Digital Life

Chats and Games and their exemplary effects on the identify development and identity analysis of children and adolescents

Scientific Essay, 2010

12 Pages


Table of Contents

Basics of digital Identity Analysis

The Intrinsic Motivation

Conclusion: Results of ethnographical analysis and the resulting recommended actions


Users are the web’s social beings and thus they turn it into a social web. Every day the Internet is becoming interesting to more and more users, due to the fact that it does not only offer special technique orientated contents but also generally interesting possibilities like online banking, shopping, and chats. This leads to the problem that humanity’s hundred—year-old rules, norms and education will face still unknown challenges. There has been (and there still is) a splitting up of different techniques, which eventually network back together. Thus, an average user can easily feel overwhelmed. Consequently, procedures are needed to solve these new problems. At this point, a sociological and psychological identity analysis can always be used as an outstandingly important starting point, because identity is a central starting point of analog and digital actions. The objective is to provide analyses to help the user which should be drafted in this article.

Basics of digital Identity Analysis

At this point, the identity analysis can always be used as an outstandingly important starting point, because identity is a central starting point of analog and digital actions. At present, identity is characterized by elements, which have been transferred to the digital world or originated out of it. The central element of the identity development is one’s own action. Digital identity only works within and with others. Thus, one important question arises by looking at this thesis from end to beginning: is life possible without digitality? The only answer possible to this question is: no. We can assume that the current developments cannot be reversed. Individual withdrawal from digitality would be a withdrawal from society and this would be unrealistic. One can neither directly nor indirectly escape from digitization. A counter‑movement, a web 0.0, cannot be expected. But why is it necessary to make a digital identity analysis today, at the age of the 24-hour-banking-terminals, mobile phones and spam, virus and spyware attacks? Aren’t we online quite often? Don’t we mail, write, send text-messages, chat, flirt ambitiously? Doubtlessly, the digital use of media has increased tremendously and surely we have adapted ourselves with the numerous possibilities, but this does not mean what so ever, that we are really able to manage the digitization. Having in mind Foucault, the aspect of self submission becomes quite interesting as we have an inversion of the relations: today, it is no longer the internalization of rules, but the input of information and communication technology which stand in the foreground. The compulsions prevail and identity constructions often follow an authoritarian character. We do not have useful rules and norms, which would help us tremendously in the digital space, but we need those rules urgently. Thus, it is about knowledge, which has been empirically proven, of high quality and field-proven. Consequently, interweaved solutions should be offered, which are theoretical and practical at the same time; and we need a new understanding of the digitization of our life worlds (and thus of our identities). At the same time, some central key points of the current identity analysis should be pointed out as, for example, the construction power. The digital space brings along new general frameworks and measurements, which accordingly demand new actions and flexibility from the individual. Secondly, the negotiation of conflicts is important. The individual will have to endure tension and conflicts, which is - considering to contemporary and generally known problems of children and adolescents – a challenge that should not be underestimated. Furthermore, there is also the capacity to act, which marks the functionalities of the identity work - to the inside as well as to the outside - for the action of the subject (Keupp, 1999, p. 216 f.) If the construction power is „round“ and stable, the basis for feeling the capacity to act can develop, which makes it possible to act in a representative and promising way within the social necessary framework but also in means of personal objectives. In addition, the available technical and competence orientated resources - above all the financial ones - are knowledge-based and structural resources. An accordant narration has to be done – without it the identity construction cannot be imagined. Finally, it has to be asked how the individual achieves coherence in the digital space. In other words, how does he achieve a harmonious identity result, which deals successfully with the specialties of the digital world and which brings together the online and the offline worlds? Furthermore, it is relevant to know how the individual achieves autonomy, which is mainly fed by acknowledgement. This is a special challenge in the new worlds of chats and games. Therefore, not only technical acknowledgements have to be assessed – the mastering of the computer – but social skills have to be used successfully in the digital room. (Keupp, 1999, p. 189 f.) More than ever this acknowledgement is a question of negotiation – especially in the not yet sufficiently determined social framework as the digital life world (Keupp, 1999, p. 268) – and the lack of acknowledgement can cause harm. (Taylor, 1993, p. 13 f.) This is valid, for example, when individuals are assigned by the dominant group to less acknowledged groups. This can, surely, be done the easy way: „The purchasable identities, which are offered by the market, come complete with the etiquette of social acceptance. Those characteristics are tagged to them beforehand. The uncertainty concerning the viability of the self-constructed identity and the agony of searching for acknowledgement can be spared. Identi-kits and life-style symbols are reinforced by people with authority and by commercial advertisement; consequently, an impressively large amount of people accept them. Thus, social acknowledgement does not have to be achieved by negotiations – it is, so to say, right from the start “installed“ into the product available on the market.” (Bauman, 1995, p. 250)

Whether the Identity-kit is chosen or whether a personal search is preferred: it has to be observed why the result of the identity work seems to be coherent to the individual, which means: authority is transmitted. Attention has to be paid in order to observe the framework requirements, which give the individual a sense of authority. Thus, core elements of classical identity analysis and identity work have been named and they have a specific role in the digital room. Below it will be shown, by selected examples, how digital behavior of children and adolescents develop and how they should be assessed against this background.

