Sunday, May 11, 2008

BYBS: Roles & the Internet

More specifically, I'm referring to taking on a persona or playing a role on the internet or a computer game. This also applies to things like discussion groups, chat rooms, etc.

Social Psychology/Sociology has quite a few studies and theories regarding roles. What I think the internet and computer games brought to the table is the notion of a "virtual role." Things like "massively multi-player online role-playing games" are social in nature with real (or real enough) people using them. In this context, people can take on a role and then walk away from it.

This aspect has interesting ramifications in that people can therefore act like total freaks, fools, saints, devils, etc. in short, they can attempt to take on whatever role they want to. This allows one to experiment with different roles in social contexts without real danger, though there are social consequences in the online world too.

The ability to experiment with roles is not itself new, but the ability to do so in a situation where one's physical aspects may not be the same as those of the role is at least newish. Someone who thinks that they are unattractive can play the role of an attractive person. Someone who is physically weak can play the role of a strong person. Someone with a stutter can speak perfectly.

With these blessings, however, come several curses. In the case of taking on roles in this setting, you have hecklers, rabble rousers, etc. Furthermore there are the people who want to stay with their online role instead of making real-world changes.

I regard the ability of being able to experiment with negative roles to be valuable as well. How do people really react to what amounts to a criminal? Do these bad guys always get punished? Are there benefits to being "good?"

I'm usually in favor of knowledge, so I come down on the "blessing" side of the equation. What do you think?


SandyCarlson said...

Your blog post is my first exposure to these things. The idea of it is intriguing. My limited mind thinks of the bloggers with the templates that have silhouettes of svelte women that look nothing like them. Or the avatars...But I think role-playing games that open the mind to different perspectives can be invaluable.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment on my copyright post. You got where I was coming from and where hogwash was coming from, and I appreciate your addition to that conversation.

God bless.

CyberCelt said...

I think it is easier for us to take on roles online. In the real, it is too easy to be called out by someone who knows you.

Wow, you are better than a cup of coffee in getting my mind cranking. LOL

Sue said...

Great food for thought! And that alone makes the topic worthwhile, and a blessing :)

Happy BYB Sunday!

Tanis said...

hey you,
I think that role playing in a rpg can be quite valuable, but so is taking a step back and being yourself.

anyone can be anything they want in the online world, to anybody they want. from the eeeeevil genius to the prejudicial hater of small people, to the guy that you see behind it all with the amazing sense of humor, it's nice to see all of it from the point of view that it's all part of the same person. 90% of all jokes are made in all seriousness, and the roles that people take on will usually reflect a part of the person that the player wants to be.

Having said all that, because people can be whatever they want to be online, it takes all that much more convincing to get people to believe you are what you are when you want them to know who/what/where you are. People could tell you that they're super wonderful non stalkers, and should you believe them? Super murderer over there could tell you he's a fourteen year old girl. role playing can be a form of self-protection as well. The sixteen year old girl could tell you she's an axe murderer, just so you get off her case.
anyways, rambling now. You know what I mean.
Talk soon,

Paulie said...

Gosh . . . I am the same person online as I am off. I don't play a role to attract others. What you"see" is what you get. The only exception to this is that it is a photo of my twin and I at 5 years of age with my name.

You remarked on my blog that I should put a photo f th bookmarks on it. I did. Maybe they didn't download fr you? Come back and see. The top photo is the BYB Sunday logo and the next photo is the bookmark in two styles.