Findings from a qualitative study about the virtual community
Francesca Romana Seganti
Purpose of this paper is to expose part of the findings from my PhD thesis, a qualitative study about the dynamics of interaction within Italianialondra.com, a Website open exclusively to Italians who live in London.
Aim of this paper is encourage to reflect on the usage of virtual devices, particularly chatlines, as laboratories to experiment self-multiplicity through the spontaneous manifestations of the play instinct and demonstrate the potential of digital media as an alternative and handy space to re-integrate play dimension.
I discuss passages extracted from in depth interviews I conducted with a sample of Italians, between 25 and 35 years old, employed and/or educated to degree level, who live in London and use Italianilondra.com Chat room to communicate with other Italians. Despite it resulted that most of the respondents prefer to meet persons face-to-face - and they can since all the members live in London - , I can demonstrate that synchronous online communication gives to its participants new possibilities to experiment self-multiplicity, reflect on their personalities, give vent to repressed aspect of the self and reconstruct a group of belonging.
Finally, the Net emerges as an alternative place (new environment) to emphasize the vision of the individual as polyvalent entity, as multiple being under construction (old issue).
I presented the contents of this paper during the Mindplay Conference - 20 January 2006, London - which programme is published at www.Mindplay.org.uk
The aim of this paper is to expose part of the findings from my PhD thesis and demonstrate the potential of digital media as an alternative and handy space to re-integrate play dimension.
My dissertation is a qualitative study about interaction dynamics in "Italianialondra.com", a Website created on April 2003 to encourage communication among Italian immigrants in London between the ages of 25 to 35.
Upon joining the Italianialondra.com Website, visitors choose a nickname and create personal profiles so that they get a tool to get to know other members. In the profile page they describe themselves by age, sex, profession, physical description, address in London, Italian city of origin, hobbies, a brief description of their personality and why they are in London.
Users who communicate via Italianialondra.com are located in London and consequently they can meet face-to-face.
When I started conducing the fieldwork, the Italianialondra.com Website allowed participants to communicate both in synchronous (via Chat-room and Instant Messaging) and a-synchronous way (via Forum).
Instant Messaging system allows sending short electronic messages to someone else's box, where only the recipient can read them. Messages can be dropped and picked up at any time. The receiver, when not simultaneously connected, is notified in his/her private e-mail; then, s/he logs in, reads the message and answers.
In the Chat-room, available only to participants connected from the United Kingdom, members communicate in real-time about different topics.
The Forum is an electronic notice board that every member can access at any time, whether to read postings or to post messages and join electronic discussions in a-synchronous way. A section of the Forum is dedicated to advertisings about accommodation, jobs and buying/selling. Therefore, in the section "Events" everybody can propose to go out for dinner, cinema, theatre, concerts, clubbing and trips. Frequently the moderator organises big events like summer or Christmas parties, football matches or pick nicks.
Recently, the Chat-room and the section of the Forum dedicated to discussions have been substituted by the blog (1). Main reasons that motivated this evolution were that Chat-room conversations had become monopolised by a group of members who excluded or discouraged other to take part, and that dialogues were focused on poor quality contents. This event will be interpreted in the light of the studies on the social role of the game (Giuliano, 2000; Danet et al., 1997).
Moreover, during the fieldwork, it emerged that some of the respondents to the chosen sample actively participated with the Chat-room. During in depth interviews repeated over a period of time (October 2004 - February 2005) with these "chatters", it resulted that they enjoyed meeting online with the aim of relaxing and playing during the working day. It emerged that synchronous online disembodied communication gave them new possibilities to experiment self-multiplicity, reflect on their personalities, give vent to repressed aspects of the self and reconstruct a group of belonging. It emerged that these dynamics resemble game dynamics. Hence, a brief overview of the social interpretation of play and work dimensions (Giuliano: 2000) and of some studies about identity play on the Net (Danet et al., 1997; Turkle, 1997) are listed below. Later on, the findings will be analysed with regards to the following studies.
