Journal of Information Science

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Journal of Information Science

39 (1) pp. 01-1

© The Authors 2013

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DOI: 10.1177/016555150000000
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Information School, University of Sheffield - 50th Anniversary

'The presentation of self in the online world':    Goffman and the study of online identities

Liam Bullingham

Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Ana C. Vasconcelos

University of Sheffield, UK


This paper presents an exemplification and discussion of the contemporaneity of Erving Goffman’s work and of its applicability to the analysis of identity and presentation of self in the blogging and Second Life [SL] contexts. An analysis of online identity and interaction practices in ten different cases of bloggers and SL inhabitants and of their online spaces is presented in terms of: expressions given; embellishment as minor form of persona adoption; dividing the self; conforming and ‘fitting in’; and masking, anonymity and pseudonimity. The key finding of the research is that, contrary to engaging with the process of whole persona adoption, participants were keen to re-create their offline self online, but engaged in editing facets of self. This emphasizes the key premise in Goffman’s work that when in ‘front stage’, people deliberately chose to project a given identity. It is concluded that Goffman’s original framework is of great usefulness as an explanatory framework for understanding identity through interaction and the presentation of self in the online world. Equally, the online environment, with its enhanced potential for editing the self, can offer opportunities to contribute to the further development of the Goffman framework.


Corresponding author:

Liam Bullingham, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, S1 1WB. Email:

Online identity; online interaction; Erving Goffman; constructivist case studies

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