The Virtual Nationality: National Identity in the Virtual World of Second Life

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In another universe where you can be whatever you want, would it be important to have a national identity? In which ways would the national identity take shape in a world without borders?
This paper explores the representation of national identity in the world of Second Life, an online virtual world. Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its 9,573,549 residents. Second life gives the treasury for fun and entertaining as well as broadens the possibilities for business, cultural change and access to knowledge. The subjects of this research were those groups and places in SL that distinguish themselves with their nationality or ethnicity. The research questions concentrated on the ‘how’. How do European represent their national identity and what do they show to the visitors? We analyzed the presentation of the national identity through textual and visual tools. The representation of national or ethnic identity can be found in the definitions of groups, and in the places in the building style, in the names and languages used within, in cultural signs and symbols.
We could distinguish open, ethnocentric, inclusive and exclusive groups according to the attitude toward the members of their nation and toward others and we aggregated the places as well in groups by the ways and scales of their national representation. We found that nationality has important relevance in the world of Second Life, even in this world without borders. We found that nationality is still very important despite of the postmodern opinions about the new informational world.

Keywords: Virtual World, Computer-Based Communication, Nationality, National Identity, Virtual Community
Stream: Technology in Community
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Sara Venczel

graduate student, Ethnic Studies Department, University of California
Berkeley, CA, USA

Im visitor graduate scholar at UC Berkeley from Hungary. I got a BA in Journalism, a BA in Sociology, now I'm on MA program on the UNESCO Ethnic and Minority Studies Program and in Sociology in Budapest, Hungary and for two semesters in UCB. My fields are ethnicity, nationalty, immigrants and the internet. Im interested in the influence of internet on the social life, on the practises of minorities, of immigrants, how it is changing their community life, their practises to find jobs and create social networks. Im also interested in the virtual communities, ion the question if they can offer real platforms for real communities. Im now working on a research about the use of social networks in the case of Mexican migrants in Berkeley, as well as I would like to continue other researches in the Second Life, in this 3D virtual world, focusing on the national communities, the communication among the members of the national groups and also on how members of diapsoras use Secpnd Life as a way to communicate with their family in the country of origin. As a Hungarian, as a scholar coming form a changing, post-communist country, it is an incredible opportunity for me to study at UCB and to attend some conferences, which, from home, I would never have a chance to visit.

Ref: T08P0463