When web users express themselves they often borrow others’ bodies, faces and words to do so. YouTubers roleplay as their videogame avatars; users of Musical.ly mime to stars’ songs; Tumblr devotees punctuate their anecdotes with GIFs of Rihanna winking or Orson Welles clapping defiantly; trolls conscript cartoon frogs into campaigns of racist abuse. What do these acts of ventriloquism, citation, mimicry and impersonation say about digital culture, and about identity more generally? And how are artists, theorists and game designers exploring what it means to speak and act as and through others online?
Rob Gallagher is a postdoctoral researcher with King's College London's Ego-Media project, which explores identity, life-writing and self-presentation online. His book Videogames, Identity and Digital Subjectivity is due to be published by Routledge later this year.
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