Date of Submission

Fall 12-12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in International Conflict Management (Ph.D. INCM)


Conflict Management

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Volker Franke

Committee Member

Dr. Charity Butcher

Committee Member

Dr. Daniel Gressang IV


In this dissertation, the author examines the online hacking collective, Anonymous to determine if Social Identity Theory and Self-Categorization Theory are transferable to the digital sector. The case study utilizes semi-structured interviews to determine how members of the collective experience their shared identity and how the collective communicates that identity to members and prospective members. It also explores how Anons use their social identity to mobilize others for membership and action. Findings suggest that these theories do indeed have applicability online, and that while exceptions exist, Anons share a salient social identity and experience generally muted individual identities. Anons express their social identity through emphasis on their shared norms and values. They mobilize vía both passive and active mobilization methods and these methods vary based on the mobilizer’s level of self-categorization. Study findings have implications for scholars who wish to explore the formation and expression of online identities. Findings will also be of interest to policymakers who seek to collaborate with digital groups or to understand less benevolent groups that pose a threat to public safety. Finally this research may be of interest to social movement organizers who wish to mobilize others for their causes.

Available for download on Sunday, December 12, 2100