LaScala was comatose for months. He finally regained consciousness, but with cerebral palsy, which impedes his speech and movement and requires him to use a wheelchair. UC Irvine anthropology professor Tom Boellstorff studied LaScala and hundreds of other disabled players in his research into how they use Second Life for social interaction that often escapes them in nonvirtual settings. Boellstorff started playing in under the avatar Tom Bukowski. Boellstorff found that physical world research techniques transferred to the virtual one, including participant-observation, a method used by cultural anthropologists. Just like the physical world, Second Life features malls, offices, clubs and homes.
Virtual world provides a real-life haven for the disabled
Virtual world provides a real-life haven for the disabled - Los Angeles Times
The advent of virtual worlds holds potential as a safe harbor for identity exploration, particularly for marginalized populations. In this study, I examined, through life stories, the differences and similarities that study participants indicated when describing their real world and virtual world life experiences, particularly within the virtual world of Second Life. I anticipate that virtual world communities can serve as safe harbors for identity exploration and that likely positive benefits derived from virtual world experiences can be transferred to real world situations. It was like being trapped within myself while being with others … I think that I was emotionally charged all of the time trying to figure out who I was and it not fitting Freda, a research participant. In constructionist studies, the idea that there is an objectively identifiable truth about an individual and his or her social life gives way to other concepts about multiple identities that fluidly maneuver among various socio-cultural settings.