Thesis

The virtual presentation of self in everyday Second Life

How does social interaction take place within a fully online environment, and what tactics and techniques do users employ to present and manage impressions of self? Within a fully online social interaction site called Second Life, I conducted participant observations over the span of three months for a total of nearly thirty five hours, as well as open ended in-depth interviews with sixteen Second Life users. A dramaturgical analysis is employed to discover the tactics and techniques of the presentation of self and impression management which are utilized in the fully online environment of Second Life. I found that users heavily relied on the defensive practice of perfecting their performance, specifically through five key information carriers: their appearance, profile, displaying bodily control and technical proficiency, correcting chatting techniques, and proper usage of gestures. In addition, residents participated in two protective practices to aid other users in their performance. The first is tactful inattention, essentially turning a blind eye to performance errors, and the second is tactful attention, which is the practice of acknowledging a performance error by providing assistance on how to fix it while at the same time diffusing the gravity of the error. The results of the analysis show that online interaction can be studied with a dramaturgical perspective to uncover the intricacies of the mechanisms of social interaction.

Thesis (M.A., Sociology) -- California State University, Sacramento, 2011.

How does social interaction take place within a fully online environment, and what tactics and techniques do users employ to present and manage impressions of self? Within a fully online social interaction site called Second Life, I conducted participant observations over the span of three months for a total of nearly thirty five hours, as well as open ended in-depth interviews with sixteen Second Life users. A dramaturgical analysis is employed to discover the tactics and techniques of the presentation of self and impression management which are utilized in the fully online environment of Second Life. I found that users heavily relied on the defensive practice of perfecting their performance, specifically through five key information carriers: their appearance, profile, displaying bodily control and technical proficiency, correcting chatting techniques, and proper usage of gestures. In addition, residents participated in two protective practices to aid other users in their performance. The first is tactful inattention, essentially turning a blind eye to performance errors, and the second is tactful attention, which is the practice of acknowledging a performance error by providing assistance on how to fix it while at the same time diffusing the gravity of the error. The results of the analysis show that online interaction can be studied with a dramaturgical perspective to uncover the intricacies of the mechanisms of social interaction.

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