Review Essay:—Webpages as Media of Self-Presentation

Sabina Misoch


By analyzing the web sites of students in Marburg (Germany), MAKHFI wants to make a statement about the cultural stage of evolution of the net. He applies the categories of GOFFMAN—developed in situations of direct interaction—to the Internet. With questions about "what", "how", and "why" students present themselves on the net, and using qualitative and quantitative methods, MAKHFI arrives at seven different forms of presentation of web pages by students (e.g. cool self-presentation, project presentation, indirect self-presentation, application). He interprets these forms as signs of the cultural stage of the net in which, as he ascertains at the end of his study, the usage of the net by students is mainly privately and not scientifically motivated—a fact that confirms the general "privatization" of the web. This review essay summarizes the central statements of MAKHFI's study and criticizes his theoretical approach, his qualitative and quantitative procedures and his conclusions. It is shown that an analysis of student home pages cannot be used to make general statements about the net or its cultural stage. To use GOFFMAN's categories without reflecting that self-presentations on the web don't arise in any direct interaction and that they are exposed to other conditions than in "real life" is unconvincing. The qualitative and quantitative passages of his book aren't convincing either e.g. because MAKHFI obtains different categories of self-presentation from his qualitative and quantitative analyses but does not discuss or interpret this result. Overall, what is missing is a unifying theme or narrative which leads the reader through the book and which frames the whole study. Apart from the critical analysis of MAKHFI's study this review essay produces a theoretical definition of the medium of the "home page" and gives an overview of the current state of the art of web-page analysis. Self-presentations on web sites are embedded in a social context and subject to special conditions. In a communication-scientific perspective the peculiarities and the real innovativeness of web pages are demonstrated (e.g. that private individuals can present themselves through a mass, hybrid medium) and a model is presented which synthesizes the different communication structures on home pages. Outstanding unanswered questions about this medium are indicated (e.g. do persons reach their goal by construction of their home page?) in order to give an outlook for possible research in the future.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501213


home page; web site; self-presentation; identity; Internet; qualitative social research; quantitative social research; Goffman

Copyright (c) 2005 Sabina Misoch

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