Advances in technology on the internet are making it a continually more ‘real’ experience for its users. To what extent are the places, relationships, communities and identities represented on the internet real.
The increasing speed and efficiency with which humans can communicate within the online world has had an enormous effect on our culture. Furthermore the increasing reality in which Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing games (MMORPGs) represent human life online is affecting the way that humans interact with one another. The more advanced these games become the more emotionally, socially and economically involved in them people become. The relationships which develop between cyberspace users are creating an intricate web of communities online. Although it is apparent that these communities form in different ways and exhibit different qualities than real life communities it is evident that they still operate in a similar fashion to them. Online your identity does not have to be about what or who you are; instead it is what you make it. This ability to fabricate your identity is one of the main issues regarding identity online. Although the identities that people develop on online gaming sites are often not a representation of their ‘real self’ this doesn’t mean there is not an element of reality to their online character.
As events occur and relationships are formed places within cyberspace develop their own meaning, similar to that which would occur in a real life space. Secondlife describes its world as ‘an expansive online society, which is lived in and built by its participants.’ By being ‘built by its participants’ Secondlife has produced a meaning for what would usually be simply an online space. Despite the limitation of being not physically real Secondlife’s online places still contain the same meaning as that of a physical place. The Secondlife environment is based on the relationships and the communities which reside it, which brings a sense of meaning to Secondlife as a place.
Despite the lack of ‘physical reality’ these communities do in fact operate in a similar fashion to a normal community. The emergence of relationships online has been evident since the establishment of virtual communities. Games such as Secondlife, World of Warcraft, Everquest and Runescape have begun to develop online economies which transfer into the real world. Although users are all part of the Secondlife community many class distinctions and sub communities exist. “Taggart Transdimensional” is a virtual company whose role it is to generate online currency which is exchanged for real world money. The creation of this virtual economy has created class distinctions between the rich or poor as those without money cannot access nightclubs, shopping centres and places.
The question as to what defines someone’s online identity is one which has been debated within the public forum extensively. Although some constants exist between ones...