Maria Beatrice Ligorio & Annarita Celeste Pugliese
University of Salerno, Italy

E-mail:bligorio@unisa.it

 

POSITIONING IN A TEXT-BASED VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT WHILE SOLVING A MYSTERY

 

Within the recent conceptualization of personal and cultural positioning of the dialogical self (Hermans, 2001a), several new issues arise: how culture can be defined depending on context, how the social dimension impacts personal positioning, how positioning changes in time and space, and whether the type of task people are working on influences the positioning. Those issues require specific analyses when this theoretical framework, initially applied to psychotherapy settings, is used in new interactive settings, such as the mediated communication of internet-based environments (Hevern, 2000; Talamo & Ligorio, 2000). In this presentation we apply positioning theory to analyze interactions within an exclusively text-based virtual environment, called Multi-User Dimensions (MUDs). A virtual hotel has been designed in a MUD, where Mona Lisa, an art insurance agent, has been found killed. Twenty-five participants (all university students) played with a partner, introduced as another participant, but actually a researcher trained to follow a complex communication script. It is assumed that specific personal positionings will emerge during this interactive situation influenced by the specific type of environment, the particular task (a problem-solving mystery game) and the interaction style displayed by the trained researcher. The method used is inspired by the Personal Position Repertoire (PPR) of Hermans (2001b), adequately adapted to this setting. Preliminary results, elaborated further in our final paper, already allow us to list a repertoire of personal positionings, such as the 'collaborator' willing to share ideas and information with the partner, the 'ironic' where irony is used as a tool to manage the problem as well as the interaction with the partner and, the 'detective', well suited to the nickname (Sherlock) assigned during the task, interested in understanding not only the task but also the partner's ideas and ways of reasoning.

 

Hermans, H.J.M (2001a) The dialogical self: Toward a theory of personal and cultural positioning. Culture and Psychology, 7, 243-281.

Hermans, H.J.M (2001b) The construction of a Personal Position Repertoire: Method and practice. Culture and Psychology, 7, 323-366.

Hevern, V. (2000, June). Alterity and self-presentation via the web: Dialogical and narrative aspects of identity construction. Paper presented at the First International Conference on the Dialogical Self, Nijmegen, The Netherlands (retrieved from the World Wide Web on May 10, 2002 from http://www.socsci.kun.nl/psy/congress2000/)

Talamo, A. & Ligorio, M. B. (2001). Strategic identity in the cyberspace. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 4, 109-122.