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digital identity;digital scholarship;higher education;performativity;social networking sites;techno-culture


Bonnie Stewart



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


This thesis explores and makes visible how graduate students perceive, experience, and perform their digital identity. It will explore how graduate students' perceptions and experiences influence the navigation of their digital identity, using Goffman's (1959) performative theory and Tajfel & Turner's (1979) social identity theory to address the phenomenon of performativity on Social Networking Sites (SNSs). This research study will deepen scholarly understanding of the phenomenon of performativity in higher education. There is a need to understand this as the phenomenon of performativity is ever-present for graduate students as they navigate context collapse (Marwick & boyd, 2011; boyd, 2013) between academic identity and personal identity on SNSs. This study aims to acknowledge and gather information on graduate students' lived experiences and perceptions as they navigate their digital identities. Guiding this study is the following research question: How do graduate students pursuing higher education use their perceptions and experiences to navigate their digital identity on SNSs in relation to being both emerging scholars and social network participants? This thesis uses a qualitative phenomenographic study of seven higher education graduate students in Ontario, Canada, to understand their perceptions and experiences regarding SNSs as emerging scholars and social network participants. Key findings from the perceptions and experiences highlighted in this study emphasize the phenomenon of performativity for graduate students, whether occurring knowingly or unknowingly when basing navigational decisions on (1) self-fulfillment; (2) context collapse: academic and personal identities; (3) social influence; and (4) call-out culture.