Review: Shoham, “Flow Experiences and Image Making”

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Shoham’s “Flow Experiences and Image Making” is a slightly different style of ethnographic project compared to what we have read before; it is a virtual ethnography. Moreover, it applies ethnography in a different field other than anthropology.

Shoham looks at the virtual world, precisely the chat-room interactions, in three aspects. First, he discusses the chat-room environment as communities. Second, he explores chatting as flow experiences, and next, he examines chatting as an image making or managing process.

I think the most important characteristic of chat-rooms and virtual communities in general is its role in image management. Consumers and members of this community are able to create and manage an identity in the virtual world that they are unable to obtain in reality. I think the general notion of this formation of a new self comes from the idea of virtual world as a relatively harmless environment. With little restriction, a community member can establish an ideal character for him without much difficulty as it is to terminate it.

In the video clip we watched in class, one of the “game addicts” says that a crucial fascination of the gaming world was “not having to interact with people directly”. Gamers form a society within the game network. This society, although many criticize for being antisocial, is more social than is thought to be. The members enjoy this social life. Not having to directly interact with people give them the flexibility to become who they want to be instead of who they have to be. Although there were parts in the video that I found hard to fully grasp, I think the basic reason for the obsession of dwellers of the virtual world is obvious.


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