Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 1, 1999

Paul McIlvenny

Avatars R Us?

Discourses of Community and Embodiment in Intercultural Cyberspace


This paper examines the recent emergence of visions of globalised virtual communities who inhabit graphical versions of cyberspace implemented on the Internet. Often it is claimed that geography, nationality, 'race' and gender (are) no longer matter in these novel domains. In regard to the contemporary debates over the nature of intercultural communication, the paper considers how human communication is envisaged in these so-called transcultural 'virtual communities', whether the pervasive troubles of 'off-line' intercultural communication are really transcended 'online', and how participants shape their talk and language use to constitute their virtual intercultural encounters. Lastly, the role of graphical avatar embodiments for participants who communicate a 'virtual ethnicity' to others is analysed in a particular setting. The focus is on our changing conceptions and practices of, as well as relations between identity, community and embodiment in intercultural cyberspace.

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