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Title: Performative identity and the embodied avatar : an online ethnography of Final Fantasy XIV
Author: Hutchinson, Emma Jane
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores the performative enactment of identity and embodiment through an online ethnography of the online game Final Fantasy XIV. It is argued that online identity must be viewed as performative, that is, enacted through speech and action, and embodied via the avatar, which acts as a body project for the player. The avatar identity is also constrained by the notion of authentic identity, which denotes how a single body is expected to hold a single identity. The thesis makes contributions to three areas. Firstly, in substantive terms, the thesis contributes original sociological knowledge of online social interaction, drawn from an online game and its related spaces, which remain under-researched sociologically. Secondly, the thesis makes a theoretical contribution through a theoretical framing of how online, embodied identity is achieved in an online game in a performative fashion, which is centred on the body of the avatar, coupled with the speech and actions of the player. Finally, the thesis also offers a methodological contribution through its original use of photo elicitation in online interviews, and furthers the debates around (online) ethnography. An 11 month programme of fieldwork was undertaken, comprising 36 asynchronous, image elicitation interviews, extensive participant observation of the game over the 11 months, and observation of the official forum lasting nearly six months. The thesis concludes that online identity and embodiment in these spaces are heavily constrained by norms drawn from everyday life, such as heteronormativity, and racism. The game design is also influenced by the developers‟ norms and values, such as the avatar appearance. The possibilities for performative identity and embodiment are severely constrained by the community, who reify the game space as separate from “real” life and reject the inclusion of non-normative avatars.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GV Recreation Leisure ; HM Sociology