[Report] The 26th Tokyo Colloquium of Cognitive Philosophy (TCCP)

18 April, 2011 Iva GEORGIEVA

In the 26th TCCP Iva Georgieva gave a paper on the concept of "virtual self" – the person's projection and representation in the Internet and in other digital simulations, summarized in the term "virtual space".

The main proposal in the presented study is that there exist different types of self which are created in those virtual spaces. Georgieva proposes four types of selves, according to her investigation on different virtual media. They are concerning the similarity or difference of the virtual self compared to the real self of a person. They also refer to the two cases: of person being addicted or not addicted to the usage of the virtual space.

Georgieva investigates the approaches in definition of the self throughout the history and the development of the digital culture. Those approaches acknowledge that people tend to present an online persona that is similar or different in degrees, compared to the off-line real life persona people use in the social hierarchy. The researchers who pay specific interest to the identity of people in Internet see that the change of the role of the person might actually affect his or her real life perception. Such study is the one done by Sherry Turkle but it can be a subject of critique as being too distant in time from today's situation. As the presenter notes, a new analysis of the identity in Internet is necessary and such analysis can define more precisely the specific types and how many types are the virtual selves that people create.

Besides this analysis, another direction of the research is presented as important. Why the creation of different types of virtual selves has effect on real person's life? The answer can be found in the multiple examples showing a wide range of positive and negative effects made on the virtual self and transferred to the real self. The examples Georgieva gives can be evidences for the significance of the virtual space as a form of "playground" where people try and realize things they are not able to do in real life. One of those things is the possibility to affect certain problematic condition or in other words – disorders or diseases in real life. This tendency in the usage of the virtual space is called "cyber therapy".

The presented study goes through the above points in order to support the thesis about the different types of self people try out in the virtual space, the problems that arise there and affect real life (e.g. virtual crimes), and the positive way before the novel therapeutic practices based on the interactive digital media. The connection between these themes is an attempt to explain how the change in the human self in the virtual space is a process of modification of the human knowledge of the self there. In addition, the transfer of experience form the virtual space to the real space can support the treatment tool application of the virtual space.

Some questions remain to be clarified – how can we really define and count the types of virtual selves since the virtual environment is ever changing. Also can we compare them with the personae people have created in society? And how treatment can be supported by the investigation of the virtual self?

For possible answering to these the presenter counts on analysis from survey which is performed in March 2011. This survey is also to confirm the terminological specification of the terms in this study.

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