Collaboration through Avatars: Disability and Community in Virtual Worlds of Second Life

Award Year:
Eiko Ikegami
One of the greatest challenges in United States public health is the growing number of people with disabilities, now numbering over 50 million. While there is a broad awareness about the usefulness of online mutual help groups, it is less well-known that individuals with disabilities have started to self-organize in grassroots initiatives in online virtual worlds, such as that of Second Life (SL). These immersive three-dimensional virtual worlds provide distinctively innovative modes of cyber communication for people with disabilities through the shared co-presence of avatars, which are embodied representations of selves. This project aims to provide in-depth analysis of self-organized disability-related mutual help groups in various virtual worlds. By studying these innovative associational activities, the project is exploring future directions to increasing the potential of people with disabilities through the creative merger of technology and human capital. With this aim, Dr. Ikegami will be conducting a thorough ethnographic study and sociological analysis of various targeted mutual help groups in virtual worlds.