Body, Voice, and Being: Identity and the Fragmented Self in the Age of Social Media (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Bofang Li (Yale University)

In June 2015, the former Olympic decathlete formerly known as Bruce Jenner unveiled his new trans-identity. Caitlyn Jenner’s first public act was to tweet her Vanity Fair cover, with its headline "Call me Caitlyn," from her new Twitter account. This declarative move allowed her supporters to tweet messages that, in their address to her new username, @Caitlyn_Jenner, at once fulfilled her headline request while reinforcing her new identity. The tweet marks Jenner’s rebirth on social media, signalling her (re)entrance into a mode of identity formation/presentation in which the majority of adult Americans now engage. What renders Jenner’s situation remarkable is the way in which her new identity positions her as an adult digital native, without a digital media history. Where social media accounts are often also repositories of past lives, hosting evidence of a contiguous identity at times in conflict with self-presentation, Jenner’s (so far) lack this archontic function. Caitlyn Jenner is, in many ways, born digital, and her acts of self-definition on social media mark the genesis of a media-inflected existence while highlighting the interplay between lived, performative, and representational identities online and in "real life."
In our increasingly digitized world, social media is understood as a tool of communication and community as well as a way for users to revel in the potential of self-definition. As the choice of social networking sites proliferates, so too does the possibility of multiple identities, with 75% of online adults managing multiple social networking profiles. This panel calls for papers to explore the implications of multiple identity creation. Potential topics include: the cyborg in the digital age; identity and platform; the unified/diffuse self; identity as performance; the self and the digital other; following, friending, trolling; internality/externality and digital identity.



In our increasingly digitized world, social media is understood as a tool of communication and community, as well as a way for users to revel in the potential of a self-defined identity. As the choice of social networking sites proliferates (contrast the lone example of Facebook in 2004 to the current availability of Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and more), so too does the possibility of multiple identities, with 75 percent of online adults managing multiple social networking profiles. This panel calls for papers to explore the implications of the fragmented self brought about by the interplay (and potential conflict) between these identities and their interactions in the digital world and in "real life."