Report Looking At The Virtual World Of Second Life, Analysing Personal Experiences And Relating It To Social Interaction And Theories Of Identity

2249 words - 9 pages

As the real world is said to be getting smaller in light of widespread technological advancement, virtual worlds are a burgeoning opposite increasing in size and number daily. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG's) are the home to these emergent virtual worlds. Launched in 2003, by Linden Research, Inc and now with an estimated total of 13,546,024 residents, (economic statistics SL May 1, 2008) Second Life (SL) is evidently one of the largest MMORPG in cyberworld. Not a gamer of any kind, not possessing any IT knowledge and not having any previous experience on SL or any other form of MMORPG, I was excited but slightly anxious about entering the SL world as a complete newbie.Designing my avatar was quite an experience. I opted to be a female and selected the 'Nightclub' form of clothing, giving myself long, dark wavy hair, grey eyes, a short black skirt and a red short sleeved top. While I was quite satisfied with my initial avatar, after I had entered the virtual world and gone through orientation (standard entry: Orientation Island/Help Island), I found myself spending a great deal of time altering my features and clothing, moving away from physical features and clothing which were quite similar to my own in real life. In fact, what began as amazement over the variety of options available to not just alter my avatar's clothing, but also all the facets of my avatar's physical features (from the lengths of her legs to the colour of her fingernails) gradually became frustration as I hungered for more experimentation. Eventually I purchased a number of skins and accessories from SL stores and I changed the appearance of my avatar every time I logged on. She went through nearly all the different shades of skin and hair colour available as well as dressed in numerous types of clothing; from dominatrix style leather to elaborate ballgowns.As Goffman explains, the representation of oneself is facilitated through the use of 'sign vechicles' such as clothing, posture, intonation, speech and bodily gesture. (Goffman: 1997: 121 ) He emphasizes that control over these sign vehicles is difficult, since most face-to-face interactions proceed in a spontaneous manner and do not include an assigned block of time in which we can present ourselves in an orderly and systematic fashion. (ibid) Furthermore, there are basic identity vehicles such as race and gender which are impossible to control. (ibid) As Turkle elaborates, the unique medium of virtual reality is disconnected from the physical self and its 'sign vehicles' and thus this allows an opportunity to construct a representation of the 'self' without any form of constraint, providing an opportunity for experimentation or 'identity play.' (Turkle, 1995: 42)I feel that this was something that I had never had the opportunity to experience before through my use of social networking sites like Facebook. Since I am very selective about whom I have on my Facebook account and everyone I interact...

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