Persona and the Public Presentation of the Self


Persona and Masks (Prezi) –


There is a common idea, a misconception that [Masks] are bad, that they always transform us into mean, over-the-top characters because we use them to treat others badly online, hiding behind anonymity. There is also common idea that masks work like the mask in the [Jim Carrey movie], which acts like a disguise and let’s him be kind of awful to others.

Or [V in the movie ‘V for Vendetta’] who is an anti-hero, someone doing unlawful things for heroic causes. This is an excellent movie for thinking about the importance of masking ourselves when dealing with fascism. Using the psychology of masks to fight against oppression. In this lecture I argue that this is not always the case, and that we can think positively and productively about the role masks or personas today by considering the roles of masks in the past.

The etymology, or root, of the word persona, is the Etruscan and Latin word, derived from the Greek “prosopon”.  And Persona meant the mask work by actors in classical Greek theatre. [Sound] was an important component of the masked performance, as the term suggests, persona is literally the sound (sona)  of the actors voices passing through the wooden mask (pers). [Persona] indicates the projection of a character, or role, by an actor, through a mask out into an audience.

A persona therefor an intentional projection outwards to a public via the device of the mask. We all do the same thing on Facebook, and Snapchat and Instagram. You project into the world, through the performance of your mask or persona. These ancient masks were not evil, they were different characters or faces for different stories and different public situations. They were often used outside of the theatre as well in public events.

In this context [persona] meant the work of the actor through their voice, but was also an embodied performance that included the body, posture, movement, and other shaping effects of stance, projection and circumstance – depending what the role required. These masks, like our social media, were very versatile.

So Persona were a visible performance, public, still masked performance but that mask was used to negotiate through the world. The term Persona was also term used in Ancient Rome to identify the mask of performance and it is clearly related to historically important ideas about acting and being in public.

The value of persona as an analytical concept is, therefore, to understand that the self, is not fixed, but a constantly updated projection of identity presented and enacted for the benefit of communicating to, and maintain relations with, others, such as audiences.

[Modern psychology investigates the inner self] and the private self, but in the ancient world there was no dominant concept of the private self, or inner subconscious, an attention was on the public self and how we were perceived by others. How you presented yourself was the was the real you and the mask was primarily purposed towards symbolism and effective communication of character.

[Notably in use by 700 BC] and perhaps most well known in the celebration of the festival of Dionysia, the trajectory of the mask’s movement from fertility ritual to the theatrical comedies and tragedies is unclear and its exact use of masks over the past 1000 years varied greatly. Typically covering the head and face in helmet fashion, with eyes and mouth holes, the mask was often made from organic materials not meant for permanent or long term use, and the role of a particular mask was not restricted to any single task or duty, but represented multiple roles, purposes and personas.

Think about how Facebook will be important when you start applying for jobs. This is not a warning, but a recommendation to think strategically about how you construct and perform your persona online. The obfuscation and alteration of the visual features of the performer was a means to produce a new persona connected outwardly and physically to the body underneath; very much like a pre-cybernetic version of the connection between our physical bodies and the mediated ones we present via social media.

The mask served to distinguish and make recognisable an individual as a persona connected to publicly performed role. The mask also served to distinguish between characters for an audience, to help note difference within a group of performers: the chorus, for example, has similar masks and is considered to be a singular figure.

The contemporary notion of a costume, is an embellishment of the mask, developing from the use of jewelry, adornments and other pageantry to help separate different roles in a play or performance. [Wrestling Masks] are a contemporary for this performance and  Cosplay is an excellent example of the type of modern masks that we see in the everyday.

They enable us to be our trues selves – no one think these cosplayers are really [Wonder Woman or Batman] but these masks and costumes are the performance of fan identities rather than superheros: we read these costumes and masks in a contemporary fashion.

[Presentational Self]

In thinking about persona as the mask that you create for your real self, you are not trying to fool anyone or hide, but rather create a performance that represents you online.

