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Identity refers to the similarity between two qualities either of persons or objects. In this case, we will discuss how identity is formed in America, how the Americans develop their personalities. It is called individuation. In America, individuation is done on the screen using simulations and games such as MUDS. MUDS are abbreviations for multi user dungeon. I will discuss how Americans use MUDS to form their identity. The advantages and disadvantages of these simulations and whether or not they affect the lives of the Americans either positively or negatively. Identity is done on the internet using computers as explained in life on the screen by Sherry Turkle.
The use and development of computers has played a big part in making people from children to adults change or shape their way of thinking. This is to reflect the way computers work. Computers have in the recent past in America played a major part in not only changing lives and the way of lives but also selves. By use of internet, computers link us to multimillion other users on the internet. These users help us change the way we think. Life on the screens helps us display what we portray ourselves and the way we wish our lives should be. It is a simulation of us. (Turkle)
Windows have played a major role in making us think the self being as a multiple. It has decentralized the self of Americans. Just as a computer opens windows self is like one of the windows. In the book “life on the screen” several examples have been given to describe how identity of Americans has been compared to simulations and games such as MUDS. Children while playing these games think that computers can think and have personality but do not worry if the machines themselves are alive. The children view these machines as having intentions as well as ideas. These children seem to split consciousness and life. The speaking and singing on these machines is viewed as consciousness. They think life is things like being born having skin and blood. In the example of children above Americans form their identity by comparing themselves to these machines. (Jekyll and Hyde)
The Americans see the machines as having a certain level of intelligence and as a result, relate with them. They fail to recognize that computers cannot be born they do not feel pain or loss and cannot die. According to Robbie Simlife creatures can move online as long as one has a modem that is not switched off. Seam also described the mobility of these creatures by comparing them to a computer virus, once the virus is put on a disk it can be moved or transferred from one machine to another showing that they have mobility. These creatures tend to change the way Americans think of their status and themselves because of the sameness between the qualities.
According to life on the screen Americans also compare themselves with the robots. They say that robots are conscious and have intentions but are not alive which explains that life is just biological. As in the given example of Pinocchio, robots are like Pinocchio but not real boys. In these MUD games, players are mostly expressing themselves or their feelings using the written languages. These MUD games help Americans play with their identity and also explore new ones. In these games, the virtual characters talk or converse with each other. Americans will display aspects about themselves on the MUD games. (Turkle)
Most Americans using MUD log from different places. A player may create different characters and when this is done the self is not only decentralized but also becomes many selves. They split their minds by having or acting as different characters portraying different characteristics. MUD is advantageous in that: it is a good aspect in building the identity of people in this case Americans; MUD enables them to play with their identity; a MUD can actually reflect whom a person wishes to be and the life he or she wishes to live; in MUD one portrays the experiences one wishes to have in real life. One of the characters Stewart as explained in life on the screen was able to use MUD and despite being disabled able to express himself, date and even have a girl out without physically being with the girl. He created a version of himself that is better than the real Stewart. He organizes his room well and even puts a roaring fire in his room. This simply displays the kind of life Stewart wishes to have which is just like an imagination. He was able to meet and engage on the net.
However, forming the identity on MUD by Americans has got disadvantages. If we reflect on the case of Stewart, mudding made him feel worse about himself and his condition simply of the reason that he cannot do those things he does on the net in real life. It lowered his self esteem. Most people are not real as they are simply cross-dressing. Cross dressing is a situation where one is a male but while mudding he is a female. This cross dressing is difficult as it is not easy to impersonate a woman while one is a man and vice versa. This cross-dressing has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is it balances the gender of the mudders. MUD is addictive and makes people remain stuck in that mudding game for a long time making even people stagnates in life. Americans who try to take virtual things to the real world end up being disappointed as it is not possible. It also brings emotional pain. (Jekyll and Hyde)
Americans, both men and women use mudding as a way of trying to understand how genders think and talk about the opposite genders. Women who personify themselves as men try to be rigid and firm. A woman who muds as a man is able to talk to a fellow man and see how men talk about women. The act of having sex while mudding is also there. It poses a difficult question as to whether a person who writes erotic messages is being unfaithful or not. Is this virtual infidelity? A partner will definitely feel paranoid when he or she realizes his or her partner who is always mudding is indulging in virtual sex or not. It is difficult to decide whether a partner is unfaithful when he or she writes erotic messages.
In conclusion, Americans formation of identity is there and should try and understand it well and use it to their advantage. This will be possible by the Americans understanding the different senses created while mudding like uncomfortable relief and panic and try to get the best out of these senses to better their real lives. In order to get the best from the virtual, they have to have a good understanding of themselves. Experience gained in the virtual world should be used to transform them and make life better. (Turkle)
Jekyll and Hyde. Strange Case. London: Longman, Green and Company, 1886.
Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen. New York: The Condé Nast Publications Inc., 2004.