Thursday, February 2, 2012

Isn't it ironic?

 Dear Ms. Baym,
Image borrowed from
            Chapter 3 of your book as well as Joe Sanchez’s piece and William Bainbridge’s article all examine the relationships between digital worlds and real-life societies. As you pointed out in chapter 3 of your book, it is clear that social cues are different through mediated communication, causing a different richness in communication depending on the technology. However, you also discuss how the being able to conceal social identity cues could be a positive for those who have trouble socially, and are more therefore they become more desirable through mediated communication. It is often believed that because of the ability to hide your identity by communicating from behind a screen, people become braver to express themselves more freely. This as you said, often leads to confrontation and a lack of “netiquette.” However, I think that your book, Sanchez’s piece and Bainbridge’s article, all agree that through mediated communication social norms are imitated from real life. I find this interesting because when examining technological participation and the ability to create a world that is not restricting, we still set restrictions and imitate what we know best. As Sanchez says, developers try to create their perfect world, however, isn’t it interesting that it is only natural for us to carry social restrictions out in a virtual place with no consequence? As Sanchez says, “Players of virtual worlds became residents of virtual worlds, and what were once fantasy worlds over time became mirrored worlds complete with social and financial dynamics…” It is almost as thought we are shown through games like Second Life, that the restrictions we live with in real life, are necessary. It seems that in this chapter you are debating the effect technology has on us and if in our use of technology, we are replicating our real lives. It is ironic that your book details the various ways technology has changed our lives when you also point out that in our technological lives we are conforming to the social roles we have been prescribed. I find these point slightly contradictory. Virtual worlds appear to be a place to get away and creates one’s perfect world, however if our created lands are so similar to our real lives then what is the need for fantasy? Socially, we cannot hide our identities or our cues because as technology becomes more and more advanced so does the richness of communication making our interactions even more natural. I agree with your interesting examination of the ways we are using technology. I think it is very telling to examine how technology is similar to past forms of communication, rather then how much new communication is changing our lives. The more your book examines the way people play with technology, the more the social sciences are able to infer about the patterns of people. Thank you for reading.
Sofia Pitt

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