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Cyberpsychol Behav. 2001 Feb;4(1):109-22.

Strategic identities in cyberspace.

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Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, University of Rome, Italy.


This paper aims at describing, according to the recent advances in social psychology and Computer Mediated Communication, how identities are perceived and constructed in cyberspace. All interactions analyzed in this study were performed within "Euroland," a collaborative virtual environment. The interacting community was composed of students, teachers, and researchers working on a transnational educational project. Practices and dialogues within Euroland are analyzed using an ethnographic and conversational method. A sample of discourses and actions that occurred during 8 months of time, selected according to the research aims, was analyzed. During online connections, users were personified by an "Avatar." Avatars are able to walk, fly, and look around the virtual world. They are also able to build and manipulate three-dimensional objects, perform virtual actions, and chat with other connected users. Results showed that "Eurolanders" showed and constructed their identities using strategic "positioning" depending on the interactive situation. Identities are thus dynamic and strongly related to the context, created and constantly recreated by the users. It is concluded that specific features offered by the Euroland environment are exploited by the users as resources to play with, while moving from one strategic positioning to another. Cyber identities involve resources given by specific technological tools and by community. The cyber-identity construction process seems to be highly congruent to the advances in the dialogical perspective in psychology, where identities are considered in their conceptualizations as multiple, "multivoiced," "positioned," and context-dependent.

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