One of the key transformation in contemporary culture is the requirement to create online identities in order to interact with almost every service in everyday life: from bank accounts to Facebook logins, gamer profiles and student IDs. The practice of adding to our online persona in the everyday, involves the labour of monitoring and editing ourselves, connecting with strategic purpose to other individuals and objects, and building a publicly reputation.

This is the reality of presentational media, media that is performed, produced and exhibited by the individual or other collectives..

[In the past] Print, TV, and Hollywood have represented the perfect self for us to consumer in objects and celebrities. Media companies, newspapers, TV and Movies, represented us, they represented our dreams, aspiration, and goals. They taught us how to act, what to think and what to buy – and the still do, but there is a new class of media, often call social media entertainment or [presentational] media.

Presentational media is generated on social network platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter that redirects of traditional media content and has and entirely new audience: You.

Social Media Use in by teens and young people in australia continues to grow and is becoming a major force as presentational media audiences.

Let’s looked at the ACMAdata:

As of June 2015, the most recent figures we have over 935,000 – nearly one million – teens had gone online in the previous four weeks. That’s 82 per cent of all teens, up from 74 per cent four years earlier.By 2020 we are expecting that 90-92% of all australian teens will be online.

“Teenage girls are more likely to have been online than boys, while those living in cities were more likely to have accessed the internet than their regional counterparts. Eighty-six per cent of all teens had home broadband access, a rise from 69 per cent in 2011 . Home is still the most common place for teens to go online, with 98 per cent of internet users connecting from where they live.”

[While] teenagers have long been the most avid users of the internet for entertainment, latest data for June 2015 reveals significant growth in the proportion of teens streaming video and audio content (and a decline in downloading). This is becuase of the rising success of Netflix and YouTube as entertainment sources

In the meantime, the proportion of online teens downloading content has fallen from 51 per cent to 40 per cent.

Despite the rise of social networking, email remains a popular form of communication among teens, with 78 per cent accessing mail, a rise of 22 per cent.

So teens matter and the way teens use the internet has changed the way we think about content and about identity.

[Five Dimensions Of Persona]

So given these figures, I want to look at  five important dimensions of Persona that will be relevant to you:

Persona is public, it is mediatized, it is performative, it is collective and it involves personal investment – so let’s have a closer look.

The first dimension of persona is that online identity, which once offered us anonymity, now it is almost entirely [public]

That means we can learn and  gain insight into understanding effective and successful online persona management by drawing on examples from everyday life – from politics, law and business, marketing, sports and perhaps most importantly from celebrities

[Celebrities] are especially important public personas, because of their pedagogical function: Celebrities instruct us and guide us in terms of the many ways that identity is made popular, risky, creative or transformative – look at the Kardashians, who arguably wouldn’t have the public successful identities they enjoy without the Internet.  

The second important dimension of persona is that an online persona is a [mediatized] identity. That might sound obvious but what it means is that this public identity uses various technologies in order to be visible and constitute an online persona.

Any mediatized identity is therefore both a material and informational source, it is something that can be characterised as data (see Lundby 2014). Because the mediatized identity is almost always connected to corporate entities it becomes impossible to stop giving away your data.

This is why governments and businesses like Facebook and Google want your metadata – the data that your devices create about you when you use them: these organisations release that this connection represents a massive commercial asset and an incredible degree of intellectual property.

 The third dimension of an online persona is its role as a [performative identity]All these different social media platforms asks you to perform yourself in slightly different ways.

Persona is not an individual identity, rather it is a technique of expression and performance of a public version of the self across multiple platforms. In this way, persona is neither “real” or “fictional”; it is a construction that we perform and it is constrained by the technologies and cultures which surround its use. We perform our profession, our gender, our tastes and interests- from the way we comment on posts to the way we frame a selfie.

