Mobile Devices and the Self: Developing the Concept of Mobile Phone Identity

Mobile Devices and the Self: Developing the Concept of Mobile Phone Identity

Michelle Carter (Clemson University, USA), Varun Grover (Clemson University, USA) and Jason Bennett Thatcher (Clemson University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1939-5.ch008
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With increasing ubiquitousness of information technologies (IT), identity issues have begun to attract the attention of IS researchers. While some IS research has examined the interplay between IT and role and social identities, the potential role of IT in shaping personal identities has yet to be considered. To that end, this chapter develops the rationale for talking about IT as a source of identity that transcends the roles individuals perform and the groups they affiliate with. The chapter presents the findings of an exploratory study of 72 young adults’ interactions with their mobile phones, which set out to discover whether individuals’ interactions with IT are a source of personal identity construction. Based on the findings, the authors develop the new concept of mobile phone identity as a product of interacting with mobile phones, and a force affecting the way young adults interact with the world around them. Finally, the chapter suggests potential opportunities for future studies to advance research on IT and identity beyond the context of young adults and mobile phones.
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A Conceptual Overview

Identity can be described as “a way of organizing information about the self” that defines what it means to be who one is (Clayton, 2003). People have multiple identities because they perform multiple roles (e.g. parent, student, database developer), affiliate with multiple groups (e.g. an organization, a political party, being English), and choose multiple personal characteristics (e.g. honest, creative, hardworking) (Burke and Stets, 2009). An important aspect of identities is that, whether they relate to roles, to groups, or to the person as a distinct entity, they act as “benchmarks” or standards that guide and shape individuals’ thinking and behaviors (Burke and Stets, 2009; Clayton, 2003; Stets & Burke, 2000).

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