How is identity constructed online?
James Paul Gee (2007, 110) speaks about this concept of identity building through gaming and taking on a virtual identity. He vindicates the role that gaming plays in learning, viewing it as an avenue that enables people to learn through immersion and that the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ world are highly connected.
The recipe is simple: Give people well designed visual and embodied experiences of a domain, through simulations or in reality (or both). Help them use these experiences to build simulations in their heads through which they can think about and imaginatively test out future actions and hypotheses. Let them act and experience consequence, but in a protected way when they are learners. Then help them to evaluate their actions and the consequences of their actions (based on the values and identities they have adopted as participants in the domain) in ways that lead them to build better simulations for better future action.
Identity creation and connection to self is very strong when placed in a situation like Second Life or a game. I wonder if the same level of connection is in existence with online identity that is created through much less immersive modes such as facebook, blogging and twitter?
Thomas (2004, 369) points out that “identity online is primarily realised through interactions, it follows that literacy skills in terms of the ability to use language well plays an essential role in identity construction and perception.” Consequently online environments that rely more heavily on written interaction (such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogging) require careful well thought out written content to ensure the identity desired is achieved as they are not supported with the embodiment of an avatar that SL and gaming provide.
I hold a number of handles/usernames/nicknames, some with avatars and some without. My professional focussed ones are as follows:
dbatty – minecraft avatar, beginning of blog address (wordpress)
dbatty1 – skype, twitter, blog (wordpress login name and beginning of blog address)
Indira Lytton – Second Life
With my avatar in Minecraft and SL I have spent some time developing the look of both. Both my SL and Minecraft avatar reflect a lot of who I am in real life. Each looks different but both have very strong physical connections to the real me. This is important to me as I want to be represented in the virtual worlds in this manner. With regard to my online identity that is void of an avatar they still connect into the professional me. Their thoughts are my thoughts.
Identity construction online is a constantly evolving construct for an individual, as it is in the ‘real’ world. If it were not then it would not reflect the constant growth that we undertake as individuals, through choice or circumstance. Our online identity is constructed through our use of literacy skills and consequently is benefitted one way or another by ones skills and understandings in this area.
James Paul Gee, “Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: The Projective Stance,” in Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear (eds.), A New Literacies Sampler (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), pp.95-114.