2019 was a celebratory year for Sandra Barnett. She achieved her PhD, the culmination of six years of original research and writing at the same time as working full time, managing several tertiary education programs and teaching Business Communication.


She explored “if, and how, the business social media site, LinkedIn, is providing for Aotearoa/New Zealand entrepreneurial professionals an alternative site for the construction of identity.” Her two foci were; “firstly, a shift to where we increasingly live our lives, the world of social media; and secondly, the tensions that this shift creates for identity and identity construction, or the basic human need to know ‘who we are’ and ‘how we fit in the social world’.”

Her findings illustrate “that identity resides not in the person themselves, but in the context, in the broadest sense, in which they engage,  . . . identifies the tensions inherent in engaging in LinkedIn and constructing a digital identity there, . . . . .and provides evidence that LinkedIn has, in fact, become, or at least was in the process of becoming, an alternative organisational site, and thus a site for organisational identity construction.”

Interestingly, the study found indications of significant differences in response to the LinkedIn organisation context between the entrepreneurial professionals from different national cultures. New Zealanders, USA and Irish and Scandinavian’s seem to respond differently. For instance, New Zealanders generally seem reluctant to connect with others they don’t personally know and to be cautious about disclosing opinion, treating the platform more as an online CV. Whereas Americans generally, seem more promiscuous in their use of the platform to network. Maybe that is a reflection of the different business cultures: maybe in New Zealand, professionals’ identities and reputations are more coloured by whom they are connected with. Maybe Aotearoa/New Zealand business culture or culture in general, is less aggressively individualistic than that of USA.  There are a variety of possible contributors to such a difference including Maori cultural influence on the development of Aotearoan culture, the origins and motivations of the founding British immigrants, the comparative isolation of the embryonic nation, and the predominant sentiments of the colonial agents involved in the foundational Treaty of Waitangi.