IDENTITY AND PLAY, BACKGROUND
Game has become object of philosophical and social research since the XVII (Giuliano, 2000). In the aristocratic society where only slaves, servants and farmers worked, game and work time was not complementary, but superimposed. The master did not work. Religious festivities, public events and collective rituals were one with work and play. According to Giuliano, game became a social object in the post-industrial society, when play and work time became separated. In the bourgeois society, space for work was dominated by rationality, positivism, intellectual work, research, meditation, and reflection. On the other hand, game space was dominated by subjectivity; it was free from constrictions, voluntary, made up of jokes and fun and not consistent with work and study. The Church and the State were severe with cards and dices. Rousseau condemned adults who played [Emilio o dell'educazione, 1762, libro IV] and Kant argued that time for entertainment and for work had to be separated [Riflessioni sull'educazione, 1803].
At the end of the 800's and in the first half of the 900's, Schiller, Nietzsche, Freud, Huizinga, Winnicot and Caillois, despite their different approaches, criticised the opposition between work rational dimension and play emotional dimension. Thus, as Giuliano points out, game was no more considered only a break and entertainment, but a premise of rationality: exploration of the unknown, instinct for combination, source of creativity and innovation from which the Logos, the ordered knowledge of words and things, emerges. Giuliano mentions Shiller. According to him, game harmonises natural and moral condition, and desire and intellect in a relation of reciprocity to achieve completeness.
Winnicot and Caillois' theories are particularly functional to the aims of this paper.
Winnicot (1971:69 in Giuliano, 2000) argues that game presupposes a community of players. One of the oldest games is that of the actor, "who is watched while playing", the narrator who tells a story and shares it with an audience. This "sharing", which implies at least two persons, allows distinguishing between imagination (shared with others) and fantasy (the product of isolation). Thus, according to Winnicot, play is not the absence of rules but the voluntary acceptance of rules. Moreover, Caillois' definition (1981, in Giuliano, 2000) of mimicry games makes their social function clearer. According to Caillois, mimicry is the temporary acceptance of a conventional universe in which players become illusory characters: the pleasure of being someone else, in another place and time. Mimicry is metamorphosis, role-playing that many see as the foundation of socialization (Goffman, 1969; Lombardi Satriani, 1990). Through mimesis, the player pretends to be someone else and imposes him/herself and others a state of incredulity suspension.
Thus, each game is a representation of the world; the mimesis game is representation of a narrative world, made of characters and their stories, their relations with the world and mutual interaction.
Further, the social nature of mimicry imposes the game a discipline. Hence, play is the acceptance of rules (Ludus) to remain in the game. Ludus guarantees the player-actor-narrator that s/he will have control on the identities multiplication. Ludus makes the player aware of the fiction and of the presence of the mask.
Caillois' argument can be linked to chat lines dynamics of interaction.
Behind pseudonyms, Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) participants (via Chat-room, for instance) can knowingly and intentionally create an artificial self (idealized or otherwise fantasized). Turkle points out that the Internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of the self and the erosion of the borders between real and virtual, animated and unanimated, multiple self and unitary self. In the chapter named "Identity Crisis" in Life on the screen (1997), Turkle indicates virtual communities as metaphors of the contemporary because there people learn being multiple and fluid, and, playing roles, they construct, and reconstruct their identities. She assumes that, as much in the virtual than in the real, what is important is the capacity to adapt and change, as a user told her: "It's a chance for all of us who aren't actors to play (with) masks, and think about the masks we wear every day". Form Turkle's study emerged that many chatlines users believed that life online made them aware of their self-multiplicity. In virtual environments, built upon words, language gets meta-sensorial, words become acts, and the individual, deprived of his body, perceives the chance to experiment different aspects of the self without feeling incoherent. To justify this argument, Turkle mentions Robert Jay Lifton's theory. He clarifies how the self can be coherent and multiple at the same time. According with modern psychology latest developments, Lifton argues that the unitary notion of the self is no longer viable, but dangerous because it may result in a "fluidity lacking in moral content and sustainable inner forms." (2) Lifton argues that the unitary view of the self corresponds to an overcome tradition. He sees another possibility: a healthy protean self. This is capable, like Proteus, of fluid transformations, but is grounded in coherence and a moral outlook. Turkle points out that we can imagine a flexible self which lines of communication between its various aspects are open: it is easy to cycle through its aspects which are themselves changing through constant communication with each other. Turkle argues: "A more fluid sense of self allows a greater capacity for acknowledging diversity. It makes it easier to accept the array of our (and others') inconsistent personae - perhaps with humor, perhaps with irony. We do not feel compelled to exclude what does not fit (Turkle, 1997: 261)". Finally, it is emphasized that a fluid, but integrated self that, rather than disorienting, makes us accept ourselves as we are.
