Digital Gender: Construction, Performance and Experience in Second Life
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The purpose of this study was to address the social construction, performance and experience of digital gender in the 3D immersive environment known as Second Life. To do this, this study explored the digital experiences of 75 community college students using Second Life in the Simulation and Game Development Initiative (SGDI) of the Summer 2010 term. Analysis of data obtained via a multimethod approach, which included online questionnaires and forum posts, revealed the background and demographic information of the SGDI students. A focus group, consisting of seven of these students, provided the rich qualitative data that addressed the three research questions of this study. These research questions asked how digital gender was created in Second Life, what the affects of digital gender are in Second Life and what the effects of digital gender are in the physical world. Issues of gender ideology, hypersexualization, gender social order, gendered media violence, and the commodification of digital gender provided context to the research questions of this study. Additionally, these issues pointed to a significant gap in the literature surrounding gender theory, media studies, and digital culture scholarship. They revealed an overlap between disciplines and illustrated a need for connection when examining the cultural intersection between digital and physical reality.