Tuesday, 4 September 2007

MS-352 Virtual Life week 4

4. ‘Myspace.com. A Place For Friends …’: Self, Identity and Community in Cyberspace

The development of cyberspace has, many argue, produced an entire, other realm of human communication, interaction, and knowledge. Building on our discussion of virtuality and cyberspace this lecture explores online relations and communities, the recent rise of social networking sites and the production and display of the self online. As we’ll see, debate on these issues is heavily polarised between those who see the internet as a space for the construction of and play with new identities and as opening the possibility of the formation of new communities, restoring this dimension to an increasingly anomic post-industrial social life, and those who are more critical of the modes of communication and interaction that have developed on-line. This lecture will critically explore the theoretical arguments taking the currently fashionable social networking sites Myspace and Facebook as case studies .

Key Readings

The most famous writers on community and identity are Sherry Turkle and Harold Rheingold:

Turkle, S. (1994) ‘Constructions and Reconstructions of Self in Virtual Reality: Playing in the MUDs’ http://web.mit.edu/sturkle/www/constructions.html also in in Druckery, T. (ed.) Electronic Culture, New York: Aperture, pp. 354-65.

Turkle, S. (1996) ‘Aspects of the Self’, in Life on the Screen, London: Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, pp. 177-209 [1995] – plus the rest of the book.

Rheingold, H. (1994) The Virtual Community, London: Harper Collins, also available on-line at http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/

Rheingold, H. (2003) Smart Mobs. The Next Social Revolution, London: Perseus Books.

Turner, F. (2005) ‘Where the Counterculture Met the New economy: The Well and the Origins of Virtual Community’, The Society for the History of Technology, at: http://www.stanford.edu/~fturner/Turner%20Tech%20&%20Culture%2046%203.pdf

Key Websites


For an overview of the issues surrounding identity and community look at:

Bell, D. (2001) ‘Community and Cyberculture’ and ‘Identities in Cyberculture’, in An Introduction to Cyberculture, London: Routledge, pp. 92-112; 113-36.

Lister, M. et al (eds.) ‘Networks, Users and Economics’, in New Media: A Critical Introduction, London: Routledge, pp. 164-218 (especially, 164-182).

Dibbell, J. (1994) ‘A Rape in Cyberspace’, in Dery, M. (ed.) Flame Wars. The Discourse of Cyberculture, London: Duke University Press, pp. 237-61.

Plus look at the links at: http://www.uiowa.edu/~commstud/resources/digitalmedia/digitalcommunities.html
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.01/turkle.html and http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.04/turkle.html - Turkle features in Wired

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