey describes this term that originates from Pierre Bourdieu. The concept refers to the resources that are available to an individual as a result of the social relationships that individual chooses to foster and promote. My research focuses specifically on Facebook interactions and how they pertain to identity and personality formation.
In-class discussions and readings also connect to the analysis of adolescent girls in relation to how they construct their online identities, specifically on Facebook. Social Networking Sites (SNS) like Facebook, have been described as affinity spaces or places where individuals can come together for a comment purpose (Ellcessor & Duncan). While Facebook would be considered a massive affinity space, it does allow for smaller groups to form, such as the close-knit group of adolescent girls in my research. Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear research Facebook and how individuals interact in groups socially. Also, their research into digital and online attention yield the term attention economy or the concept that attention is a limited commodity in constant flux, like supply and demand, which means that individuals always have to make a choice about where and with whom to give their attention. Likewise, Angela Thomas focuses on how adolescent girls use text and pictures online to craft their own digital presence, or identity. Thomas’ research, similarly to Williams’, asserts that a digital space does not mean a disconnection from the physical space. Danielle DeVoss and Cynthia Selfe note the importance of an online identity in shaping one’s self image. Each of these articles will be helpful in determining how adolescent girls create and maintain their online identity using language. More specifically, how much does emphasis is placed on audience in terms of the creation of their identity?
Bailey, Jane et al. “Negotiating With Gender Stereotypes on Social Networking Sites: From ‘Bicycle Face’ to Facebook”. Journal of Communication Inquiry 37.2 (2013): 91-112. Web. 31 October 2013.
Carr, Caleb T. et al. “Speech Acts Within Facebook Status Messages”. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 31.2 (2012): 176-196. Web. 31 October 2013.
DeVoss, Danielle N. and Cynthia L. Selfe. “‘This Page Is Under Construction’: Reading Women Shaping On-Line Identities”. Pedagogy 2.1 (2002): 31-48. Web. 15 October 2013
Ellcessor, Elizabeth and Sean C. Duncan. “Forming The Guild: Star Power and Rethinking Projective Identity In Affinity Spaces”. International Journal of Game-Based Learning 1.2 (2011): 1-14. Web. 1 October 2013.
Godfrey, Paul C. “Social Capital”. ESR Review 10.2 (2008): 2-3. Web. 30 November 2013.
Herring, Susan C. and John C. Paolillo. “Gender and genre variation in weblogs”. Journal of Sociolinguistics 10.4 (2006): 439-459. Web. 31 October 2013.
Knobel, Michele and Colin Lankshear. “Digital Literacy and Participation in Online Social Networking Spaces”. Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies, and Practices. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2008. 249-278. Web. 30 September 2013.
_____“Do we have your attention? New literacies, digital technologies, and the education of adolescents”. University of Georgia. State of the Art Conference, Athens, Georgia. 26-27 January 2001.
Merchant, Guy. “Teenagers in cyberspace: an investigation of language change in internet chatrooms”. Journal of Research in Reading 24.3 (2001): 293-306. Web. 31 October 2013.
Schwartz, H. Andrew et al. “Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach”. PLoS ONE 8.9 (2013): 1-16. Web. 31 October 2013.
Tagliamonte, Sali A. and Derek Denis. “LINGUISTIC RUIN? LOL! INSTANT MESSAGING AND TEEN LANGUAGE”. American Speech 83.1 (2008): 3-34. Web. 31 October 2013.
Thomas, Angela. “Digital Literacies of the Cybergirl”. E-Learning 1.3 (2004): 358-382. Web. 15 October 2013.
Williams, Bronwyn T. “‘Tomorrow will not be like today’: Literacy and identity in a world of multiliteracies”. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 51.8 (2006): 682-688. Web. 31 October 2013.