Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation explores the possibilities and limitations of conducting research on college student identity in the digital age. Utilizing philosophical theories from complexity theory, post-qualitative research, and new materialisms, I interrogate, question, disrupt, and challenge current theories and models of college student identity, largely developed from a positivist, modernist, empiricist perspective. Conducting research on college student identity in the twenty-first century may benefit from discarding the old ‘developmental’ language of the twentieth century, replacing this discourse and understanding with a language drawn from complexity theory. In this regard, I believe educators, researchers, and practitioners should begin talking about identity emergence and becoming. I explore how to embrace more complexivist epistemologies, moving educators, practitioners, and researchers away from traditional research methodologies. Drawing on emerging theoretical work of post-qualitative researchers, particularly Karen Barad (2008a), Alecia Youngblood Jackson and Lisa Mazzei (2012), my post-qualitative research agenda explored in this study used processes of digital immersion, interviewing, theoretical reading, and online blogging tools to create a research process viewed as a living system, exploring college student identities in the digital age as an emergent phenomena. This research highlights seven college students actively engaged in multiple distributed social media spaces. I refer to these seven college students as human becomings. In addition to following and intra-acting with these students in distributed social media spaces, I also conducted two interviews: issues of identity, digital practice(s), digital presentation(s), meaning-making, digital materiality, agency, and discourse were discussed. I conducted a process of dat(a)nalysis, highlighting dialogue, conversation, and observations on each human becoming. Further, I begin a process of entangling with theoretical, philosophical, and discursive research, creating the complexivist epistemologies so critical to understanding research on identity in the digital age. I end this dissertation discussing cyber-currere: viewing digital social media spaces as educational spaces where the processes of human becoming and subjectification occur as emergent phenomena: nonlinearly, non-hierarchically, and synchronously. In my closing remarks, I articulate how educators, particularly college student educators and curriculum theorists, might view digital spaces as always authentic, partial, and ontological – and what such an approach means for practice and future research.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
Eaton, Paul William, "#Becoming: Emergent Identity of College Students in the Digital Age Examined Through Complexivist Epistemologies" (2015). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3604.