Friday, August 31, 2007

Difference in Web 2.0.

In the beginning, they said that on the internet nobody knows you are a dog. People were excited at the thought that you can be whomever you want on the internet. No more gender lines, no more racial lines, no more age lines, no more lines full stop. Sherry Turkle of MIT wrote a book entited "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet" where she argued that with ITs, our identities become multiple (we can have an identity in each window we open) and thus fluid (since we are in multiple windows, there is no necessity for coherence or ridigity). She writes: "The Internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life. In its virtual reality, we self-fashion and self-create"

Once the hype faded away, people realized that their avatars look very much like their real-life personas. That they chat quite similarly to how they talk. And that their education, age, and even income, come across their online personas in many different ways. Check my avatar; if you've seen me, you will know what looks like me and what doesn't:

The internet may be a space where differences like race, ethnicity, age, gender and so on seem rather redundant. But the truth is that we are constructing the virtual space with the same social skills that contribute to the construction of our real-life society. Lines of power are reproduced online in the same way in which they are produce in real-life. I think it is the perfect space where the researcher can actually do research on how the difference is being constructed and enacted visually and textually.

Anyway, the point of the post: I came across this very interesting project called Global Kids. They do educational work in Second Life. Jame Paul Gee, a professor, came and talked to them, in Second Life, in the end of some avatar contest. It's interesting to see how the avatars and the discussion both confirm and contradict what I've just been writing so far. So, see for yourself the first (of a series of some 14) clip:

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