The Online Stage

selfrepresentation.jpgA research on youth and heteronormativity, self representation and identity construction in online communication

Researcher(s) (CIMS)

Sander De Ridder

Supervisors (CIMS)

Sofie Van Bauwel

Funded by

Special Research Fund (BOF), Ghent University, Belgium


Today’s youth still articulates strong normative expectations concerning gender and sexuality. They mostly reflect the dominant cultural heteronormative order. Computer mediated communication through social networking sites comes with far more advanced possibilities to represent the self. The new opportunity for self representation creates an online stage to express ones gender and sexual identity. The aim of this research project is to obtain a better insight in these online self representations: which tools are used by youngsters to represent themselves online, are these online self representations heteronormative, and how does this affect young people’s identity development? Drawing on queer theory and the concept of subversion, this project will focus on creative expressions who could possibly reinforce thinking beyond the binary cultural system. This might stimulate gender equality and reduce homophobia in our contemporary society. This study will answer these questions by using both quantitative and qualitative research techniques: a quantitative audience study at the usage of computer mediated communication; a qualitative textual analysis of the content of computer mediated communication; a qualitative reception and audience study using focus groups, in-depth interviews and visual methods.