Naming Me, Naming You. Personal Names, Online Signatures and Cultural Meaning
AbstractEvery day we talk and speak and chat to people. We write and listen to each other, refer to each other, describe to each other what we and others have done and said. Doing this, we sometimes use our given names, sometimes we go by our nicknames, which often indicate or clarify who we are or are made up by ourselves to draw other people's attention. Nicknames can be official or informal, known by many or only by a few, real monikers or made up pseudonyms or signatures. Where ever there are people there are names, since names are and have always been part of human life. Sociologist Richard D. Alford states that ethnographic research has not found a single society whose members do not have names (Alford, 1988, 1). Names are cultural universals, something all humans have in common, no matter where or when they live. This article focuses on personal names and naming from a cultural ethnographic perspective. It begins with reflections on the link between name and self, continues with a discussion of how names are used to culturally structure our surroundings and interpret the world, and con- cludes with an analysis of names used in virtual settings. The virtual field has hitherto not received much interest among name researchers. In online games, chat rooms and web communities, names are not only useful and applicable, as they are in the so called real world; they are even more essential and important as it is mainly through their names participants recognise and identify each other.