The Prospects for Identity and Community in Cyberspace

The Prospects for Identity and Community in Cyberspace

Leah P. Macfadyen (The University of British Columbia, Canada)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-562-7.ch071
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Before you read on make sure you have a photo…I will not answer to anyone I cannot imagine physically. Thanks. (Message posted to an online discussion forum) Individuals are increasingly employing Internet and communication technologies (ICTs) to mediate their communications with individuals and groups, both locally and internationally. Elsewhere, I have discussed current perspectives on the origins and impact of cyberculture(s) (Macfadyen, 2006a), theoretical arguments regarding the challenges of intercultural communication in online environments (Macfadyen, 2006b), and recent approaches to studying the language of cyberspace (Macfadyen, 2006c)—the very medium of interpersonal and intragroup communication in what is, as yet, the largely text-based environment of cyberspace. Virtual environments might in some sense be viewed as a communicative “bottleneck”—a milieu in which visual and oral cues or well-developed relationships may be lacking, and in which culturally diverse individuals may hold widely different expectations of how to establish credibility, exchange information, motivate others, give and receive feedback, or critique or evaluate information (Reeder, Macfadyen, Roche, & Chase, 2004). Anecdotal evidence, and a growing body of research data, indicate that the greatest challenge that online communicators (and especially novice online communicators) experience is that of constructing what they consider to be a satisfactory or “authentic” identity in cyberspace, and in interpreting those online identities created by others. Rutter and Smith (1998) note, for example, that in their study of a regionally-based social newsgroup in the UK, communicators showed a real desire to paint “physical pictures” of themselves in the process of identity construction, and frequently included details of physical attributes, age, and marital status. Moreover, authentic identity construction and presentation also appears to contribute to communicator’s perceptions of the possibility for construction of authentic “community” online.

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