Avatars by Nicola Marae Allain
Avatars by Nicola Marae Allain

EDU-681122 Digital Identity and Virtual Communities

A graduate course in the Master of Arts in Learning and Emerging Technologies (MALET) at Empire State College, State University of New York.

This site provides resources and additional information for the Digital Identity Role-Play Research and Virtual Communities Participant/Observation assignments in the course.

Instructor Information

  • Name: Nicola Marae Allain, PhD.
  • Email: nicola.allain@esc.edu

Course Description:

Students will examine what constitutes digital identity and virtual communities, and how they blur boundaries between private, public, and personal spheres. They will analyze issues related to digital identity management, such as engaging multiple representations of the self, the ethics and implications of being active in digital social media, and the establishment of telepresence. Readings and research for the course will include historical and current developments in regulatory environments, legislation and policies related to digital identity and virtual communities. Learning activities will include a phenomenological analysis of identity development in virtual worlds, immersive role play, a comparative analysis of two personal digital identities, participant/observation in a virtual community, “live” roundtable discussions in virtual worlds, and final project that may be creative, a case study, analytical, or research focused. Students will be expected to meet in real-time in virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. discuss theories and methods in the study of digital identity and virtual communities, related issues, and ethical considerations
  2. explore different virtual worlds with diverse avatar embodiments
  3. ethically conduct human subject research in virtual environments
  4. undertake phenomenological analyses of digital identities in virtual settings.
  5. apply ethnographic participant observation research methods to the study of virtual communities and environments
  6. write descriptive ethnographic field notes, and analyze and interpret their research findings.

Course Texts:

Boellstorff, T. et al. Ethnography and virtual worlds: A handbook of method. (2012). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. Paperback or ebook edition.
ISBN 978-0691149516

Poletti, A., & Rak, J. (2014). Identity technologies: Constructing the self online. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. Paperback or ebook edition.
ISBN 978-0299296445

Song, F. W. (2009). Virtual communities: Bowling alone, online together. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Paperback or ebook edition. ISBN 978-1433103957

and selected readings researched by the students.