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Thanks to the previous writers for their messages.
The question of identity is a complex one. Though most people think that the use of an avatar means "donning" another identity, I would tend to disagree. Like many other scholars, I see identity as something that doesn't exist but that is co-constructed amongst people. As such, we "identify" (rather than "use" different identities) on a daily basis: we "change" in different situations, in front of different people, etc. Yet this doesn't mean that we are free from all when we identify! Power relations, contexts, language skills etc. all intervene in the "identities" we can/are entitled to create.
I think that this applies to avatars as well. First of all even though an avatar may be different from what we appear to be in "reality", it is part of us as much as we are part of it. These two cannot be separated. Students should be aware of this. Also, avatars have to face the same problems and issues that we face in the "real world", i.e. the Other. It is in fact this Other, anyOother, who provides me with an identity, who helps me to identify. Sometimes it can be a pleasurable experience sometimes it can be painful... Whatever is experienced through an avatar has thus an impact on "the real world" too - and vice-versa. These entities cannot be separated.
I think that there is too much fantasy at the moment behind the avatar phenomenon. Of course it is exciting as hardly ever before were human beings able to "hide" behind such a "mask". But this fantasy has its limits and reality often comes back to the front of the stage very quickly...
For language learning and teaching, being an avatar can of course be seen as an advantage as students may feel it is easier to communicate with an Other through another figure. Yet let us remember that this figure is still part of the student and whatever s/he experiences through the avatar will have an impact on her/him. Now what we need to ponder over is how to allow a transition from being an avatar who dares to speak/practise a foreign language to being a "real" person who has to face an Other... I believe that metaverses can help for training for intercultural communication but of course it cannot and will not substitute meeting a real physical Other.
The question of identity is central in reflecting on the use of SM in LLT and should be, I believe, taken more seriously...
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