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Identity and Online Communities

Having a Rashomon Moment: Identity Negotiation in an Online Community

Introduction

This chapter introduces the cycling forum that will be the focus of the three chapters in this section of the book. It also offers a detailed analysis of a specific thread on the forum where participants reveal and indeed become aware of very different remembered perceptions of a shared ride. As such, this picks up on the theme of multiple perspectives—the shaping of experience and identities through narration and evaluation discussed in Part 1 of this book. Rashomon is the name of a Japanese movie directed by Akira Kurosawa that presents very different perspectives on the same incident and thus has come to express a perceptional gap in relation to a shared experience. The allusion to a ‘Rashomon moment’ leads to a renegotiation of the experience and with it the identities of the participants.

The title of this chapter derives from a forum discussion where early experiences of a club ride are recounted, revealing very different perspectives on the event and causing one contributor to remark, ‘I was having a Rashomon moment’, meaning that he began to doubt his own view of events until supported by another participant. As mentioned above, © The Author(s) 2018

P. Kiernan, Language, Identity and Cycling in the New Media Age

DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-51951-1_5

Rashomon is the name of a Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa in which a number of conflicting accounts are given of the murder of a samurai, each reflecting the self-interests of the speaker. Just as the plot of the film revolves around finding an agreed upon reading of the murder, so the participants in the forum work to resolve their different perceptions of a group ride. Identity is explored as a process that happens in the tension between individual and community viewpoints. In addition, as the first chapter of three exploring an online community, this chapter introduces the notion of community identity and the communities of practice framework (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1999; Wenger et al. 2002), which will be referred to throughout the chapters in this section.

The Internet has increasingly become an arena for the expression of identity, particularly the clustering together of shared identities through social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter and discussion forums of all kinds. Such resources not only allow for large-scale networking among individuals who are physically far apart but also offer opportunities for negotiating both individual and shared identities among communities with specialised interests. This chapter explores the kind of identity resources available to forum users, focusing on one such community.

 
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