Assembling Identity: The Support for Self Within and Across Individualized Spaces
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the use and development of physical and virtual individualized spaces as contexts for self and identity during the transition to university residence. Twenty-three female emerging adults (ages 18 to 20) were interviewed in their dorm rooms in a mid-sized university in Ontario, Canada. The interview focused on personal artifacts and their connections to self and identity and included a participant-led “tour” of participants’ dorm rooms and preferred virtual spaces. The interviews elicited rich narratives about experiences and relationships, conceptions of change over time, and personal goals oriented to the future. Findings suggest that both physical and virtual individualized spaces provide visual clues and scaffolding for conceptualizing the self, as well as support for identity processes related to change and continuity. Furthermore, participants were maintaining access to supports for the self and identity through the creation and use of multiple individualized spaces. Overall, this study provides a deeper understanding of how objects and spaces may be used to support the self, identity development, and well-being during the transition to university residence.