Thus, human beings began with theatrical masks and now, naturally, come to virtual pseudonyms. CMC lets people "play" with "self representations", and lets them transform in metaphoric characters, fantastic and imaginary projections; CMC, like mimicry games, allows being both spectators and protagonists of a continuous "metaphoric melodrama" (Rheingold, 1993; Turkle, 1997; Stone, 2001). CMC users are actors whose "identity is discursive and produced through the actions of texts (....) as legible body, textually mediated physicality (Stone, 2001: 41). This paper does not set out to demonstrate how body and identity are reconstructed in online texts. What the paper does is to set out examples from the on-going research in which online interaction resemble game dynamics.
First rule of the game: collaborate to remain in the game
In this section, I am going to discuss passages extracted from in depth interviews I conducted with a sample of Italian immigrants, between 25 and 35 years old, employed and/or educated to degree level, who live in London and use Italianilondra.com Chat-room to communicate with other Italians.
Questions about the Chat-room aimed to investigate cultural and social implications of the Italianialondra.com Website in order to analyze its role in re-articulating a trans-national community, its design and its technological values. The analysis of all these issues goes beyond the aims of this paper where only some passages of the interviews, in which dynamics resembling game emerged, will be taken into consideration.
Just few of the respondents participated with the Chat-room. According to them, the chat is a "break" to relax and play. As these respondents said, conversations in Chat-room generally focused on trivialities, but, even if it was generally difficult to read durable and consistent discourses within texts, according to them, affinities and even relations among chatters could develop. The interviewees argued that trust among participants was a direct consequence of someone's coherent expressions.
Antonio claimed: "You can know some of them in depth because they become predictable - I mean, nobody is predictable ...- you can recognize coherence in what they say...After you have read many things said by the same person...you start delineating his/her profile...I do not think that someone can pretend in such a coherent way!". Antonio argued that pseudonyms define characters with a reputation since posted messages come with a wealth of contextual information about the sender, who, once constructed his/her front, is expected to have a coherent conduct. According to Antonio and other interviewees, trust between members can be configured; it might be based on continuous written relations of a long duration and on prolonged knowledge. Interviewees argued that the more they interacted with a character, the more they knew him/her.
