The simulation of selfhood in cyberspace

Denise Michelle Dalaimo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


The first part of this paper is a socio-historical inquiry into various conceptions of self and selfhood from ancient to postmodern times. Part two is the product of ethnographic research conducted on the Internet which examines the simulation and evocation of selfhood in Cyberspace. Specific "Cyburgs" examined include electronic mail, newsgroups, discussion lists, and multi-user realities. While "results" as such were not expected--nor desired--an evocation of this particular ethnographic experience reveals that Cyberspace is the ultimate environment for the nourishment of the fragmented, multi-phrenic, contradictory postmodern self. Visual anonymity and lack of social status cues allow the user to experiment with different aspects of selfhood, as well as to "disguise" him/herself completely. Consistent with previous research on the increase in uninhibited behavior in computer-mediated communication, there was a significant fascination with virtual act of Cyber-sex. Lastly, gender differences in communication do seem to carry over into Cyberspace, and although women can change log-ins to gender neutral names to avoid discrimination and/or harassment, this is not the norm, and usually occurs only in severe cases.