Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Resisting and Reconciling a Virtual Age: Performing Identities and Negotiating Literacies in Shifting Mid-life Workspaces and Immersive Online Environments

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Catherine Cassara-Jemai (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lara Martin Lengel (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Linda Mandlebaum (Committee Member)


This dissertation highlights the intersections of age, gender, and technology at a time when the U.S. is expecting an increasingly aging labor force in the face of rapidly changing computer technologies. In an autoethnographic style, I explore how subjectivities attached to age and gender are produced and negotiated at the interface of online/offline spaces. More specifically, I consider how situated (il)literacies materialize as bodies are positioned in a culture that perpetuates the appropriation of labor roles and identity performances based on age and gender. Drawing from a variety of performance theories and constitutive theories of identity, I examine how particular literacies and nuanced identities influence and are influenced by narratives that reflect everyday practices and politics. Recording and analyzing my own personal performances in the immersive online environments of LinguaMOO and Second Life, I underscore how transitioning from a 'traditional' home space to a computer dependent work/school space matters for 'real' bodies in a 'virtual' age.