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【報告】17th TCCP Colloquium: Virtual Space and Human Self – effects, problems and solutions

2010.02.22 筒井晴香, イヴァ・ゲオルギエヴァ, 脳科学と倫理

In the 17th colloquium of TCCP, Iva Georgieva gave a paper on the problems of human identity in the virtual space. It was based on the Sherry Turkle's book Life On the Screen: Identity in the Age of Internet.

The presented research study focuses on the significance of virtual space (also referred as cyber space, virtual reality simulations and Internet) and its effects. The impact of the virtual is considered to be not only on societal level, but also on interpersonal and individual level. The observational results of the study are estimated as twofold – negative and positive. The aim is to review the changes that the virtual causes on identity formation and problems of self-image like gender specifics or character disorders. In addition, it is suggested that there is a new possibility of perceiving the virtual environment as a tool for solution and treatment of different (inter)personal problems. The phenomena “second life” or “second self” (Sherry Turkle) appear to have arisen from the virtual space which is used as another dimension or projection of the human self. To support this claim, an overview of different problematic fields is presented – gender-specific changes (Donna Haraway), problems of different disorders (for instance, autism), addiction (treatment of it by using virtual reality simulation and fMRI), virtual crimes (Neil Levy) and other specific for the virtual problems.
The research is based on the idea of postmodern theory which suggests that cyber culture is made of many windows. That is why it is being considered as a replica of real life and a basis for many experiments; it also gives a possibility for identity to be applied in the form of simulation. Moreover, the virtual space enhances interpersonal communication, but it can also cause substantial changes of identity on/offline. In fortunate cases, the “cyber-identities” in virtual space can help a person to be or to get more comfortable with his/her own self. That is why there is possibility for re-evaluation of human identities in the age of virtual experience. Nevertheless, an overall review of the possible dangers and fears must be also taken into account. The major claim is that there is a new de-centered and multiple identity. The claim follows from the view that we can perceive online life as a surface and so easily understand real-life in the same way, for we have discovered that the idea of a unified self is also a form of a fiction. This can be defined as a process of "deconstructed" or "deactualized" reality and it leads to symbolic life of fantasy-world identities.
At the end of the presented study, the applicability of virtual space as a tool for treatment is being investigated and applied to such problems as teaching social and commonsense skills, treatment of brain function disorders, accepting gender and identity. The applicability of virtual space as a safe way to experiment new approaches for such problems is also investigated. It is perceived as an emulation of desired experiences, or place for easier performance in challenging cases. Thus, it creates the environment necessary for various trials and a tool for achieving “increased sense of self-efficacy”. In conclusion, the study tries to explain how it is possible to explore questions like “Who am I?” or “Who I want to be?” through the analysis of the virtual self phenomenon.

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