Playful Identity Walkthrough: A new mixed methods approach to study playful behaviour and online identities within social media apps
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With the global number of mobile phone users growing steadily, the number of app downloads is also expected to increase (Clement 2019). App’s affordances are shaping our online identity. Affordances are functional and relational aspects which frame, while not determining, the possibilities for agentic action in relation to an object (Hutchby 2001; 5). These affordances determine the possibilities and constraints to play and experiment with our online identity within the social media app. People play and are pushing the boundaries of a social media apps (Van Dijck and Poell 2013, de Lange et al. 2015). This has an impact on our culture. For example, catfishing, having fake profiles online, and buying status. The limits of shaping our online identity are widening with newer online platforms (Rogers 2013; 155), which is why there is a need of methodologies to study this phenomenon. The walkthrough method is most suitable for analysing apps in a structured way focusing on the intended goal and use (Light, Burgess and Duguay 2018). However, the walkthrough method is too generic (Gerrard 2018, Dieter et al. 2019) when trying to investigate the playful behaviour of users with their online identity. Other methods, like an affordance analysis and game analysis, better understand online identity, play and playful identities have been studied in this research. I argue that these existing methods do not fully cover this playful behaviour, and therefore it is necessary to propose a new mixed methods approach. This research discusses the overlapping and integration of the walkthrough method and affordance analysis. This is based on a theoretical framework about online identity and playful behaviour within social media. Three things spring to attention in a new method called the Playful Identity Walkthrough: (1) The balance between wat is made possible and what is made desirable within the app. (2) The process and elements that affects users’ online identities during the technical walkthrough. (3) How a playful environment is created and how playful behaviour is being controlled and managed by the app’s affordances during the technical walkthrough. These three new focus points resulted in three interventions of the walkthrough method by Light et al. (2018). These interventions are: the addition of the balance element within the analysis of the environment of expected use, the focus on online identity and discarding the logbook during the technical walkthrough, and the addition of the mediator characteristics hidden affordances and game elements during the technical walkthrough. Because of these interventions, the Playful Identity Walkthrough allows us to dive deeper into the phenomena of playful identities. By diving deeper more knowledge is gained about the role app developers and an app’s affordances have in constructing and maintaining playful identities within social media apps.