Cyberspace, Internet communities and the self
New echnosocial possibilities for identity
Why do people decide to enter the computer screen and start to live a virtual life? Is their new identity really opposed to the old, the «real» one? What happens to the body? Do they really leave it behind? Going beyond the binary logic that opposes virtuality to reality, machine to body, individuality to collectivity and community to society, the author discusses computer-mediated environments in which technosociality regulates individual and collective behaviours. Seduced by the erotic invisibility of cyberspace, people cross it in order to fulfil those expressive needs that everyday life leaves unsatisfied. Thus, they play with their identities, explore new selves and gather together in new forms of collectivity, the process of wearing multiple masks going hand-in-hand with the creation of a new tribalism. As users cannot stop experiencing their physical existence, nor cease to «belong» to a variety of communities, technosocial interaction is governed by normative and ritual attitudes close to those that regulate face-to-face relationships, but implying a different degree of trust and risk. The computer screen ultimately acts as a liminal site where the boundary between real and virtual collapses, and new cultural, social and psychological meanings emerge. On the human/machine interface lies a whole range of alternative lifestyles, made available by the encounter between decentred subjects and new technologies.
Anna Maria Pecci (1970), cultural anthropologist, was an interne at the Musée d'ethnographie of Neuchâtel in 1997. In 1999 she was awarded a MA in International Cultural Studies at the Nottingham Trent University (UK). She is currently doing research on urban displays.
Address: Via Aurelia 532, 00165 Roma, Italy.