Looking for the Goodness: Digital Gamers Constructing Identities across Social Contexts
Jamerson, Savanna L.
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This qualitative study examined the social interactions and identity constructions of ethnically diverse adolescent males from urban, working-class backgrounds in the process of learning and applying complex mechanics and strategies while engaged in digital gaming. Ethnographic techniques and portraiture methodologies were used to collect and organize data focused on how the male participants in and across settings constructed their individual and group identities. Data were generated from observations, informal and formal interviews, and document analyses focused on how the gamers used language and acted in different situations. One-on-one tutoring of the researcher by the gamers provided additional data about their values, beliefs, communication preferences, and cultural markers. Principles of Identity Theory and Critical Race Theory guided the data analyses. The data illustrated that the gamers were highly influenced by macro level hegemonic ideologies of masculinity. This influenced their male identity standards across multiple contexts, including formal schooling. Findings indicated that the socio-cultural processes of the digital gaming class supported male identity construction and verification processes, and motivated the participants to take risks in their learning processes while developing self-esteem. The social system of the gaming class included group norms with symbolic meanings that produced perceptions of male gender performances. In addition, the supervisor of the gaming class functioned as a prototypical role model who facilitated a predictability component of expected behaviors for the gamers. These complex processes were the catalyst for shaping role and group identities that engendered individual goal setting that was connected to learning processes, gaining and maintaining status, and sustaining the social structure of the group. This study adds to existing scholarship by identifying culturally based needs and interests gleaned from a digital gaming community made up of Latino American, African American, Asian American, and Native American males. Implications for more culturally responsive instruction to improve the socio-cultural, personal, interpersonal, and intellectual achievement of male youth of color in both formal and informal learning contexts is discussed.
- Education - Seattle