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Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online (Science Museum TechKnow Series) [Paperback]

Davey Winder
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

4 April 2008 Science Museum TechKnow Series
Thanks to the Internet, it has never been so easy to become the person of your wildest dreams. Immersive 3D worlds such as Second Life and provide an escape route from the ordinary, into a virtual world where you have the power to mould your life in any way you please. Forget about walking, wheelchair users can fly. Pensioners wipe away the pains of age, discovering youthful exuberance and making young friends once more. No wonder it has become harder than ever to honestly answer the question: who am I?

In Being Virtual, Davey Winder looks at how an increasing number of us are living part–real, part–virtual lives, and how it affects who we are. He looks at the opportunities and dangers that a virtual identity offers us, how we juggle our real and online lives, and what happens when one spills over into the other… He uses his own personal experiences to bring the issues to life, and backs them up with the real–life stories of others and testimony from the experts.  Along the way, he looks at some fascinating questions such as:

  • Are you a virtual liar?
  • What happens when our virtual and real worlds collide?
  • Why will you talk to anyone online, but nobody on the train to work?
  • Why do so many middle–aged men transform into teenage girls online?
  • Is it possible to have any secrets in such a connected world?

Being Virtual gives a glimpse into the future of human identity, and is a must–read for anyone who uses the Internet to enhance – or escape from – their ′ordinary′ life.

About the author

Davey Winder has been a freelance journalist for 16 years, and is Contributing Editor of the best–selling IT magazine, PC Pro. He has picked up many awards including Technology Journalist of the Year and IT Security Journalist of the Year. A founder member of the Internet Society of England and author of more than 20 books, his blog can be found at:


Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (4 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470723629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470723623
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 16 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 922,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


“Glossy and very personal view on virtual worlds and the people who inhabit them…highly enjoyable to read”

From the Author

Nobody could accuse either the media or the general public of ignoring virtual worlds, but while much has been written about the technology behind them and both the opportunities and threats they present, one thing has been noticeably absent: the stories of the people who inhabit them.

Using my own personal journey to find my identity online after a brain disease robbed me of my own (and left me in a wheelchair for 8 years) nearly twenty years ago, I decided to write a book that follows the search for the answer to that ever present question of 'who am I?' into the virtual realm of 21st century 3D immersive environments.

By combining the testimony of experts in the field to answer questions such as 'can an avatar be raped?' with the real life back story of some of the most fascinating characters to inhabit Second Life,, World of Warcraft and other worlds, I have been able to paint a picture of identity in this digital age. Throwing my own story into the mix holds it all together, as I searched for a sense of belonging and worth at exactly the same time as the very first virtual communities were starting to appear across the Internet.

This is not a textbook, nor a technical reference work. However, of the 20 books I have had published over the last couple of decades it is by far and away the best read I have written as well as being the most satisfying and personally empowering project I have ever undertaken.

To quote Michael Wilson, writing in the foreword to Being Virtual: "As these environments become more and more commonplace, understanding how they fit into our lives becomes more important, whether we use them to communicate, or whether we know other people who do so. As a part of the fabric of our day-to-day lives, like email, instant and text messaging, understanding the real people in the environments is as important as understanding the environments themselves. Being Virtual is the first book to focus on the real content of virtual worlds: the people who inhabit them and their stories. Because no matter how different you may be from your avatar, it is you who invented it, and it is in some way reflective of who you are. Being Virtual brings you the back story behind the characters, and helps us begin to understand the true impact of these environments on today's society and, interestingly enough, vice versa."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just a great book 23 April 2008
By G. Lee
Really enjoyed this book. Mainly because of the way it sets out the ideas, history and development of online living... top read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entirely Different Take on the Digital Environment 21 Feb 2009
By Sniff Code - Published on
Davey Winder's book manages to do something that most books on the same subject as his do not: He's very personal. Even confessional. The title of Chapter One -- Identity Crisis - sums up not just the theme of the book, but what seems to have been a driving theme in the life of Winder. Having gone from a killer career Sports manager, to a home-bound, wheelchair bound web junkie, Winder's makes the strongest case for the credibility of a digital selfhood. The best part is that he introduces the disabilities factor, which is usually only allowed a footnote in most digital reporting. In fact, I would strongly recommend this book to any organization that works with the disabilities community that has a lending library program. Aside from Winder's own accounts, there are other anecdotal stories in here of disabled persons reinventing themselves or simply recreating themselves, as is -- wheelchair and all -- in the virtual landscape. The back-story of each anecdote is poignant and well told. All of them extremely personal.
Not all of the stories of are from persons with disabilities. The others are from self-seeking souls looking for the right vehicle for self expression, which they find online.

The personal touch of the book is well balanced with an informing narrative that qualifies the book as a primer for Second Life and other Virtual World platforms. The cover of the book speaks to this element and, unfortunately, only this element. If I were to judge the book by the cover, which I initially did, the autobiographical element was not something I expected to encounter within these pages. They appeared almost as easter-eggs that wanted to be found. In that sense, the book cover is the only liability.

I'm not sure what the mood is these days on Second Life. But Winder's presents the best argument so far that this is more than just mere novelty.

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