Abstract - The Information Society 13(4)

Cyberself: The Emergence of Self in On-Line Chat

Dennis Waskul and Mark Douglass

Expanding computer network technologies have emerged as a popular communication channel for millions of people. Contemporary literature abounds with ideologically biased accounts of on-line interaction that hinder the emergence of a coherent analytical framework. Scholarly work on computer-mediated communicative play remains underdeveloped. Through an empirically grounded theoretical orientation, this study aims to identify and illustrate processes and elements central to the emergence of self in on-line chat environments. By use of an e-mail survey, participant observation, content analysis, and open-ended interviews, the social nature of on-line interaction is illustrated and identified as significantly more than the technological sum of the medium. Findings indicate that through on-line chat-interaction a "cyberself" emerges, rooted in a unique form of communication that is disembodied, dislocated, anonymous, multiple-simultaneous, and faceless. Each of these elements introduces new possibilities to the dramatic nature of on-line interaction, which represents a kind of communication "self-game" where participants enact a multiplicity of selves.

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