The knowledge of characters with a reputation can be considered as the evidence that a group of players existed. The existence of coherent but imaginary characters involved in a prolonged interaction echoes the idea of theatrical performance in which collaboration is established and a collective line of conduct is maintained. Thus, it can be said that, when the same characters carry on prolonged communication, in the virtual rooms a teamwork is going on. Goffman states: "A team may be defined as a set of individuals whose intimate co-operation is required and a given projected definition of the situation is to be maintained. A team is a grouping, but it is a grouping not in relation to a social structure or social organization but rather in relation to an interaction or series of interactions in which the relevant definition of the situation is maintained (Goffman, 1969:90)". Co-operation among the Italianialondra.com chatters was, as they said, established. In the Chat, a group of characters collaborated to maintain a play frame. Apparently, some group-leaders had the duty of animating conversations and the rest of the chatters supported them. Fabio, who was one of the Chat-room animators, said: "Usually in chat, few strong characters conduce the conversation. Thus if the leader is vulgar, the chat becomes vulgar. If the leader has love problems, we talk about love problems." Leaders and regular users are, then, team mates. Goffman argues that a team mate is someone you can count on a dramaturgical level. Linked by reciprocal dependence, cohesion, reciprocal familiarity, slowly developed with the passage of time spent together in chat, leaders and regular users co-operated to carry on the interaction. In The presentation of the self in everyday life (1969), Goffman analyses the social mechanism operating every time that a social encounter is performed. He argues that in everyday life, when more than one person meets, a "performance" is acted out and everyone plays a "part" or "routine". Goffman underlines that during the interaction the participants, in order to gain harmony, co-operate in staging a single routine and hide their own desires in assertions shared at least apparently by everybody: then, a "performance team" is built up. Another user, Giovanni, confirms the existence of a "performance team" sharing a discursive space in the Italianialondra.com Chat-room. He said: "I approached people sending them an instant text. I have met few of them. I was not looking for friends...I mean, friends are welcomed but I was not looking for a group as many do. Then, things have evolved. Actually, I chat quite often and I know many users". Giovanni said that in the Chat-room he used to behave as a joker and that often others enjoyed conversations with him. Probably he spent hours and hours online talking about trivial arguments and nonsense, but, since the aim of the group he took part in was that of relaxing and thinking of nothing, he contributed to a successful interaction. Other players who were collaborating to have fun and entertainment accepted him. The existence of collaboration to carry on a conversation emerged also in Antonio's interview. He said: "I am aware that I could take advantage of it (of being behind a computer screen)...I mean, I could defend my arguments really passionately, but I always try to be fair."
Antonio argues that even though he knows that he could take advantage of other participants transcending in rude and antisocial behaviour, he "tries to be fair" meaning that he tries not to offend or insult anybody. Also Marcello argued: "It is true that when you are chatting you predispose yourself to do it...I mean you are online because you wish to be interrogated, to answer, to talk...When you meet face-to-face, it can be a bad day.... and you are different. When you are chatting, you want to do it." Marcello used the term "predispose". He knows that he has to respect others and that he can't behave in a rude way if he wants the interaction to be maintained. Like in the mimicry games, Antonio, Giovanni and Marcello accept some rules (Ludus). They work to maintain communication and make the game continue. Like in the mimicry game, their awareness guarantees control on the fiction.
Finally, it emerged that in the Chat-room of Italianialondra.com, a group of characters with a reputation existed. Their prolonged interaction demonstrated that they were sharing a space of communication. To share a space of communication they were collaborating observing interaction rules which allowed them to carry on conversation without being disturbed or interrupted. Participants are conscious of performing for one another (Ludus). This self-consciousness emerged when talking about the meaning of chatting online.
