Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seminar summary

Day One of the ESRC Seminar Series was excellent, or as Sheila Yoshikawa might say, v good (and certainly not puke-worthy). I thought it might be useful to post up my summary of what emerged as the key themes of the day, leaving aside Michele's new kitchen in New Jersey (too many news, there?). So first of all, and I suppose quite predictably, the themes of identity and identity performance came to the fore. Initially in the notions of self-presentation in virtual spaces, and also the whole fascinating area of relational identity. For instance: how do you decide which penguins to talk to in Club Penguin? Who do you think is like you ,and who do you think will like you? But also through several examples, other aspects of performance were highlighted. Jackie talked a lot about socio-dramatic play, and others, including Michele refered to various kinds of enactment of texts (Andrew reminded us of the way in which John Carrol applies drama theory to gaming). This theme of identity also touches on the whole area of immersion and the move from a third person to a first person connection with one's avatar. I wrote about the phenomenon of 'flow' or being in the zone a while back, and I guess this is one of the fears that fuel moral panics; the idea that we might get 'lost' in a virtual world, provoked by the technology into some sort of personality disorder. Julia alerted us to the various media discourses around virtuality, and Sheila underlined the particularly strong reactions that Second Life provokes. Questions of how we research and theorise children and young people's engagement with virtual worlds were never far away throughout the day. I was struck by the ways in which different virtual worlds have different affordances and of course the role of written language (digital literacy) is always a pre-occupation. Towards the end of the day we were debating those very definitions of literacies, multimodality and meaning-making that are central to the field.

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