The Social Construction of Virtual Reality and the Stigmatized Identity of the Newbie

Robert E. Boostrom, Jr.


Persistent virtual spaces are becoming available to users, often for free, via internet connections. Due to the immersive character and malleability of these communities, new forms of technology-mediated social interaction are emerging. In this paper, ethnographic research done in Second Life is used to outline (1) how the reality within these virtual worlds is constructed, (2) what role elements of the secondary socialization play in these groups, and (3) the way the stigmatized identity of the neophyte user, the “newbie,” is conceptualized, confronted and addressed by virtual world residents. This research suggests ways of viewing consumer behavior within virtual worlds and further social research directions.


virtual worlds; newbie; social constructionism; secondary socialization; stigma

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