The embodied self

Continuing with my post-publication commentary on my new book, the edited volume entitled: 'Connected Minds, Emerging Cultures', today I feature Chapter 5 by Hugh Miller and Jill Arnold: 'Identity in Cyberspace'. I remember when I read the first draft of this chapter, thinking, wow - this has a real incisiveness about it. Hugh and Jill have done a very thorough job exploring the multiple virtual worlds we find ourselves drawn into, such as Facebook (for the 'flat' representations of self) or Second Life (where our avatars are 3D and mobile). They are very much concerned with the psychology behind the way we re-create ourselves when we venture into these imagined worlds. They write:

Our own research has shown that the psychology of identity and self presentation on the Web is best understood in terms of how people draw on those same signifiers of who and what we are as are used elsewhere: use of photos, claims made of achievements, hobbies, geographical origins, etc. We argue that when people enter into cyberspace they bring with them expectations, challenges, and vulnerabilities from every day life experience and the experience of managing an identity in various circumstances, and here was just another mode (or exciting new theatre) to explore and to play out being oneself (p 58).

Miller and Arnold are here arguing that the self we project into cyberspace has all the components of our real life self, but that there is the potential for fantastic or even outlandish new representations of that self, within the affordances of the virtual environment. This of course, implies that all of the outworkings of people's avatars (the gender bending, species swapping, age reassignment, fantasy representations and so on) lay inert within the person's psyche, and are enlivened (or made possible) within say, Second Life as the environment gives them licence and utility. I would be interested to hear people's views on this interesting perspective (do you agree with it?), and how such ideas might be applied to learning, whether formal or informal....

Comments

Christina Merl said…
This reads extremely interesting and, not having a background in psychology, I would absolutely agree. Cyberspace is nothing but a new “stage” where people can play their roles. And yes, maybe the possibility to stay anonymous and hide behind their avatars encourages them to “play out being oneself”. I would also think that it certainly makes a difference if you use the new technologies for professional reasons -- and show your identity -- or just for fun -- hiding your identity. It would be interesting to know whether the authors explored the difference between online behaviour of the two types?
Frances Bell said…
How flat is the representation of a student in a lecture theatre?
Answer - as flat as Flat Stanley
Those interested in the use of Multi User Virtual Environments in Education might like to join our discussion (one week left) at http://www.cabweb.net/portal/course/view.php?id=7
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