Statement of the Problem
First of all, in the scopes of this section it is important to rely on the fact that Farfel was the first scholar who introduced the term ‘social identity’ in 1972. The author has defined it as “the individual’s knowledge that he belongs to certain social groups together with some emotional and value significance to him of this group membership”. As an extension to the social identity theory, the self-categorization theory was offered by Turner (1985) and his colleagues (Turner et al., 1987). In this theoretical approach, the detailed description is given regarding the ways the self and other prototype-based depersonalizations are produced by the social categorization. The social categorization of self (or the self-categorization) is referred to as a cognitive process of assimilating the individuality to a general prototype of a particular social group depersonalizing the self conception. An evident example of this may be the fact that an individual is considered a ‘unique personality’ and, at the same time, is compared to and adapted as the relevant prototype of a particular social group.
After an individual has identified himself with a particular social category, he is tending to define himself in terms of the defining features of this category, which, in turn, matches the stereotypically “interchangeable” individual with other members of a particular group and, in addition, stereotypically separates this individual from the outsiders (Hogg and Abrams, 1988).
In the same manner, the identification is defined by Ashforth and Mael (1989) as the “perception of oneness with or belongingness” to a particular social category. Dutton (1994) considers the identification “a cognitive connection between the definition of an organization and the definition a person applies to him - or herself”. After the process of identification with the social group is accomplished in a virtual, or a physical, context, the more autonomous motivation will be exhibited by an individual in relation to the membership in a particular social group, and, as a result, the higher engagement quality will be achieved (Ryan and Deci, 2001).
Computer-Mediated Communication and Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effect
Despite of the fact that the lion share of the prior research conducted in the area of self identification have not taken into account the CMC (Computer-mediated communication), there is an exceptional case - the Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effect (SIDE), offered by Spears and colleagues in 2002 (Spears et al., 2002). In this model the scholars tend to explain the interrelation between the identification and the core characteristics of the CMC.
When discussing SIDE, one should mention that the deindividuation effects caused by the CMC share some features with the disruptive effects, which are offered by the deindividuation theories of social psychology (Postmes and Spears, 1998). These theories imply the following interrelation: the decreased awareness of a particular social environment and of one’s own individuality causes the decreased adherence to the norms of a particular society. That is why it is possible to outline the classically referred factors as the ones causing the deindividuation (group immersion, or the anonymity combination in particular). Zimbardo (1969) and Jessup et al (1990) proved that the additional modern factor of deindividuation – that is, communication via computer network (World Wide Web), can not be considered a factor of the identity loss, but it still makes its contribution to the salience of social identity enhancing.
The core reason for such trends is the fact that the CMC implies the small rate of individuation, and, consequently, a low level of dissimilarity and individuality among the members of a group. Those members of a social group who are tending to minimize, or, at least, to reduce the uncertainty in the social interaction, are tending to be more conformable to the social cues and to overattribute these cues to the other members of the society. Such trend, in turn, leads to the extenuated unity and the similarity of the group, and the members of this group are motivated to be perceived as the representatives and the members of a particular social group and to have the inherent group features rather than to be considered and to consider themselves as idiosyncratic individuals (Lea et al., 2001). That is why we may conclude that the rise to a strong social identification is caused by the deindividuation.
The next issue to be discussed in the scopes of this section is the individuality in the context of the self-verification theory. It is possible to contrast the social identity approach to the self-verification theory (where the individuals’ self-views are formed by the group). In the self verification theory, the individual perception of life and its core values play a major role in the perceived and the actual experiences within a particular group forming.
Such theoretical approach was initially offered by Swann Jr. in 1983 (Swann Jr., 1983). The scholar comes to the conclusion that the core source of coherence is provided to the individuals by the stable self-views and approaches towards life. This self realization is referred to by the author as an invaluable means of defining the human existence and as the guideline to the social interaction (Swann et al., 2003). Consequently, it is the core motivating factor of the validation and the confirmation of people’s self-concepts, even in cases when these self-concepts have a negative nature (McNulty and Swann Jr., 1994).
In such actions, people are provided with an option of encouraging others for seeing themselves as they really are. Such approach helps to reach coherence in one’s mental life and to ensure that the process of social interaction unfolds smoothly.
Confirmation of the identity refers to a condition when the social environment of a particular individual matches ones’ “self-identities” and, consequently, is realized in terms of congruence between the way a particular member of the group defines him/herself and in the way how a particular person is defined by his or her group (Milton and Westphal, 2005).
With the CMC, an individual is provided with additional space for exploring the new, or the existing, identities (Donath, 1999). Even taking into account the fact that the direct application of the self-verification theory is not common and popular, the identity confirmation notion is widely applied by the scholars. Hars and Ou (2002) demonstrated the contribution of the focal person to peer recognition. They consider the focal person’s contribution an extrinsic form of the reward for the participation in VCs (virtual community), which, in turn, leads to a high rate of dedication in the open source programming (Hars and Ou, 2002). Another scholar, Chan (2004), outlined the set of recognition forms, such as tangible recognition, expertise, and identity. The scientist reports that there is a deep interrelation between the VC participation and recognition (Chan, 2004).
Finally, Ma and Agarwal (2007) also rely on the self-verification theory, and they consider that the interrelation and harmony between the perception of others of the focal person and the own self concept of an individual make a positive contribution to the individuals’ awareness in the VC development and, consequently, to the satisfaction with the VC. That is why one may conclude that the entire set of the studies on the self-verification theory in the light of the contemporary computerized social life (the availability of social networks and the possibility of communication between the representatives of different social and cultural groups) and its comparative analysis of the social identity and the self-categorization theory create a rich background for self-identity communication and for the expression of the individuality in a particular social group.
The Implications of the Predicted Results
A set of essential theoretical implications are integrated in the proposed research model. First of all, a more comprehensive approach towards the mechanisms of transmitting the system design into the form of expected behaviors of an individual is offered. At the moment, an obvious tendency of the diversified set of information system design integration is observed. On the one hand, there is a need for the IT artefacts typologies development in order to assist in the complete understanding of the system design; on the other hand, there is a need of an integrated examination of different sociological and psychological mechanisms for gaining the entire complicity implied by the technological settings.
In this research paper, the IT artefacts conceptualization in the contexts of VC is outlined in the light of the identity communication. The author has applied “personal vs. collective identities” as a general background. Additionally, the study focuses not only on a single mechanism, but is rather expanded by accounting for the diversity of underlying mechanisms.
From the theoretical point of view, the offered model implies the future empirical validation clear guideline and creates the options for further research. The entire set of the proposals is ready for integration with the hypotheses and for practical implementation and testing in the real VCs.
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