The function of the game: "sharing" imagination and building
From the study emerged that in the Chat-room of Italianialondra.com, chatters, aware of the play frame, let themselves go and play with identity. Antonio said that behind the computer screen, he managed to defend arguments really passionately as he would not face-to-face. He argued: "I like to talk with people online. I have never been to any of the events because...I do not know how they could be...with twenty or thirty people...Can you imagine if I would not like them (...)? In Chat, you feel protected because you don't compare yourself to others. The look, colour, and appearance do not affect you. All these things in Chat-room are hidden. I know that, if I were listening to a discussion in a bar, I probably would not even say a word, because anything could have happened." His attitude, if we think that he specified that virtual relationships are not substituted for his social life, which he described in depth, confirms that online communication does not simply replace earlier modes and genres of communication (Lévy: 2001) but gives to the individuals different and new possibilities to express aspects of the self that do not come in light in the face-to-face. The Chat-room for Antonio is a space where he can exercise aspects of his personality that would under normal circumstances be inhibited (Reid, 1991). In the virtual, Antonio experimented potentialities behind real life social space, time conventions and restrictions. His imagination, shared in the game of narrating and interpreting, allowed him to give vent to his emotional interior dimension that he represented, like in the mimesis, in a mutual interaction. Through representation he compared himself to the others. He literally experimented a new aspect of the self that would otherwise be repressed. In this sense, through the game performed on Chat-room, he integrated various elements of the self, and imagination helped him to make a complete, harmonious whole. Such harmony echoes Shiller's idea of gaining completeness integrating play dimension. In the shared imaginative space of the Chat-room, interaction drives relationships and subjects to exercise their positive characteristics, like actors on the stage. Marcello argued: "I admit that when you stand on your guard...yea, the screen can help to let yourself go. It protects you and lets you say what you want and do what you would not do face-to-face...at least not immediately. It takes time to melt ice". Even in this case, cyberspace is an opportunity to experiment the freedom and delight of spontaneously opening up, and how that leads to friendships. According to Marcello, virtuality provided a space where relationships were facilitated since one can easily reveal an aspect of himself that would have taken longer to emerge face-to-face. Thus, Life on the screen just normalizes what has always been denied to the individual: free assumption of masks in the sense of revelation. Turkle argues: "When people adopt online personae, some feel an uncomfortable sense of fragmentation, some a sense of relief, some the possibilities for self discovery, even self-transformation" (Turkle, 1997, 260). Interviewees' awareness of identity play and performing for one another (Ludus) contrast with fragmentation. Rather, online communication is an opportunity to better understand themselves, a path for exploring their identity as it engages the identity of others.
Giovanni said: "Chat is just fun. People call me Dot. Jeckil e Mr Hide. When I chat I am a joker, but when I discuss in the Forum I am very serious! Chat is fun and Forum, no...it is interesting." Giovanni's online reputation reveals the subjects' coherence and, at the same time, multiplicity. Giovanni is conscious of his joker and serious different aspects which in the game fit together and are connected. In fact, under one pseudonym, he can be two persons. People recognize him and interact with him. Giovanni did not suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder because his selves communicate with each other and those of MPD sufferers do not (Turkle, 1997, 261). Giovanni' different selves communicate and help him to build his "identity as multiplicity".
Fabio corroborates this analysis. Discussing the positive value of the chat, he said: "I think you always give two different images of yourself; one is public, the other is private. I think that at home or with my girlfriend I am "myself". At work is different, what counts is that you absolve your duties; your opinion does not interest anyone. On the other hand, in the social you try to appear self-confident to avoid that people attack you. You show what you decide to be in order to appear strong and avoid questions. It is the same behind the computer screen: if someone attacks me, I reply. It is exactly the same." Fabio he is aware that he wears a mask with his friends online like offline: he "tries to appear" self-confident. Moreover, he is aware to be "another person" when he is at work. The respondents work in English companies and they speak English all day long. Thus the Chat-room gives them a "break" that attenuates their daily efforts of talking in another language and respect social conventions. In the Chat-room, they can "be what they decide to be" and express a part of the self which would not be expressed during the working day both because they interact in a context - the office - where self expression must respect the required front behaviour (Goffman, 1996) and because they interact in English.
Online they shift to a different front. Even there they respect rules to maintain the interaction, but collaboration aims to construct a frame in which they can have fun. The Chat-room helps them to recover a balance setting aside the stresses of face-to-face day. In fact, they argued that online discourses were mainly about trivialities and frivolities. I argue that the vacuity of the chat-room contents demonstrates the pure desire of communicating in Italian, their mother tongue.
