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Pervading binaries, disrupting boundaries: Investigating youth’s negotiation of the dialectical interplay of offline and online identities
Virtual worlds
Online worlds
Issue Date: 
Paper presented at the 17th International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE 2009), Hong Kong, 30 November to 4 December 2009
This paper investigates the digital migration of Singapore youth to virtual
worlds so as to better understand the dialectical interplay between living in the real and the
digitally-mediated worlds on how youth construct their identity and sense of self, negotiate
meaning, and make sense of their social experiences online. Situating this study within a
context of the immensely popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft (WoW), this paper
proposes the notion of a performing cyborg as a theoretical lens of looking at the interplay
between the everyday, situated lives of digital youth gamers and their activities in WoW.
The findings suggest a recurrent theme that challenges ascribed dichotomies between
youth’s presence in the real world and virtual world in terms of their identities in play,
their sense of embodiment, and their orientation toward work, play, and the spirit of
communitas within WoW. We posit that exploration of such a phenomenon that indicates a
more intimately enmeshed and dialectically coupled experience of youths’ online and
offline worlds provides a fundamental framework for educators to better understand the
impact of youths’ exodus to the virtual worlds and its implications for 21st century
pedagogy. To this end, this work will strengthen current efforts in augmenting an
understanding of the broader learning ecologies within which youth learning activities are
situated, illuminating the interplay between youth living in the real and the
digitally-mediated virtual world.
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