The Intrinsic Motivation

Users meet in Chats or in a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) to have fun, to get in touch with other people, or to discover new things. Naturally, romantic corners can also be found within those play grounds. In the past, here and there it was quite popular to deny the real component – thus the romanticism – to the “pure virtually” romance, as those can only take place in “real life”. By now, the majority of the people should have realized that, firstly, the characteristics of a romantic net relationship definitely allow romanticism in the common meaning of the word; and, secondly, that net romances are not virtual but just as real as, for instance, a flirt at work or at school. After all, a division of digital and non-digital life worlds is no longer possible and the interaction always occurs between people and not between people and machines. Romanticism is not defined by the importance of the medium (Hinde, 1993). Thus, there is no sense in contrasting virtual and real relationships to each other and it is neither disputable nor necessary (Döring, 1999, p. 68). It is probably not an exception to see that online relationships of different types of media lead to the real world. (What becomes of those relationships afterwards is definitely another question). Somebody who is aiming for “more” in an online-flirt would probably – as we may assume – not act very differently once he has “caught fire” due to the impressions and experiences if another type of medium was used. This is not about a comfortable, adequate and welcomed concept of relationships which have to be won (thus to love “online” or “offline” and to decide one of the two possibilities by contrasting them). Faraway from a not desired pathology, the objective of a relationship can only be to experience the exciting other person some day as an integral individual; which means without experiencing a channel reduction that comes along with the media. And thus, the contrasting and the latent danger of manifesting the concept of online and offline relationships seem rather obstruct. It has to be admitted: at first glance the possibilities in a chat room seem to differ tremendously from the ones of a face to face dialogue. It seems to be depending on the channel, that above all the variability of the sustentative communication markers of structural and technical character exceeds clearly the direct face-to-face communication (Sassen, 1999, p. 90). Technical circumstances form the communication to a considerable degree, for example, in IRC or SMS, and consequently new language and behavior styles are created (Sassen, 1999, p. 105). Already the nickname is characterized through the information transfer and thus adds to the perception of the particular identity. However, the question once more is posed, in how far is a contrasting of online and offline relationships (whether of colleagues, friends or romanticists) helpful once the impression is established that the balance of challenges and adaptation is always to be kept? (Sassen, 1999, p. 106) When difficult obstacles have to be passed in order to always top the content of the last message and thus to maintain the interest in, for instance, the “Feature IRC”, it seems to make more sense to communicate directly by using the common interpersonal medium. This one has the same contents as the face to face dialogue, a letter or a videoconference. The channel does not automatically create worthwhile content, and thus again, contrasting online relationships against offline relationships seems to be of no use. The attractions of those offers lie in the fact that the person does not operate alone, against or together with a computer but that one is actually experimenting with the contact to other people. How do people experience, form and asset a chat? Information about this can be seen in the impulse, the attention, and the contribution to dedicate oneself to actions which are known from the “real life” (Runkehl, Schlobinski & Siever, 1998, p. 116). Thus, the dialogue in IRC or MMORPG completes the converse argument of already existing communication forms. Interesting is, above all, the (technical) specification and the fact that chatters always enter consciously into a dialogue with other people. Consequently, it is assumed that they are keeping in mind the specifics of the channel; nevertheless, they are aiming at one objective, which would not be very different if other channels were used. Therefore, observing chat and game worlds in the digital space serves several functions. It does not only disprove, bit by bit, the thesis of an “artificial communication” (Klemm, Graner, 1999, p. 177) but through means of measurements it helps exploring and searching for possibilities in the digital space (Gräf, Krajewski, 1997, p. 8). Thus, the possibility is given to complete a mosaic, counteracting actively against the speculations, which arise in unattractive debates about the negative sides of the Internet. An investigation about the chat nature and especially about the chat identity can help to clear up assumptions and often not clearly outlined fragments of facts. At the beginning the process’ focus lies in the technique: a chat is a form of communication in which two or more people communicate with each other. Mainly this communication is text-based, although audio and video communications are also possible and can also be found in the everyday life; however, at the moment the emphasis is still not at this point (but offers like Chatroulette become more and more interesting). In chats the writing is dominant. Games, in contrast, are marked the other way around: here, the graphical element stands out – the chat is meant for a quick dialogue (Half-Life) respectively for an additional humoring, social element (Second Life). The special kick is in the opulent arrangements and implementations of the content in those games, their aspects of networking, which has lead to a decoupling of a space which before was only limitedly bridgeable; and, furthermore, it opened new dimensions of the game culture. If social skills are observed, the question about addiction comes up, which becomes obvious in chats, for example with regard to the social contacts or, in other words, when the chat is preferred to a face to face dialogue. Fading out the life world challenges can lead to a contorted perception with all its according handicaps. A similar situation can be found in the area of Ego shooters and role plays but also in the area of gambling, which means online casinos and poker games; they have all been experiencing great popularity in the last few years. The question of the role in the chat is especially imminent when talking about fan chats, for instance. Group chats within a club membership, ethnical affiliation or one’s own allocation fall into this dimension. Among the games, once more ego shooters and role plays should be mentioned as there is always a special role to take on and this deserves a directed observation. The question about anonymity in a chat concerns everything that one cannot or must not do in the “real world”: to flirt with ease, to badger, to curse, “to step out of line” etc. Anonymity also plays a role in gaming: Ego shooters, role games and gambling profit from pseudonymity and anonymity, as they lose social inhibitions and avoid legal hurdles. In addition, the individual is giving the possibility to develop, for instance, the uninhibited gambling for people addicted to gambling.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Digital Life
Chats and Games and their exemplary effects on the identify development and identity analysis of children and adolescents
University of the Arts Berlin
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ISBN (Book)
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Identität, Identitätsmanagement, Internetsoziologie, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants
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Dr. Stephan Humer (Author), 2010, Digital Life, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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