Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Technoculture in Practice: Performing Identity and Difference in Social Network Systems

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Ernesto Delgado (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

John Warren (Committee Member)


This study examines the performance of identity and difference in the social network system of Studying social networking online helps understand how culturally constituted discourses as well as moments and places of acting and meaning making connect together in the practices of everyday life. Through the theoretical lenses of actor-network theory, which includes nonhumans into social groups of actors together with humans, I approach the practices of social networking online as assemblages made of material and symbolic elements. Examining the process of creating and interacting with profiles on Facebook, I observe that the social network system mobilizes identities by collecting and organizing users' experiences, characteristics, and tastes. The study reveals that the project participants perform some aspects of their everyday life, such as friendship and romance, at the intersections of online and offline life because, through, and with Facebook. I argue that the participation in the network online creates and erases differences at the interface for the sake of a uniform representation of a network member. Overall, this study promotes critical questioning of the new media as well as the contexts that shape and inform them. This engagement is necessary for developing a critical praxis towards the technology-mediated interaction and for avoiding taking technical innovations for granted.