The fourth dimension is that an online persona works to produce some form of [collective], or public. Every form of social media has a structure of “friends” and “followers” – an in-group of connected and networked people – that it’s defining feature.

This online formation of a public can be thought of as a [micro-public] (Marshall 2013) or a “personal public” (Schmidt 2014), one that allows for further sharing, tagging, linking and other mediated expression in the form of text, image, videos and likes and dislikes.

These micro-publics or personal publics express activities that can best be thought of as a form of [intercommunication].

Intercommunication is a form of communication where highly interpersonal and highly mediated exchanges occur across a  disparate series of self-promotional activities and are connected across platforms, sites and services (Marshall 2015).

Finally, the last dimension of online persona is a construction that represents four overlapping facets of personal investment: value, agency, reputation, and prestige.

This fifth dimension identifies the intentionality that is part of the construction and value of an online version of the self that involves personal investment in the self.

Organising a social media site is an active construction of public identity it is an investment in an activity that involves engaging with others and determining the varying levels of investment that regulate what is significant and what connections are valuable to an individual’s persona.

Various types of online activity are also ways of expanding influence; the choices that individuals make about what they show, what they connect with, what they “like” or favourite are all signs of building a persona.

Prestige and reputation are complex constructions in this online space, but they are linked to the forms of connections that people make to others.

What I’m describing here is the way that social media has become a major player, that we no longer have the representational media paradigm but the presentational media era and the stars of that era are the Micro-celebrities.

Micro- Celebrities

Micro-celebrities are not micro – in terms of audience – but rather in terms of the micro-publics they communicate to, who are consuming different types of social media entertainment from presentational media sources like YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, as well as Podcasts and Facebook.

Michelle Phan

The DIY – Do It Yourself – genre of YouTube includes online creators discussing beauty, style and fashion and the most well known and most successful of these creators in Michelle Phan, with more than 9 million subscribers, 3 million Facebook likes and 2 million Instagram followers. Michelle Phan helped to create the beauty vlogger genre when she started vlogging in 2007, and she now has over 1.3 million competing channels.

The beauty genre has a very close relationship to brands, where PewDiePie and DanTDM can play any number of indie games, Michelle Phans’ business empire is carefully aligned to particular brands and she is a brand in herself and her channel, her beauty products and makeup deals, book sales, e-commerce and online community site with estimated  $500 million value. She keeps an online blog and she is very careful in the way she manages her online person across all her content channels. We don’t ask if Phan is real or Fake, but how authentic she is and how authentic her millennial fans think she is and part of that persona is growing her online presence beyond brand beauty and into female empowerment; which she produced.


Among the estimates of about 2.5 million people globally who derive income from online video – PewDiePie is by far the biggest earning micro-celebrity. PewDiePie reached 52 million subscribers in November 2016 and he is currently $15m per year from advertising, merchandising, public appearances and his own movie Scare PewDiePie. Pewdy started out making let’s play videos as a hobby, and eventually dropped out of university to play games and make videos full time in 2010 and actually had a massive impact on the youtube economy

Dan TDM –  140 million Youtube Views per month, almost more than some major US TV shows. Dan got his start making Pokemon videos. Another Pokemon content creator is SuperDuperDani one of the most successful Pokemon pack openers and players online and in a recent podcast she was talking about attending business school and looking to create new channels and new content in order to create a new online persona, while still retaining her Pokemon related identity.

And this is an example of one of our star students Gemma. Over her time as a student she developed her online persona as a bespoke or niche baker. She developed her online persona Gemmcraft as a way to sell niche bakery items to local stores and cafes At each location she has a different mask: on facebook she has her business icon; On the Web she has details of how to order and her professional details for orders; On Instagram she plays with colour and expresses her creativity and sense of self; On Twitter she engages politically with causes that she matters. Very early on she realised that take control of her online person, was not about being real or being fake but about being authentic and developing her micro-public across all these channels which intercommunicate her persona between them.

%d bloggers like this: