Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Panizza Allmark

Second Advisor

Dr Glen Spoors

Abstract

This work is principally an investigation into visual and screen culture, using four specific regions of the three-dimensional virtual world of ‘Second Life’ as case studies. The analysis follows a thematic application of discourse analysis as a basis for critiquing Western screen culture, most importantly the cultural and social conditions that replicate dominant paradigms of power and agency. Of particular pertinence to this study are the framing, representational and spatial practices of gendered and sexual identities within ‘Second Life’ spaces. As is typical of the internet, sexual freedom is a given, yet representational performance (how one appears through their embodied avatar) is predicated on significations from the corporeal. So, within potentially subversive spaces, there is a normativity that persists which reiterates the ideological foundations of identity that are historically and culturally ascribed to. This is particularly prevalent in gendered representation – avatars tend to hyper-gendered expression and the excesses of Western bodily presentation and adornment, so that bodies are seen to move beyond all biological capacity of attainment. That these representational practices carry over into sexually diverse regions is perhaps unsurprising given that gay and lesbian culture has been in a large way subsumed into contemporary mass culture. It is the tensions that occur as a result of the normative acting upon the subversive that forms the basis of investigation, specifically the relationship between corporeal normativity and screen culture as well as the tensions between cultural conservatism, subversive representation and gender conformity.

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