Further, the research demonstrated that the most important benefits participants get from playing online with their peers is the re-construction of a strong sense of belonging or connectedness to the group. The feeling of belonging is strengthened by the communication that happens when Italians "play" online since, connecting to the Chat-room of Italianialondra.com during working hours, participants in some way escape from the limitations imposed by the foreign environment and reconstruct online a parallel space of belonging. Fabio argued: "Italianialondra.com aggregating factors are.... I think principally loneliness. Here in London you feel alone, like if you do not have anyone. When you are in your country, you are with people you know from ages. Here you are alone!" The majority of the respondents to the chosen sample defined the Italianialondra.com Website a tool that helped to build their own circle of friends. As many said, groups, developed in the Website created, a state of mind that gave them stability.
The Italianialondra.com Website emerges as a mirror of our times, a privileged observatory to directly gaze at the processes of identity formation. In Maffesoli's perspective, in the context of a complex society, everyone lives through a series of experiences which can only be understood in an overall sense: participating in a multitude of tribes, which are themselves interrelated, allows each person to live his or her intrinsic plurality. These various 'masks' are ordered and fit together with other surrounding 'masks'. From the study emerged that the Italianialondra.com is a tool that facilitate the formation of microcosms, contemporary tribes.
Fabio used to go out with people met on Italianialondra.com, and he was in contact with them during the day via Chat-room. He admitted that in Chat-room he felt free like with his friends. Fabio did not perceive a difference between his behaviors online and face-to-face because, in Chat-room, he interacted with Italians who already knew him personally. On the contrary, Antonio and Giovanni who did not know the other members face-to-face, played with different characters. Hence, since they argued that they were able to maintain relations with other characters, I would not interpret their behavior like a stimulus to the rooting of social atomism, rather like a substantiation of the human innate self-multiplicity which, if performed in a non harmful way, can help immigrants to reintegrate their native culture. Through the Website the participants reconstructed a group of belonging.
Finally, I think that online the respondents not only let their imagination free and play with roles, but also express their repressed "Italian-self". The participants can benefit when the interaction is successful and rules are respected.
The game is over, when fun becomes insult.
According to Heim virtual technologies assemble monads, fostering fluid and multiple elective affinities that everyday urban life seldom supports. Thus, for him, chatlines may amplify an amoral indifference to human relationships because body absence frees us from the restrictions imposed by our physical identity and the quality of human encounter narrows: you never need to stand face-to-face with other members of the virtual community and you can live your own separate existence without ever physically meeting. Heim thinks that IRC fosters, without the direct experience of the human face, amoral and rude behaviours. It does when, contrary to the examples mentioned below, people do not respect the play frame any longer. It can break down if participants become disturbed or offended by what is happening. In that case, the breaking down of social conventions in digitised communication can, in certain circumstances, have a negative effect. Gianmarco says: "When I am chatting, I see that the other feels freer. It is not my case; I do not need to be behind a computer a screen to feel free. I prefer to communicate via e-mail, I hate chatlines...it is a waste of time. I do not need to socialise, I like to know people in depth and I think that this is possible via chat, but I do not participate really often because I think it is boring. I am not interested in what they say. Anyway, I think that in Chat barriers fall. The first time I dedicated some time to the chat, I was playing with users trying to make everybody angry. A girl from Southern of Italy was talking in dialect and I answered with my Northern Italian dialect. Someone else replied in the same dialect as mine, and at that point the girl from the South felt excluded. She said we were racists. I did not negate and, doubting, everybody got angry...that's a way to know people, because barriers fall, people act by instinct and do not observe educational rules any longer. "Gianmarco played with other users provoking a flame. As in everyday life, life in virtual community is rarely free from conflicts which can be expressed rather brutally in the form of rhetorical diatribes known as "flame", during which several members can flame anyone who disrupts the group's moral rules (Lévy, 2001:109). As Gianmarco argued, users of the Chat-room act by instinct and do not observe educational rules anymore. This sentence can be referred to his flaming behaviour as well. The difference between his and the other subjects behaviours is that Gianmarco does not respect the other. He was not caring about the rules of the game and of the other participants. His is a solitary game, the realisation of a reverie rather than interaction and imagination. Curiously, later in the interview, discussing cultural issues, Gianmarco argued that at work he was very annoyed by the behaviour of Southern Italian colleague since during working hours she was noisy and used to talk loud on the phone. In chat, he realised his desire to exclude the Southern Italian colleague.
