Narbs as a Measure and Indicator of Identity Narratives

Narbs as a Measure and Indicator of Identity Narratives

Ananda Mitra (Wake Forest University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-132-0.ch008
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Abstract

enumeration of these attributes of the narbs produce a narb weight and a narb matrix which can be examined numerically to provide a preliminary understanding of how granulated an identity narrative would be when narbs are examined for a particular individual.
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Introduction

The growing number of people who have began to subscribe to social networking sites (SNS) in the early part of the Twenty-first century has been a phenomenon that has attracted significant attention from scholars, popular media, and the general population as people have embraced the SNS system as a tool of communication (Kirkpatrick, 2010; Lenhart, 2009). This growth has also resulted in concerns over the way in which SNS information could be used by individuals and institutions to learn about each other. The two concerns that are addressed in this chapter deal with first, finding a way to systematically enumerate and analyze the information on SNS and secondly using the enumeration system to better manage the way in which narrative bytes or “narbs,” are produced and used (Mitra, 2010). To begin with, it is useful to consider the place of SNS in a larger context of creating a presence for an individual or institution when the “real” object disappears from sight to be substituted by a discursive presence.

The phenomenon of creating a digital discursive presence on SNS is an example of the increasing digitization of everyday life activities as an increasing number of people are creating social media profiles or micro-blogging their every single mundane activity. However, the process of creating a presence via technological mediation existed before digitization became the driving force behind much of modern tools. Consider for instance the phenomenon of creating the “party line”. This was a popular use of the familiar telephone technology that would allow many people, often women, to connect with each other in a synchronous manner and talk over the phone for long periods of time and share a variety of information about each other, and most importantly, about others in the form of gossip (Rakow, 1988). The telephone allowed individuals to transcend the barrier of space and create a “telephonic presence” where the telephonic glue held together the people even if they were not “there” in the real. This idea was extrapolated when digitization allowed for the creation and circulation of the “digital presence” through tools such as such as listserves and Usenet groups that were popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s1. The technology was not sufficiently sophisticated to allow for sharing of much beyond written texts that would create the discursive space where the virtual communities would be formed (Mitra, 1996, 1997).

A crucial common element in all the different networks was the way in which a person would choose to present themselves within the network independent of the technology used to connect the people. Bracketing out the real networks, where the “flesh and blood” person would actually interact with another “real” person, the specific networking technology had an impact on the specific presence that would be created. The telephone only allowed for the voice to be the vehicle for creating the presence whereas the multi-media options provided by Web sites such as Chatroulette (Kreps, 2010) can allow for the production of a more detailed and variegated presence based primarily on the content of the connection. This chapter examines the ways in which the existing and emergent tools are producing opportunities for creating the presence that brings with concerns around deciphering the identity of an individual based on the digital presence that is created for and by the individual. The key objective is to develop a systematic way of understanding how the presence is created around different elements such as content, authorship, place and frequency at which the discourses are produced. The specific form of digital tool is what has been labeled as SNS2 and it is useful to consider the idea of social networking where presence exists and identity is constructed.

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