Identifying Identity

I enjoyed researching and exploring the topic of identity this week. I realised how contrived my own ‘image’ is, my ‘personal brand’ (Hearn’s self branding”) that I maintain for myself. I figured out that a combination of my values, interests, relationships, and career specifically shape my own identity and sense of self. I am not as influenced by location, nationality or religion as others are; I have friends from all over Sydney, friends in other parts of the world and work, study, and go out in completely different locations; thus I have built networks and consequentially drawn influence from all over that has added to my identity. My family has lived in Australia since convict settlement and therefore I don’t have any unusual or particularly distinctive cultural traditions, practices or diversification that I would say sets me apart from the rest in terms of adding to my own individuality. Religion also does not play a major role in my personal image or uniqueness.

In regards to Hearn’s theories of self promotion, I realised how heavily my job impacts my identity. I work for a particular fashion retailer at both store level and office level; I have the label of a salesperson, rife with negative connotations of pushiness and cunningness; and the brand I work for is also heavily synonymous with youth culture, and upon telling people where I work I am often amused at the varying reception I get in return. My company is extremely image-conscious (as is any company, of course), however particularly so since it is in the fashion industry. Thus, I must in turn project a similar image and act in accordance with the behavioral values of the company. Over time, I have found that this image has become part of my own natural behaviour, image and identity, and there is no distinction between myself at or away from my place of employment. Similarly, I am often subjected to varying receptions when telling people where I live (on the southeastern coast of Sydney).  I am told I seem to deviate from the beachy blonde  stereotypical ‘identity’ of my area.

I find both these features – employment and location – as peculiar in their shaping of my identity; I wonder to what extent I have purposely contrived my image, and alternatively what of my identity has been unconsciously or subtly influenced, as Hearn suggests, by the features of my external environment.

In terms of technology and new media, Herring’s suggestion that we are not subjected to a unanimous, homogenous identity when bound by our gadgets; instead, our mobile phones and computers allow for us to further our efforts to express individuality and identify ourselves, through customization features, perhaps like choosing applications that interest us or benefit our individual lifestyles on Apple iPhones. I’m sure that anyone looking at the apps on my iPhone would be able to make some reasonable assessments about my identity based on this singular gadget. This reminds me of the recent debate over Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial ‘Instant Personalisation’ feature, allegedly allowing marketers to tailor advertising towards the individual based on accessing their specific interests.

Also, stemming form Herring’s ideas, I realised that often I use my computer as a means of facilitating my establishment of identity; I will use eBay to shop for unique clothing that nobody else will be wearing, and scour blogs for music and fashion inspiration on which I will create my own image. Yet again, though, I must pause to ask myself – is this considered an influence, or my own unique approach to identity?

This topic has been extremely thought-provoking, and I have come to agree with a postmodernist conclusion that there is no completely free, uninfluenced thought. The individual identity is, essentially, a product of their surrounds, despite a proportionate yet arguably smaller ability to manipulate these elements.

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