Constructing identities in Second Life: The challenge of representation in cyberspace | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1757-191X
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1928



This article centres on understanding the issues of representation involved during identity construction in Second Life, and how it applies to virtual worlds more broadly. After a review of traditional and new media literature, the author examines several threads within the Second Life Community Forum related to race, ethnicity and gender bias among residents over a nearly four year period of time. Appearance, most notably skin colour, has been one of the most significant points raised (and argued) during forum discussions. The authors propose a duality of outcomes for virtual world participants; while there may be benefits of experimentation, such experiences do not lend themselves towards the actualization of a utopian society free of discrimination and cultural barriers. Second Life, in particular, offers some promise towards better understanding the dynamics contributing towards authenticity in identity construction and representation, and offers members opportunities to view others outside of their individual lens and social sphere. Challenges remain in real and virtual worlds, and cultural exchanges in (or perceptions of) both should be further examined.


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