Persona as method: exploring celebrity and the public self through persona studies
Researching persona is a study in the production, dissemination and exchange of public identity. One starting point in the process is to look at the production of the presentation of the self online, which allows for a particularly valuable way of exploring celebrity and public personalities. In order to advance on this point, this article examines three emerging and complementary methods of persona studies that work to capture different elements in the production of public identity. In the following we provide an introduction to the research currently being generated using three intersectional methods as a primer to the study of persona. We first present an adaptation of interpretative phenomenological analysis for the investigation of online identity as a means for understanding the strategic and negotiated agency that constructing a public persona entails. Second, we outline the potential for methods of social network analysis and data visualisation to contribute to the investigation of networked structures of public identities, and to further explore the assembly of a professional persona in the creative and niche paratextual industry roles enabled by social media. Finally, to explore reputation and relational cultural power we consider how persona is constituted by connections, adapting prosopography – an historical method for identifying relational status in a community – to the study of current public production of the self and relational reputation as a form of cultural field. All of these techniques are equally useful for the direct study of celebrity persona, and function dynamically together as means to access the wider dimensions of public persona.