Exploring Ethnic Representation in Virtual Worlds

The Ankh

The Ankh taken by donhosho on Flickr

A study from Northwestern University states social and racial biases are carried into virtual worlds; this isn’t surprising. It’s human nature to stick to the familiar, either by engaging in familiar environments or seeking those with like opinions, thoughts and preferences. This is easily seen by the familiar clothing, buildings, and objects (such as cars) that exist in Second Life. By design virtual worlds do not care for each individual thought, opinions or preferences, they are neutral to human subjectivity. They do have parameters users much abide by, usually these parameters do not penalize you for choosing a specific gender, ethnicity or hair color. Virtual worlds are built by humans, all with different point of views, opinions and thoughts lending for the possibilities of differences concerning the choice of one’s gender, ethnicity or creature.

The representation of ethnicity and avatars does play out in very interesting ways. The same way men create female avatars in virtual worlds, ethnic identity is carried out in very similar but more complex fashion. Like the ability to represent one’s gender in a virtual world, ethnic identification is just as important. Many develop a bond with their virtual avatar as it is a representation of their own identity. In order to delve into the differences of ethnic identity in virtual world, I believe there are four factors to example: accessibility, preference and perception, life experiences, and “the goal.”
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