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Media Choice and Identity Work: A Case Study of Information Communication Technology Use in a Peer Community

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78350-629-3, eISBN: 978-1-78350-582-1

Publication date: 27 November 2014



This study analyses how media choices can be used in the construction of social identity.


We approach the topic through the analytical lens of identity work. We present a case study of a community of IT students during their first year of studies, including participant observation, focus groups, and surveys. We focus on what community means to the individuals located within a specific social context. This allows us to examine ICT use and adoption holistically as a key aspect of community formation and identity maintenance.


We depict everyday interactions in which the choice of an older information communication technology, Internet Relay Chat, serves participants in their quest for social belongingness in their community and in distinguishing the community positively from other social groups. This chapter describes how identity work is accomplished by adopting and valuing shared, social views about users versus non-users, including: (1) emphasizing the skills and efforts needed for using Internet Relay Chat (IRC), (2) undermining the use of other technologies, and (3) deploying and referencing IRC jargon and “insider humor” within the broader community.

Originality/value of paper

By examining online and offline social interactions in a defined community over time, we expose the process of identity work in a holistic manner. Our analysis emphasizes the underlying process where media choices can be harnessed to fulfill the need to identify with groups and feel affirmed in one’s claims to both personal and social identity.




This work has been supported by the OtaSizzle research project, funded by Aalto University (previously Helsinki University of Technology TKK) “Technology for Life” campaign donations as well as by additional funding from the SOVAKO graduate school, TEKES, the Emil Aaltonen foundation, the Finnish Science Foundation for Economics and Technology, and an ASLA Fulbright grant. We acknowledge our colleagues at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT and UC Berkeley’s School of Information, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their many valuable comments.


Lampinen, A., Lehtinen, V. and Cheshire, C. (2014), "Media Choice and Identity Work: A Case Study of Information Communication Technology Use in a Peer Community", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 103-130.



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