The Paradox of Computer-Mediated Communication and Identity: Peril, Promise and Second Life

The Paradox of Computer-Mediated Communication and Identity: Peril, Promise and Second Life

Lynnette G. Leonard (University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA), Lesley A. Withers (Central Michigan University, USA) and John C. Sherblom (University of Maine, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-100-3.ch431

Abstract

Past research on the effects of computer-mediated communication (CMC) on identity has focused either on the inherent risks or opportunities it provides. The authors argue that the paradox within the nature of CMC has led to paradoxical predictions about the effects of CMC on identity. Rather than adopting a naïve perspective focusing on only one side of the paradox, the authors take a view of technological realism in which the paradox is embraced. Guided by these views, the authors analyze 59 students’ papers reflecting on their identity choices in the creation and development of a Second Life avatar. Second Life is a three-dimensional (3D) multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) in which users create avatars (called “residents”) to explore, interact with other residents, learn, recreate, and shop with the local currency (i.e., Linden Dollars; http://secondlife.com/whatis/). Using the constant comparative method for thematic content, themes supporting a paradox of CMC effects on identity are identified from the student papers. The implications of a view of technological realism are offered.

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