Convergence Rhetorics: Negotiating Digital and Offline Identities

Open Access
Johnson, Jeremy David
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Rosa A Eberly, Thesis Advisor
  • rhetoric
  • communication
  • digital
  • online
  • identity
  • video games
  • politics
  • reality
  • publics
  • private
  • privacy
  • rhizome
The advent of computer-mediated-communication brought with it the development of identities forged through computers and the Web. In the 21st century, the Internet has played host to a number of debates about what online identity is, as well as its relationship to the offline self. This thesis investigates rhetoric and deliberation in three case studies in which online identities are linked to offline identities in various political or public scenarios. The case studies are grounded by three theoretical issues: the divide between public and private behavior; the dichotomy of appearance and reality; and the mechanics of praise and blame in epideictic rhetoric. I first investigate the case studies of Colleen Lachowicz, a candidate for the Maine GOP attacked for her World of Warcraft character. Next, I explore the mourning of Sean Smith, a US Foreign Service member and EVE Online player, remembered for both his offline life and his online avatar, Vile Rat. Finally, I analyze Ars Technica’s revealing of Edward Snowden’s online identity, TheTrueHOOHA. In total, rhetoric about the link between online and offline identity is shaped by political forces and the constraints of rhetorical purpose. Public perspectives are conflicting and contradictory as regards appropriate moments to link digital and offline identities.