Virtual Identity &

slipperhangingAI and Robotics

Nov 14, 2013 (4 years and 7 months ago)


Virtual Identity &
Virtual Community

Concepts& History

RHET334 Spring 2011

Who studies Virtual
Identity and Virtual

Scholars of the Virtual




Literary Scholars

Scholars of Cultural Studies

Scholars of New Media/Digital Humanities, etc.


We have computer technologies for decades
before we have the emergence of theories of
virtual identity.

Virtual community precedes virtual identity as a


ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects
Agency Network) developed in the late 60’s
and early 70’s by members of the defense
research branch of the US military (DARPA) in
collaboration with MIT scientists.

ARPANET pioneered packet
switching and
paved the way for the 1982 standardization of
Internet Protocol Suite, TCP/IP, the basis for
the Internet as we know it today.


The combination of the emergence of the
Internet and the popularization of desk
computing enables the wider emergence of the
concepts of virtual identity and virtual
community in the 1980’s.


WWW: 1989, following a proposal by Tim
Lee a research scientist at CERN
Conseil Européen pour la Recherche
Nucléaire, or European)

The first “virtual community” was the WWW
constructed by scientists, for scientists to
exchange information on the Internet in a
standardized format.


In the general literature on identity,
scholarship, work on virtual identity begins
appearing in the 80’s particularly in sociology &
psychology (Cerulo 397)

The concept of VI does not yet exist
scholars focus on the changing relationship
between self and others/self and
environment/self and technology

Meyrowitz (1985/1987)

Looks at NCT’s (new communication
technologies) and how they affect identity as
they transform the “sites of social interaction”
and “reconfigure the boundaries that
distinguish collectives.”

Altheide (1995)

NCT’s reshape social activity & create new
environments for self development and self

Focuses on the keyboard as a technology
which opens new interactions but again blurs
boundaries between traditionally divided “sites”
like work and play.

Beniger 1987

The impact of NCTs on community formation
and resulting collective identity

Media generated communities provide a
gemeinschaft” experience.

The power in these communities in unevenly

Cerulo, et al 1992

Later work describes technologically generated
communities as more “real” and tangible,
creating a feeling of “we

And tracks various types of “techno
links” that
bring together diverse and disparate

Postman 1992 &

Schlesinger 1993

Others are critical of and skeptical of NCT’s
ability to bring people together in positive or
productive ways.

Haraway, 1985,1991

“A Cyborg Manifesto, “ and
Simians, Cyborgs
and Women .

Dibbell, 1993

“A Rape In Cyberspace, “ on of the first major
articulations of the issues related to virtual

Precipitated in the text
based virtual reality
environment, Lamda Moo
big focus on Virtual

Can there be rape when there are no real

Big focus on issues of community as the
Lamda Moo Moo community is ripped

Reid, 1994

“Cultural Formations in Text
based Virtual
Reality.” (MA Thesis)

Focuses on: 1. Methods of textualizing non
verbal aspects of communication

2. The problematizing of the nature of the body
& sexuality (lots of discussion of gender

Turkle, 1995

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the
Internet is
one of the first comprehensive
studies of Virtual Identity and Virtual

Impact of computers on identity. Includes many
interviews with people who are spending time
in MUDS.


Self is multiple, fluid, and constituted in
interaction with machine connections; it is
made and transformed by language.

Blurring of boundaries between human and
machines. Early instance of citing the shift from
“machines are like people” to “people are like

Turkle, 1995

Much on the psychology of online life, the
possible psychological benefits of virtual
identities and the risks

Reeves & Nass, 1996

Approach NCT’s as objects relevant to identity
building. Technology becomes a “viable other”
in the building of the self. Human to machine
relationships can mirror purely human

Suggest that the human brain needs to
“evolve” in relationship to technologies rapid

Porter, 1997

Internet Culture,
an edited collection, focuses
issues pertaining to virtual worlds, virtual
community and virtual bodies

Identity is cyberspace is more fluid, allows for
experimentation with selves, may allow us to
break out of the dominant social order and
construct truer identities

Hayles, 1999

How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in
Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics.

Develops a new theory of the “posthuman”:
computers have compelled us to redefine our
individual identies and our understanding of
what a human is.

Presence Vs Absence, gives way to pattern
and randomness

Hayles, 1999

Draws on cybernetic and information theory
rather than sociology or psychology or cultural

Norbert Weiner (Cyberneticist) Draws
similarities between living systems and digital

Information loses its body Becomes a quantity
separate from the materials that carry it

Bodies are “information” (such as DNA)

Smith &

“Community and its ‘Virtual'
Promises: a Critique of
Cyberlibertarian Rhetoric”

Cyberlibertarians have
misinterpreted the idea of
community emphasizing too much
the “disembodied individual

Smith &
2001 (cont.)

Cyberlibertarian rhetoric (Turkle, for
example) emphasizes liberation from
earthly and embodied constraints.

Says that it encourages new forms of
self expression, democracy, etc

Smith &
2001 (cont.)

Critique: this perspective is technologically
determined. Emphasizes too much the
alternative” to a society in decline.

“‘Virtual community’ is constructed (like any
other ‘community’) through individuals’
(temporal and partial) engagement in the
production and the consumption of a sense of
sharedness and belonging.”

Miller, 2004

“Blogging as Social Action”

The Kairos of self

The development of the blogging
genre as a venue for self expression
and community building

Jordan, 2005

“ A Virtual Death and a Real Dilemma:
Identity, trust, and community in

Virtual identity in Virtual Communities

Issues of anonymity and trust

Identity construction & RL/VL

, 2008

Crowdsourcing as a Model for
Problem Solving: An Introduction and
Cases (Human Intelligence)

“Outsourcing” of work related tasks
(usually data collection) to an outside
group or community

“Mechanical Turk”

Konsa, 2008

“Artificialisation Of Culture: Challenges to and
from Posthumanism.”

Technology has moved from the reorganization
of the physical environment to man’s biological
body, genome and consciousness.

This article focuses on the ways that culture
has been artificialized. The loss of boundaries
between artificial & natural.

Davis, 2010

Social Networking Sites as Virtual
Communities of Practice.

Connectedness and learning are
important factors in creating a sense of
community. Learning and trust may
develop when community exists and is
essential in sustaining VCoPs.

Knowledge transfer to workplace

Davidson, Zappen &
Halloran, 2011

“On the Formation of Democratic Citizens:

Rethinking the Rhetorical Tradition in a Digital

The role of new media technologies in the
construction of citizenship