Queered Virtuality: The Claiming and Making of Queer Spaces and Bodies in the User-Constructed Synthetic World of Second Life
This study explores how queer space and queer virtual bodies (avatars) are constructed by queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning) individuals and groups in the user constructed graphical virtual world of Second Life in order to gain a better understanding of how virtual "cultural space" and identity is created and negotiated through particular spatial practices and interrelations between the user and the avatar body. Through spatial analysis, survey data and user interviews, this study determines that the geographic metaphor of simulated space and endlessly mutable virtual bodies provided by Second Life provides a great sense of pleasure and agency for users. Further, Second Life provides for new opportunities for multiplicities of gender and sexual ideation as well as new categories of queer. In addition, particular spatial practices permeate queer spaces that bind them as a fluidic cultural space connected to the larger queer lifeworld. Also, Second Life is particularly valuable for those who are engaged in questioning or transitional sexual ideation. Finally, Second Life exhibits particular aspects that could be leveraged for political action in the future. This study makes clear the importance of graphical virtual spaces for meaning making for their users and points to the potentialities these spaces have as individuals and groups increasingly use these transgeographical spaces for creation and interaction for work and play in the future.
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