Monday, May 21, 2007

Project Proposal: Investigating Gender Dynamics in Second Life

We tend to categorize human beings according to gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, nationality, social class, occupation, etc. In Second Life people are defined primarily by what they reveal in-game: which ultimately comes down to avatar appearance. Moreover, appearance of avatars is immensely malleable.

Accordingly, for my project I am going to focus on sex and race in Second Life. I am also going to add an innovative approach by reading a wealth of journalistic blogs from Second Life players in an effort to explore other player’s gender experiences in Second Life. Thus my project will rely on blogs to study gender relations in Second Life.

I also want to explore what aesthetics come into play in terms of avatar attractiveness. For example, how does the furry subculture of avatars differ from the white female avatars or the harajukou female avatars? Are male avatars more attracted to the furry females or the white females?

There are a variety of sites dedicated to Linden bloggers, and a lot of bloggers tailor their writings to their experiences with gender in Second Life. I am planning on changing my avatars look and seeing how people respond in-world to her various appearances. I am hoping to be able to discover if the same standards of beauty that we venerate in the real world are still manifested in the virtual world. For example, when conducting research I found a study that concluded that males stand further away when talking to other males in the virtual world of Second Life and are less likely to keep eye contact, which reveals one aspect of human behavior carries over into the virtual realm.

Nevertheless, a crucial element of my project will be the various blogs about experiences in Second Life. Blogging is a way for individuals to articulate their emotions, and by studying a multitude of blogs, I am hoping to discover common themes and trends about gender relations in Second Life. I have already gathered a variety of interesting blogs including:

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