The Construction of Identity in the Personal Homepages of Adolescents
Researchers and journalists have highlighted radical transformations of identity in chat systems and anonymous e-mail, but the more subtle potential of the ‘personal homepage’ on the World-Wide Web tends to be overlooked. This new multi-media online genre can be defined as addressing the question ‘Who am I?’ Young people constitute the vast majority of those who have such pages on the Web, and exploring this same question is central to the identity work of adolescence. Websites are frequently signposted as ‘under construction’, but the construction involved is at least in part that of their makers’ identities. The medium and the genre have particular features which may play a part in phenomenological shifts in the sense of self, leading some webpage authors to experience the Web as possessing particular potency as a means of self-presentation. This is related to the involvement of the medium in changing relations between public and private. Writing which is ‘personal’ is at the same time automatically published for a worldwide readership, and it is not uncommon to encounter intimate diaries and journals within publicly-accessible homepages. At the same time, the Web is also a medium which facilitates the practice of bricolage whereby materials in the public domain are widely appropriated for personal purposes. In the light of such concerns we offer a description and discussion of the forms, contents and possible functions of personal homepages for adolescents in the construction of their social identities, focusing on the personal homepages of young people within Wales.