Monday, June 7, 2010


So, I've been looking a little bit lately about the current online discourse on my subject regarding online identity. Here is an event that is coming up that I think relates nicely to my thesis:

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game: Internet Games, Social Inequality, and Racist Talk as Griefing

This lecture on Tuesday, June 15, is a part of the Berkman Center Luncheon Series. There will be a webcast that you can see through the Berkman Center site at 12:30 pm ET. The lecture will be given by Lisa Nakamura, who is the Director of Asian American studies at the University of Illinois. Professor Nakamura has done some writing focused on how the digital age affects racism, and vice versa. Tuesday's lecture will center around how social networking games, like Second Life, include "griefing" or pranking that has become increasingly racial. I'm really interested in a Second Life group that Professor Nakamura will speak about that is called the Patriotic Niggas, (I apologize for the slur...that's the name of the group and I want to be as specific as possible). The group, which is NOT comprised of African Americans, basically works to shut down Second Life by filling public space with garbage.

So what does this mean? A group of people are changing their identity drastically online in order to be destructive. This, definitely, does not add up with my thesis. How are these people different than mainstream bloggers and others connected to social networking sites? How are they (gulp) the same? How common are groups of this nature? What makes groups of this nature act this way? Are there people who engage in similar stupid activities who utilize identities more closely tied to their offline identity?

Something else I thought was interesting was that the information about this event on the Berkman site stated that "internet gameplay is becoming more socially and culturally diverse." Well, that's cool. This is possible because people are briging their online cultures with them to their internet games. There probably is cultural experimentation and reinvention taking place, as is sadly demonstrated by the example above. But, nevertheless, the online world is culturally diverse because people like to bring their culture with them into the online space. Then, they can emphasize and experiment with elements of that culture online, with leads to a multiplicity of identity, which then leads to a more whole overall identity.

I'm still hunting around for other events, but I really wanted to discuss the implications of the gaming lecture above. To see a more broad list of events having to do with the internet as a social and political sphere, see the Events page at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.


  1. That sounds like an interesting lecture. Have you been able to find any type of tag that this discussion will have on twitter so you can follow people's responses real time?

    Also, you say that the idea of people using an alternate identity to be destructive on the internet contradicts your thesis. I have 2 comments concerning that 1)Say what your thesis is. I had to go back and read through your older post (which, to your credit, you did link to earlier)to remind myself. 2) Does it necessarily contradict your thesis? Couldn't these groups' destructiveness be part of their larger identity? Is it their anonymity that challenges your thesis?

  2. Ben's comments are great advice...

    Your own research seems more honest when you are looking for counter-examples for your thesis, so good job.

    One thing this post reminds me of is that online identity is a different animal within virtual worlds like Second Life or within games or gaming culture. In both of those spaces, it is expected that one adopts an avatar, and sometimes several, in order to be a participant. Another factor is community. How does one's identification with / affiliation with a given online community affect identity? There are so many ways to affiliate now with various online groups. But they vary in how much they ask of us. It's one thing to join a facebook fan page, and quite another to be part of a guild in a massive multiplayer online game, or to be a member of a virtual gang in Second Life.

    You might look at what people are saying about identity who are looking very seriously at video game culture. Check out Celia Pearce's book, Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds. She has a chapter on identity.

  3. OMG, Heather I have a million thoughts running through my head right now and am going to just type as fast as my little fingers will let me. Ok, video games=sitting down and using a remote control to move your character. That doesn't connect a lot of physical movement identity between you and your avatar, the theory of disembodiment applies in this situation.
    Enter: Wii
    What happens with identity when you not only think and remote control your avatar's actions, but then your actions and the avatar's actions become one and the same! Check out this video's kind of a scary article to think about but it created an idea in my mind:
    So what if online sphere becomes a place where because of your actions, you BECOME something. In other words, online games create an identity
    Enter: Columbine High School Massacre Families
    These families believe that the video games are partly responsible for the massacre, it created the boys into killers.
    Ooh, I would be SO interested to see what you think about this idea!

  4. PS I just read Chris' most current post, READ IT! Ya'll are sort of on the same wave-length! = )