The phenomenon of virtual worlds has attracted millions of users across the globe, who dedicate hours to leading a new life. What exactly is taking place and how might it differ from the traditional physical lived experience? This paper aims to answer such questions by analyzing the form of embodiment which is created when one experiences the virtual world Second Life. Ninoo Nansen, my avatar, is the catalyst of this investigation throughout which I refer to fieldwork notes collected during my ethnographic research in Second Life. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s and Husserl’s theories, I use phenomenological analysis to interpret the data and reveal the intentional structure of the experience of Second Life. I posit that a distinct form of being-in-the-world is here created. For instance, how does the computer recede from the consciousness of the user, who feels that s/he can walk in Second Life when in fact the intention of walking which originates in the user’s body is performed through the movement of fingers on a keyboard that controls the avatar’s movements? I hypothesize that such an experience is still anchored within the user’s physical body and that its relation with the avatar’s body creates the link between the two spaces, physical and virtual. I describe this state as a symbiotic embodied one and term it symbembodiment.
|Keywords:||Virtual World, Embodiment, Second Life, Phenomenology, Being-in-the-world|
Research Assistant, Centre of Theatre and Performance, Centre of Communications and Media, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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