Virtually Real Education and Identity: (Re)Forming New Media Terminology

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New Media educators have a responsibility to not only describe reality, but to do so using terminology that is accurate and specific. This is particularly true for emerging terminologies related to the “realities” of identity formation, as virtual education and New Media educational technologies become more and more prominent. In What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, James P. Gee established the identity theoretical construct of real-world identity, virtual identity, and projective identity to articulate the connectedness between video games and their users. This presentation problematizes the binary of “real-world” and “virtual” by arguing that virtual identities may be as real to users as their non-virtual identities. To support this claim, the presentation analyzes users of the video-roleplaying game Morrowind. Morrowind allows users much freedom to customize their diegetic avatars. As a result, many users identify strongly with their virtual identities. Testimonials from Morrowind users are analyzed to demonstrate the connections between users’ virtual and non-virtual identities. In addition, this presentation explores the theoretical concept of “identity” to demonstrate how virtual identities (like Morrowind avatars) may be just as theoretically “real” as non-virtual identities.

As a result of these analyses, this presentation will argue for the creation of two new terminological binaries to strengthen New Media educational study. First, this presentation recommends replacing the term “real-world” with “non-virtual”; this new binary focuses on technological and physical differences between virtual and non-virtual identities and experiences rather than on the “realness” of those experiences. Second, this presentation recommends the adoption of a new term: “verisimulacratude.” This term, used to describe how users identify and become immersed in video games set in fantastical simulacra-like gameworlds, could be paired with verisimilitude to aid New Media educators to more accurately reflect on, describe, and evaluate the identity formation in virtual spaces.


Keywords: New Media, Identity, Virtual Identity, Video Games
Stream: Technology in Learning; Maths, Science and Technology Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Zach Waggoner

Lecturer, Department of English, Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona, USA

Zach Waggoner received his PhD from Arizona State University. His research interests include video game rhetoric, computers and writing, technological interfaces, and the rhetoric of gender in society. Dr. Waggoner teaches a variety of composition and rhetoric courses for ASU’s Writing Programs, ranging from first-year composition to video game theory. Originally from Illinois, Zach received his BAS and MA from Western Illinois University.

Ref: L09P0154