Navigating Life as an Avatar: The Shifting Identities-in-Practice of a Girl Player in a Tween Virtual World
Constructing Identity in a Digital World
C.C Ching, & B. Foley
In this chapter we study how one girl learned to participate in what was for her a new setting of play – a virtual world called Whyville.net with an emphasis on science education, populated by over a million young people ages eight to sixteen. Girls in particular have become prominent players in virtual worlds, a trend counter to many early observations that documented the absence of girls and women in gaming and technology at large (e.g., Cassell & Jenkins, 1998). The study of virtual worlds as play spaces then allows us to continue a conversation about gender and gaming to understand better “which games [girls] play, why and with whom, and whether they take advantage of in-game opportunities to generate, not just consume game experiences” (Kafai, Heeter, Denner, & Sun, 2008, p. xviii). Further, because Whyville is a new social world for kids who participate, it provides a unique opportunity to study identity construction, or how participants on Whyville shape and are shaped as certain sorts of people through interaction with others (Gee, 2000/2001).
Fields, D. A. & Kafai, Y. B. (2012). Navigating life as an avatar: The shifting identities-in-practice of a girl player in a tween virtual world. In C. C. Ching & B. Foley (Eds.) Constructing the self in a digital world, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 222-250.