The paradox of computer-mediated communication and identity: Peril, promise and second life

Lynnette G. Leonard, Lesley A. Withers, John C. Sherblom

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Past research on the effects of computer-mediated communication (CMC) on identity has focused either on the inherent risks or opportunities it provides. The authors argue that the paradox within the nature of CMC has led to paradoxical predictions about the effects of CMC on identity. Rather than adopting a naïve perspective focusing on only one side of the paradox, the authors take a view of technological realism in which the paradox is embraced. Guided by these views, the authors analyze 59 students' papers reflecting on their identity choices in the creation and development of a Second Life avatar. Second Life is a three-dimensional (3D) multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) in which users create avatars (called "residents") to explore, interact with other residents, learn, recreate, and shop with the local currency (i.e., Linden Dollars; Using the constant comparative method for thematic content, themes supporting a paradox of CMC effects on identity are identified from the student papers. The implications of a view of technological realism are offered.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterpersonal Relations and Social Patterns in Communication Technologies
Subtitle of host publicationDiscourse Norms, Language Structures and Cultural Variables
PublisherIGI Global
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9781615208272
StatePublished - 2010


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