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Life on the Screen


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This treatise by the best-selling author of The Second Self (LJ 6/15/84) explores the world of virtual identity on the Internet by examining "Multi-User Domains" (MUDs). Turkle describes MUDs as a new kind of "virtual parlor game" and a form of online community in which one's identity (both physical and behavioral) is represented by one's own textual description of it. She portrays MUDs as "a dramatic example of how an activity on the Internet can serve as a place for the construction and reconstruction of identity." She discusses these computer-mediated worlds and their impact on our psychological selves, describing a virtual world in which the self is multiple, fluid, and constituted in interaction with machine connections. In her concluding remarks, she points out that MUDs are not implicated in occurrences of multiple personality disorder (MPD); rather, manifestations of multiplicity in our culture, including MUDs and MPDs, are contributing to an overall reconsideration of our traditional views of identity. A provocative if somewhat esoteric study of virtual identity. For an informed audience.-Joe Accardi, Northeastern Illinois Univ. Lib., Chicago

The Internet, with its computer bulletin boards, virtual communities, games and private domains where people strike up relationships or emulate sex, is a microcosm of an emerging ``culture of simulation'' that substitutes representations of reality for the real world, asserts Turkle (The Second Self). In an unsettling, cutting-edge exploration of the ways computers are revising the boundaries between people and computers, brains and machines, she argues that the newest computers‘tools for interaction, navigation and simulation, allowing users to cycle through roles and identities‘are an extension of self with striking parallels to postmodernist thought. She also looks at ``computer psychotherapy'' programs such as Depression 2.0, a set of tutorials designed to increase awareness of self-defeating attitudes; hypertext software for creating links between related songs, texts, photographs or videos; and ``artificial life,'' attempts to build intelligent, self-organizing, complex, self-replicating systems and virtual organisms. (Nov.)

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