UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Constructing ethnicity and identity in the online classroom: Linguistic practices and ritual text acts Macfadyen, Leah P.


In this paper I describe how online learners participate in textually-mediated 'ritual performance' as a means of attesting to their ethnicity and constructing cultural identities in a virtual learning environment. Evidence for this phenomenon emerged from an investigation of cultural identity and learning in a virtual classroom, in which I examined web-based student communications from several iterations of a new international online undergraduate course. I present, here, some of this data, with a focus on ‘ritual text acts’ that participants seem to perform. I draw attention to the ways participants not only ritually perform their affiliations with established national, ethnic or ‘racial’ groups through the use of stylized language, but also how they then ritually challenge these essentialized models of identity. In particular, I explore apparent ritual performances of new hybrid global identities, and moments of ritual resistance to expected learner identities or practices. I argue that that these ritual practices, performed in text, are a significant strategy that virtual learners employ in construction of authentic individual identities - a critical first step in development of a new learning community with a shared learning culture.

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