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Gender-Bending in Virtual Space: Using Voice-Morphing in Second Life to Raise Sociolinguistic Gender Awareness
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.
2011 (English)In: Learning a Language in Virtual Worlds: A Review of Innovation and ICT in Language Teaching Methodology, International Conference, Warsaw, 17th November 2011 / [ed] Sławomir Czepielewski, Warsaw: Warsaw Academy of Computer Science, Management and Administration , 2011, 54-61 p.Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents further innovative use of virtual worlds under the pilot stages of ASSIS (A Second Step in Second Life), a project funded by Umeå University. One aim of the project is to make use of the affordances offered by Second Life in order to raise sociolinguistic language awareness among teacher trainees and other students studying sociolinguistics. Several experiments have been conducted where creative use of the avatar in combination with so-called “voice-morphing” allowed students to be exposed to, or experience different linguistic identities. In the following paper, we describe four such experiments.In the First one, we recreated a classic sociolinguistic experimental design, the so-called matched-guise test, in order to test whether our female students were evaluated differently on various personal characteristics when they appeared as male avatars. Contrary to previous match-guise studies, our results showed that all the females were more positively evaluated than all the ‘males’. However, this overall pattern was very likely a result of the poor quality of the female-to-male voice-morph. In the second experiment, students were offered the possibility of experiencing the opposite gender in a cross-cultural course setting in SL, in order to reflect over how this “gender change” affected the way they were treated in conversations. Only one student took this opportunity leaving few conclusions, except awareness of the ethically problematic aspects of such arrangements. In the third experiment, we used voice-morphing in SL to raise students’ awareness of how gender stereotypes can influence their perception of teachers. In addition to the real (male) teacher, we created two voice-morphed teacher assistant avatars in SL, one male and one female. Student evaluations showed that they were partly influenced by stereotypes and partly not. The design of the experiment was criticized by the students, however, as they felt that they had had too little time with the teacher assistants to evaluate them properly and therefore gave average ratings. In the fourth study we used similar characters as in the previous study, but in an online lecture during which the real teacher spoke as himself and also gave talks, one as his female and one as his male 55PhD student. The students listening to the lecture evaluated the female PhD student as more likeable and the male PhD student as more intelligent. After, the design was revealed and the students reflected extensively on the result and how unconscious gender stereotypes influence how we judge people. The models and studies presented here point to the potential of virtual worlds as tools for awareness-raising activities regarding gender as a social construct

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Warsaw: Warsaw Academy of Computer Science, Management and Administration , 2011. 54-61 p.
Keyword [en]
Second Life, Sociolinguistics, Gender awareness, voice-morphing
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-59797ISBN: 978-83-88910-36-4OAI: diva2:556662
V-lang International Conference, Warsaw, 17th November 2011
Available from: 2012-09-27 Created: 2012-09-25 Last updated: 2012-09-27Bibliographically approved

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Deutschmann, MatsSteinvall, AndersLagerström, Anna
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