Saturday, June 9, 2007

Josh's Hypertext

As I mentioned in class, my hypertext is about flaming and new identity creation. It seems not many people are realizing the responsibility maintaining their numerous identities involves. Most online discussion boards are reminiscent of war zones, with flames and insults being thrown left and right. Perfectly decent people turn into vicious fonts of hatred and vitriol as all restraint is lost. This hypertext seeks to examine why this occurs, and the process of creating a new identity that differs so much from one’s real life identity.

To do so, I examined not only the academic research behind the subject, but also a few actual examples from the Naruto Collectible Card Game online community. As a judge and tournament organizer for this game, I am expressly aware of the changes that occur. These are people I see every week who are very nice people – but when I see them participate in discussion boards and chat rooms, it’s as if I barely know them. The identities they have created online are dramatically different from the identities they project in real life. These examples culled from real situations perhaps are the most common situations one will find on the Internet – quiet, socially awkward teenage males attempting to escape from their dreary lives by creating a new life online.

There actually have been a few studies done on the subject of flame wars, as it is a very rampant problem on the Internet. Possible reasons why flaming occurs and why it is so widespread include anonymity, gender interactions, the faceless nature of the Internet, and the ease of overexpression of emotion. As a result of the sheer amount of flaming that happens, there have also been methods developed to combat destructive flame wars that either rip groups apart or can bring down a public figure.

The personal focus of my paper is on a few people, aged 13 to 25, who partake in the aformentioned online discussion boards for the Naruto card game. I know all of these people personally in real life, and interact with them nearly every weekend. Because of this, I have noticed a large discrepancy from their offline behavior and their online actions. Offline, they are well behaved, quiet, and decent people, whereas online they flame, they make fun of people, and are loudmouth, brash jerks. Some of them recognize this problem and have attempted to rectify it (with some success), while others are still flaming away regularly while being very nice people offline. My hypertext is focused on these people, and why their behavior can change so radically when they sit in front of a computer.

It's been a great quarter... I hope everyone has an amazing summer!

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