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Identity Tourism

leamirella's picture

All this talk about gaming led me to remember the term 'identity tourism' coined by Lisa Nakamura. Identity tourism is the process by which people assume an identity in the virtual world that is entirely different than their own. However, I want to challenge this notion, like I have before, of having this very distinct virtual world where the rules of 'real life' do no apply and where everything is fantasy. Though it is easy for people to assume online identities that are different from their identities in meatspace, identities created online still take their roots and affect the 'real' world. My point is that it is impossible to isolate online identities completely.

Anda's Game brought to light the issue of 'gold mining' which I had been previously unaware of. While I was aware that there were people that sold off online posessions for real cash, I did not know about the implications that an online player could have in meatspace. (I've decided that I'm going to refer to everything that isn't virtual as 'meatspace'. I don't quite think that 'real life' can be completely contrasted with the 'virtual world') While it is true that a player can create an identity online that is flexible, this identity is not completely virtual. Take, for example, the noobs that are seen in the Anda's Game. (I never thought I'd use the word noob...) In the virtual world, they are new to the game, easily destroyed and unaware of what they are doing. This is the same case in meatspace - they're being taken advantage of because they are unaware of what is going on completely, they are small and fragile and they come from developing countries were they are new to the idea of the the commodification of play. Each noob's virtual self and meatspace self is interlinked - while they have the 'freedom' to create an identity online that is different from the one that they have in meatspace, this identity still is a reflection on them and their situation. Not only are their identities online anchored to their meatspace identites but the problems that their online identities face is that same as the problems that their meatspace identites face as well, even if they are in slightly different forms. (The virtual avatar gets killed, the meatspace self doesn't get money.)

This brings me back to my point about the word 'binary'. There really is no binary between virtual and meatspace. There is, however, variation. Online identites can deviate from the meatspace identity on different scales. A player or user can be as close to their meatspace self in the virtual world or they can recreate themselves entirely. But at this point in time and with the technology that exists, I think that it is impossible to create an online identity that takes no root in the meatspace self. There will always be a tiny part of the meatspace self in the virtual self, even if it is just the way someone types.



fawei's picture

overlap and variation

I do like the idea of the word 'variation' being used to describe the two worlds instead of considering them completely different. It's a little different from saying things 'overlap' (I wish I had a better word...) where the two might originate in separate places but share characteristics. In light of your examples of how online identities have their root in the real world, it seems even more appropriate to use 'variation' because in most senses implies that both of the variants were initially the same, or originated in the same place.

In other places, this might be seen as too human-focused, like in Tron where some life forms seemed to come about independently of humans, even though they shared some characteristics at the present. But in the case of identity online it makes sense to say that the 'meatspace' humans are the origin of both online and other personas.

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