Knee-High Boots and Six-Pack Abs: Autoethnographic Reflections on Gender and Technology in Second Life

Delia Dumitrica, Georgia Gaden


In this paper, we explore the experience and performance of gender online in Second Life, currently one of the most popular virtual world platforms. Based on two collaborative autoethnographic projects, we propose that gender has to be explored at the intersection between our own situated perspective and the vision embedded in the social and technical infrastructure of the virtual world. For us, the visual element of a 3D world further frames the representation and performance of gender, while technical skill becomes a crucial factor in constructing our ability to play with this performance. As we recollect and interrogate our own experiences in SL, we argue that the relation between gender and virtual worlds is a complex and multifaceted one, proposing our positioned account of experiencing this relation. It is critical, we suggest, that studies of mediated experience in virtual worlds take into account the position of the researcher in ‘real’ life (IRL) as well as the dominant discourses of the environment they are immersed in. In this we must also be critical, of ourselves, our assumptions, as well as the environment itself.


autoethnography; gender performance; Second Life; Virtual Worlds

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