Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 103–112 | Cite as

Identity and distinctness in online interaction: encountering a problem for narrative accounts of self

  • Alexander D. Carruth
  • David W. Hill
Original Paper


This paper examines the prevalent assumption that when people interact online via proxies—avatars—they encounter each other. Through an exploration of the ontology of users and their avatars we argue that, contrary to the trend within current discussions of interaction online, this cannot be unproblematically assumed. If users could be considered in some sense identical to their avatars, then it would be clear how an encounter with an avatar could ground an encounter with another user. We therefore engage in a systematic investigation of several conceptions of identity, concluding that in none of these senses can users and avatars be identified. We go on to explore how current accounts of identity-as-selfhood online might resolve this problem by appealing to narrativity or authorship, ultimately concluding that as these accounts stand they are unable to provide grounds for the claim that users encounter each other online and so supplementary work is required.


Avatar Identity Narrative self Online interaction Ontology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Department of Communication and Media, School of the ArtsUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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