Winnicot argues that the difference between imaginative fantasy and reverie is that the imagination, which is shared and negotiated in the relations with others, enriches life with new meanings and gives cues for action, while reverie is the product of isolation that substitute action and it interferes in the psychic balance of the individual. The alienated does not play. He thinks he is playing, but he is just captured by a subjective perception. For this reason, Winnicot sees the therapist as the one who allows the patient to play and make him/her recuperate the shared imaginative dimension (Giuliano: 2000). In the mentioned episode, the respondent logged in the Chat-room and caused annoyance to the members and because of his antisocial behaviour the shared interaction dimension went lost. Gianmarco made all the other chatters hungry, and the game was over. He did it on purpose, since as he said, he usually did not enjoy Chat-room conversations. He was neither "predisposed" to interaction like regular players nor to collaboration. He provoked a situation in which his personal entertainment was detrimental to the entertainment of the rest of the participants rather than being the premise of knowledge and creativity. As a consequence online his performances were occasional. This case confirms that the possibilities inherent in virtuality may provide some people with an excuse for irresponsibility, a framework to do what one can't do in real life fostering, according to Heim, atomism rather than socialization. When fun becomes insult, the community of players scatters. The "narrator" does not respect the discipline of the game (Ludus) any longer and the audience does not share the narrator's imagination anymore. Interaction falls.
The manager of the Website transversally confirmed the existence of these antisocial mechanisms. When I interviewed him, he said that he had to shut down the Chat-room because few characters, who did not allowed other members to interact, had monopolized the conversation.
I argue that the Italianialondra.com Chat-room un-happy-end emblematically represents the end of a game.
In the Chat-room of Italianialondra.com characters with a reputation exist. Like in role games online personae interact and freed their imagination in a shared interaction space.
In order to share the imaginative space, characters collaborate. Particularly in the Chat-room under study, they collaborated to maintain a play frame to have fun and relax.
There, through comparison with other characters, they experimented aspects of the self that would not have emerged in the face-to-face. From imagination emerge a deeper knowledge of the self
Respondents are aware of the play frame. They play with identity and reveal a flexible self which "lines of communication between its various aspects are open" (Turkle, 1997). Like in a game (Caillois, in Giuliano: 2000) the player-actor-narrator has control on the identity multiplication (Ludus)
Through the Chat-room the respondents evaded from restrictions of living in a foreign environment and reconstruct a group of belonging
When imagination is no more shared with others, interaction falls. The game is over
The Net (new environment) emerges as a place to emphasize the vision of the individual as polyvalent entity, as multiple being under construction (old issues). The Net is the alternative place that confirms that the individual has never really existed as a close universe, as a univocal, homogeneous, and always-identical entity. In the Italianialondra.com Website, as within social change that made contemporary reality "fragmented", is just more evident and clear "our" precariousness and "our" hiding that brings to an incessant assertion, construction, and fiction of identity.
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1) Blog is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site. Blogs are typically updated daily using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog. They usually include philosophical reflections, opinions on the Internet and social or political issues. A Blog is often updated daily and contains all information that the person maintaining the BLOG (Blogger) wishes to share with the world.
2) Lifton R.J., The Protean self: human resilience in an age of fragmentation, New York, 1993, pp. 229-232, quoted in Turkle, 1997:258.
About the author
Francesca Romana Seganti is a third year doctoral student in Communication and Media Culture, Department of Applied Social Studies, "London Metropolitan University". She is currently conducting her dissertation research about the implications of traveling and new technologies on the re-construction of identity among young Italians professionals living in London. The author is carrying on a research itinerary began with her degree thesis entitled "New expressions of sociality in the new media age. An anthropological analysis of the cultural change", "Human Science", Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", Italy, Academic Year 2001-2002.