Power Games : Rules and Roles in Second Life
Abstract: This study investigates how the members of four different role-playing communities on the online platform Second Life perform social as well as dramatic roles within their community. The trajectories of power influencing these roles are my main focus. Theoretically I am relying primarily on performance studies scholar Richard Schechner, sociologist Erving Goffman, and post-structuralists Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felìx Guattari. My methodological stance has its origin primarily within literature studies using text analysis as my preferred method, but I also draw on the (cyber)ethnographical works of primarily T.L. Taylor, Celia Pearce, and Mikael Jakobsson. In this dissertation my focus is the relationship of the role-player to their chosen role especially in terms of the boundary between being in character, and as such removed from ”reality,” and the popping out of character, which instead highlights the negotiations of the social, sometimes make-belief, roles. Destabilising and problematising the dichotomy between the notion of the online as virtual and the offline as real, as well as the idea that everything is ”real” regardless of context, my aim is to understand role-play in a digital realm in a new way, in which two modes of performance, dramatic and social, take place in a digital context online — or inworld as many SL residents call it.
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