Shaping and reshaping identities in everyday literacy practices: Adolescent girls' use of selfies in a social and mobile world




Rosdahl, June Marie

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Young adolescent girls engage in many leisure and academic activities outside of school that support literacy practices and identity formation. The use of mobile devices and online spaces has become an integral component of girls’ everyday lives that results in copious reading, writing, and identity building. Recent and rapid changes in technology provide platforms for new ways of doing literacy and representing identities. However, girls use content and social spaces in ways that are sometimes dismissed and not sanctioned as having any literacy value. Furthermore, literacy research has not kept pace with girls’ emerging out-of-school literacy practices. Scant studies explore how young girls use selfies in literacy development and identity formation. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore how young adolescent girls use selfies as literacy practices using social media and mobile technology, and how they represent their identities. James Gee’s definition of identity provided a framework for this study: identity is “being recognized as a certain kind of person in a given context” (2000, p. 99).

Three theoretical constructs informed this study: sociocultural theory, New Literacies Studies, and theories of identity. A sociocultural perspective views literacy as a social practice. New Literacy Studies recognizes multiliteracies and multimodality as a meaningful way of doing literacy through multiple contexts. Using a collective case study design (Stake, 1995) and a Grounded Theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), data was collected and analyzed inductively and recursively using qualitative techniques. The participants were ten young adolescent girls ages 13 and 14. The data consisted of questionnaires, individual interviews, focus groups, and selfie artifacts.

The major findings suggest that girls use selfies to make meaning through the types of selfies that they take and the self-image that they portray. The findings also indicate that young girls use selfies to build relationships with boys, friends, family, and followers. Additionally, findings show that girls use selfies for communication through social media and mobile technology. Lastly, girls use selfies for self-empowerment by building self-esteem, self-confidence, and control. The conclusion of the study indicated that girls use selfies to shape and reshape their identities.



Education, Adolescent literacy, Cell phones, Girls, Identity, Selfies, Social media, Educational sociology, Literacy, Reading instruction