Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Communication and Language in Virtual Spaces, January 2023    Pp.275-303

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 Saudi Ph.D. Sojourners’ Construction of Identities on Twitter: An Online-Ethnographic
Study in the United Kingdom

Badryah Almesfer
English Language Department, Common First Year
King Saudi University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Education, Communication, and Language Science School
Newcastle University, United Kingdom


Received:11/08/2022         Accepted:01/09/2023                 Published:01/20/2023

This paper reports on a descriptive, inductive study that aimed to contribute to the knowledge of the creation of online identities among international students. It draws on online ethnographic observation of Saudi Ph.D. sojourners in the U.K. on Twitter, one of the most popular social media platforms, from May 2019 to January 2020, followed by Twitter interviews. Social media platforms have become part and parcel of the daily lives of many people. For international students, such platforms are perhaps even more essential as they are used for educational and social purposes, as well as staying in contact with family and friends at home. The study addresses three questions examining the identities Saudi Ph.D. students construct on Twitter and how and when. Previous studies of international students have focused mainly on the pedagogical use of technology or intercultural competence. This research explores how, when, and why the participants constructed and developed their different identities on Twitter. Thematic analysis of the data was employed, informed by the grounded theory approach. The findings showed that the development of identities on Twitter is complex. The participants constructed various identities comprising many dimensions and involving complex perceptions of capital, power, and social identity. The construction of their identities entailed idioms of practice, using linguistic and non-linguistic cues, and forming communities of practice through audience design.
Keywords: Ethnographic study, dentity, international, Saudi Ph.D. students, social media, sojourners

Cite as:  Almesfer, B. (2023). Saudi Ph.D. Sojourners’ Construction of Identities on Twitter: An Online-Ethnographic Study in the United Kingdom. Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Communication and Language in Virtual Spaces, January 2023:275-303.


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Received: 11/08/2022
Accepted: 01/09/2023 
Published: 01/20/2023  

Badryah Almesfer is a TA at King Saud university- common First year English department. Currently a PhD student at Newcastle University, obtained MA in TESOL from University of Leicester and BA in English from King Saud University. Badryah has worked as a student editor or ARECLS and has participated in many international conferences.