European Journal of Information Systems

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 84–95 | Cite as

Performing embodied identity in virtual worlds

  • Ulrike Schultze
Research Article


Embodied identity, that is, who we are as a result of our interactions with the world around us with and through our bodies, is increasingly challenged in online environments where identity performances are seemingly untethered from the user's body that is sitting at the computer. Even though disembodiment has been severely criticized in the literature, most conceptualizations of the role of users’ bodies in virtuality nevertheless reflect a representational logic, which fails to capture contemporary users’ experience of cyborgism. Relying on data collected from nine entrepreneurs in the virtual world Second Life (SL), this paper asks how embodied identity is performed in virtual worlds. Contrasting representationalism with performativity, this study highlights that the SL entrepreneurs intentionally re-presented in their avatars some of the attributes of physical bodies, but that they also engaged in habitual practices in-world, thereby unconsciously enacting embodied identities in both their ‘real’ and virtual lives.


identity virtual worlds avatars 



Funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Grant IIS-0848692, made this research possible. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. I am deeply indebted to the research participants for fully embracing this study and sharing their experiences and insights openly. Thanks also go to the reviewers, the EJIS Special Issue Editors, JoAnn Brooks, Magnus Bergquist and Wanda Orlikowski for their suggestions and encouraging feedback on the earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Operational Research Society 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Information Technology and Operations Management, Southern Methodist UniversityU.S.A.
  2. 2.Lund UniversitySweden

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