Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Virtual Community

Dear Steinkeuhler and Williams,

Your study on MMOs and "Third places" gave interesting insight into virtual worlds and communities.  The interviews conducted and excerpts from the player's chats showed a glimpse of what these games really mean to people.  When the one girl stated that she is essentially the opposite in real life, a small and quiet person, it was genuinely heartfelt.  She even felt "shallow" saying it about herself that she likes being online because other people cannot see her, so appearance does not matter.  This point reflect's on societal ideals in my opinion.  It is unfortunate that a person can only truly feel comfortable with the use of an avatar and their appearance is hidden.  On the other hand, having a community or places to gather, "third places", like bars for people to come together and interact is extremely positive for those who do not have the opportunity to do so in real life.  It is a "neutral ground" and "leveler" where all are welcome to come and go, and status does not matter.  This is almost like removing identity roles that exist in real life and people have a perfect escape from reality to just be themselves and connect with others.  There is an opportunity for individual personalities to come through during the chats and conversations.  Those who frequent these "third places" or just stop by experience an online community.  Though Nancy Baym states otherwise, geographical location does not matter in a virtual setting.  The place where these users have congregated simulates one shared location and presence.  There is a feeling of togetherness that is inherent in their shared interactions.  Users are free to express themselves, react to others, and comfort each other.  The genuine care and respect for the virtual world and inhabitants is what matters.

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