The Engineering of the Self in online life Identity Engineering on Instagram
Hoogen, J. van den
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In contemporary digital culture Instagram has become one of the most popular platforms for self-presentation. On this platform, practices of ‘optimizing’- up to the point of fakingone’s digital identity has become a normative practice. This means that nowadays people deliberately make use of mechanical tools that imitate engagement, for the purpose tweak Instagram’s algorithm and subsequently boost impression management. In this study foundational ideas on identity construction and self-presentation as proposed by Goffman have been used to create an analytical lens for studying contemporary practices self-presentation on Instagram. Besides, an attempt was made to revive Goffman’s framework and add new perspectives to it. This was done by introducing the concept of identity engineering, which tries to grasp the tension between the idea of user agency on the one hand, and technological deterministic views on the other. Moreover, it aims to look for a middle ground that takes into account the influence of both users and technology on constructing identity. In order to gain insight in practices of identity engineering, the process of buying fake likes and followers, liking robots and comment pods have been studied extensively by conducting a walkthrough. This data gathering method gave extensive insight in the actual process of using these identity engineering practices and the algorithmic consequences on Instagram. Finally, based on this research an attempt was made to revive Goffman’s conceptual apparatus, which is more applicable to the contemporary technology-mediated context in which identity is constructed.