Authors: Vaast, Emmanuelle; Davidson, Elizabeth J.; Mattson, Thomas
Publication: MIS Quarterly, 2013
This paper examines how a new actor category may emerge in a field of discourse through the new media of the Internet. Existing literatures on professional and organizational identity have shown the importance of identity claims and of the tensions surrounding “optimal distinctiveness” for new actors in a field, but have not examined the roles of new media in these processes. The literature on information technology (IT) and identity has highlighted the identity-challenging and identity-enhancing aspects of new IT use for existing actor categories but has not examined the dynamics associated with the emergence of new actor categories. Here, we investigate how a new actor category may emerge through the use of new media as a dynamic interaction of discursive practices, identity claims, and new media use. Drawing on findings from a case study of technology bloggers, we identified discursive practices through which a group of technology bloggers enacted claims of a distinctive identity in the joint construction of their discourse and in response to continuous developments in new media. Emergence of this new category was characterized by ongoing, opposing yet coexisting tendencies toward coalescence, fragmentation, and dispersion. Socio-technical dynamics underlying bloggers’ use of new media and the actions of prominent (“A-list”) bloggers contributed to these tendencies. We untangle theoretically the identity-enabling and identity-unsettling effects of new media and conceptualize the emergence of a new actor category through new media as an ongoing process in which the category identity may remain fluid, rather than progress to an endpoint.