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Identity, Power, and Representation in Virtual Environments

Identity, Power, and Representation in Virtual Environments

The proliferation of immersive, three dimensional virtual environments presents educators with a moment of creative possibility in designing the next generation of computer-assisted learning. At the same time, the fact that these environments may be inscribed with particular value sets and power relations presents educators with a burden of pedagogical responsibility. This paper attempts to begin a conversation about some of the hidden considerations that may be confronted as virtual learning environments become more accessible, acceptable, and assessable. The author challenges the view that virtual environments are reliably neutral venues for the creation of virtual identities that escape the culturally constructed power configurations of the offline world. Indeed, the very dichotomy between real and virtual is itself questionable. While the promise of virtual learning environments is real, it is often unrealized. Educators have a responsibility to critically engage the implicit assumptions embedded in the technology they would ask students to use.


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