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Personal Identity in Cyberculture

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The term cyberculture emerged in popular usage during the last decade of the last century to refer to an emergent usage and dependence of computer networks by a global population to meet business, communication and entertainment needs (Abbate, 1999). The term had however been mentioned a few times previously such as in 1963 by A. M. Hilton. The internet has created a vast usage and application in human life today, and only works on the principle of linking individuals through computer networks without geographical or personal limitations (Levy, 2001).

This trend has evolved into a study of the assorted social phenomena that is today associated with internet usage, be it in shopping, computer gaming, e-mailing, virtue relationships, internet lobbying and similar endeavors (Levy, 2001). In cyberculture studies, the emphasis is on the available technologies that impact on the social dynamics of people especially through the interactions created by cyberspace interconnections (Abbate, 1999).

Oxford English Dictionary has defined cyberculture as the social set of conditions that accrue from computerization and automation (Levy, 2001). The American Heritage Dictionary on the other hand broadens the definition to include the social elements played out in cyberculture in their definition of cyberculture as, a culture resulting from use of computer networks, as platforms of communication, work, entertainment and business (Levy, 2001). The culture referred to here is not that of computer networks by of the users of these computer networks while on the networks (Howard & Jones, 2003). Cyberculture creates another world of existence, the online world, which has a distinct culture with repercussions not just on the virtual world but also the physical world (Howard & Jones, 2003). Cyberculture is thus endemic to online socialization of individuals as mediated by computers (Howard & Jones, 2003).

An important point to note here is that in cyberspace interactions or on the internet as it will be regarded hence, people (users) are identified on basis of their protocols, usernames, codes and domains (Abbate, 1999). As Dertouzos (1997) postulates, the personality of an individual, his or her identity, is left in front of the computer screen as some internet profile travels the cyberspace in his or her place. While using the internet, people lose their identity and acquire the ability to be anybody, from anywhere, with any age, etc (Howard & Jones, 2003). A person can acquire any identity he or she wishes to, while using the internet. In fact, many a times, individuals use multiple identities none of which is truly the identity of the individual (Bell & Barbara, 2000).  

That lack of identity becomes an important factor when characterizing cyber culture (Levy, 2001). Unlike any other aspect of culture, cyberculture is not constrained in boundaries and its participants are a representation of the true diversity in the world as regards age, sex, race, religion, political affiliations and inclinations, origin etc. Virtue communities depict a diversity that no other cultural aspect known to man has ever done. Yet in this diversity, the personal identity of its participants is lost into a vague concept that does not define the individual perse (Bell & Barbara, 2000).

In this research essay, literature review helps analyze how realizationof cyberculture in practical scenarios today and how personal identity is expressed. Document analysis helps the essay establish the various ways in which individuals can still build on and explicitly establish their personal identity in cyberculture. To do this, the essay looks at some key characteristics of cyberculture and how individuals relate with various component, technologies of cyberculture. At present, cyberculture can be characterized by many things one of them being lack of personal identity of users, an omission that if not remedied soon threatens to limit the potential social good of modern communication technology since its only personal identity that can keep users socially accountable even when on cyberspace.

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