Second Life, second chance: using virtual worlds to supportwomen returning to SET

Herman, Clem and Peachey, Anna (2011). Second Life, second chance: using virtual worlds to supportwomen returning to SET. In: 6th European Conference on Gender and ICT, 08-10 Mar 2011, Umea, Sweden.

Abstract

Most of the growing body of research that centres on gender in virtual worlds is focused on the performativity and embodiment of gender through experimenting with forms of the avatar (for example Hussain and Griffiths, 2008, Dumitrica and Gaden, 2009), and does not seek to explain how issues relating to physical gender may be explored within the environ- ment other than through manipulation of the avatar. Participants within our study engaged individually with their avatars to varying degrees, but generally there was minimal personalisation and the avatar was predominantly the tool that each used to engage with the environment and each other. We are hence able to privilege a wider range of questions relating to gender that can be addressed using the body of evidence gathered through forum postings, Second Life chat transcripts, survey results and planned telephone interviews:

• To what extent has Second Life fulfilled the needs of returners (eg networking and social contact, supporting their shared experience of ‘being in the same boat’)?
• Have their experiences of SL been more or less gendered than VLE forums?
• Does the gendered choices of avatars affect performance and/or participation in the group?
• How well does Second Life replicate or enhance face to face networking?

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