Samarita Ibanez: An Identity Journey from First Life to Second

Samara Mamatovna Anarbaeva

Abstract


When we are given the chance to have a Second Life online, we often choose to modify our offline selves with a little something extra, e.g. younger looking skin or a taller figure, or we choose a slightly different direction in terms of race and/or gender. This paper explores the construction of a Second Life avatar's identity in terms of race, and gender. In Second Life, users can embody a virtual body similar to or different from their offline body. Avatars are created by people who sit in front of a computer with a set of lived experiences, identities, characteristics, and beliefs. This work describes one avatar's journey into Second Life, focusing on the intersections of offline and online materializations of raced and gendered identities. In creating a second self, how do power imbalances based on gender and ethnicity within global space shape the creation of an avatar? What social and communicative issues emerge through Second Life existences? In order to respond to these questions, an ethnographic study as well as interviews with three different users of Second Life were conducted to examine the steps an individual takes when he or she becomes a resident of Second Life.


Keywords


Second Life, avatar, gender, race, ethnicity, identity.

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The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at: http://jvwresearch.org