Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Heather Falconer

Second Committee Member

Ryan Dippre

Third Committee Member

Kathryn Swacha


Activity Theory, specifically third-generation activity theory also known as Cultural-Historical Activity Theory or CHAT (Engeström, 2001, 2015; Leontiev, 1978, 1981; Vygotsky, 1978) has largely been used as a framework for studying different networks of activity, encountered by subjects who utilize tools or mediating artifacts in order to divide their labor within particular communities. This theoretical and empirical project analyzes a transnational user’s experiences performing their identity on Instagram by answering the research question: How does a user with transnational literacy experiences perform their identity and manage communities through the mediation of particular technologies on Instagram? Using mixed-methods from four data streams—1) semi-structured interviews, 2) rhetorical analysis of a participant’s personal Instagram data (including images, captions, account biographies, and stories), 3) recordings of a participant using think-aloud protocol, and 4) analytical memos of the participant’s Instagram activity—in this thesis project I aimed to accomplish three goals. First, to outline and historicize influential generations of Activity Theory. Second, to present a new approach to Cultural-Historical Activity Theory called the “User-Experience CHAT Model.” Third, to apply the new model to a case study. The results of the study suggest that users on social media sites may communicate with particular communities, but also past, present, and future versions of themselves. As users engage in activities across time, they encounter a field of interpretation informed by contexts, which influence their present experiences as they produce an object. Thus, users’ identities are constantly in a state of transformation and becoming as their object(ive)s in social media activities transform across time.