Persona missing, feared drowned: the digital persona concept, two decades later

Roger Clarke*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to document the development path of a specific concept during its first 20 years. Design/methodology/approach – Evidence was extracted of the citation-counts of relevant articles, uses of the term in other articles that do not cite the original articles, and uses of terms with similar meanings. Examination of the data took into account insights from epidemiology, memetics and diffusion of innovations theory. Findings – The concept has had insufficient impact to overcome the weaknesses in theory and practice that it was intended to address. It has lacked champions. It has proven to be sufficiently fit to survive, but not to flourish. Research limitations/implications – Google Scholar has a wide catchment area, and hence provides a basis for tracking the path of development of new ideas. However, the tools remain fairly blunt, and do not, for example, enable efficient extraction of patterns of citation over time, or the nature of the uses made of terms by the citing articles. Practical implications – Neologisms take on a life of their own, losing the associations that they were intended to have with other ideas, and shedding their embedment in a body of theory. For a new term to successfully project a meme, its proponent must enthuse a critical mass of early adopters to apply it, and to generate a further round of adopters. Originality/value – Concepts are seldom tracked over time. This paper shows that a new term and its associated body of theory require more than publications in top-level journals if they are to have significant impacts on academic research and industry practice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)182-207
    Number of pages26
    JournalInformation Technology and People
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2014


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