Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Blurred Line - written by guest blogger Andrijah Beardmore

Second Life was created as a form of escapism. You leave your real life behind in the actual world and embark on an adventure using an avatar in place of yourself. In this world, you can be the person you've always wanted to be, do the things you've always wanted to do, etc. But there is a certain reality behind Second Life. For every avatar there is a person sitting before a computer controlling their every function, so it is bound to happen that a bit of the real life person becomes a part of the avatar. There is a line between the two worlds, one that undoubtedly becomes a little blurred, thanks to the 1st life tab on everyone's profile, as well as the potential use of voice, among other things.

Recently I had a chance, not just to blur the line, but to completely cross, and being the type of person I am, I took it. On September 17, I boarded a plane and flew to meet up with the typists behind two of my most loved friends on Second Life, Siri Woodget and Colleen Lilliehook. A proposition like that might seem a bit scary to some, with the potential of completely destroying the illusion of that which we hold dear while living out our alternate reality. To me, I was thankful not to have any worries, having interacted with them so much in world, that I already knew them, even before we met.

There was no hesitation or wondering what I might discover, just a sense of knowing that this would be a great trip, no matter what could have happened.The meeting at the airport was quite good. I saw Siri first and instantly knew it to be her. We hugged like life-long friends. The same can be said when meeting Colleen, though she did a little bunny hop first, which I have to mention, or the story would just be incomplete. During my 3+ day visit, I got to see the two of them in their natural environment, which is quite dissimilar from Second Life. As it turns out, they are not always going to clubs to listen to music or hopping around from party to party, though I clearly knew that going into it, as we all do. What I did discover is that Colleen's hair is not quite so spiky, and that Siri is a bit more outgoing, among countless other little details. But the thing is, neither was in any way too different from the avatars they control on a daily basis. For the most part, they are the same people, even though their actions may not be the same - but then again, who does the same thing in both worlds.

In some ways, there is a realization that once you cross that line, there is no going back. Nothing will ever truly be the same. Now, when you converse in-world, you have these great memories to feed off of. You now refer to things you've actually seen and done together; going to a great concert, which was so worth seeing, eating Mexican food at this delightful little dive, being shown where Siri works, a mid-afternoon movie, and last, but certainly not least, sitting around a fire pit telling stories about in-world and out-world experiences. Oh there are stories I could tell you, but if I did that, you would have one less reason to find out for yourself exactly why meeting in real life is not a bad thing. For us, it was quite a good thing. I have made two friends that will last longer than I can imagine. I crossed the blurred line, and for that, I have no regrets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Primgraph Magazine

This entry is made on the run - i.e. sandwiched between rl obligations - but wanted to be sure to cite the Primgraph Magazine (edited by Alesia Markstein) "The Metaverse Magazine for the 1740s-1920s sims within Second Life". The content is very much worth reading (*ahem*, I contributed an article on Lady Lovelace), including articles on topics of General Interest, Arts & Culture, Fashion, Society and Technology. The magazine offers wonderful insight into the programming, social life and activities within Second Life's "before present"(pre-1950's) themed sims.

It's available in-world but I encourage you also to take tea (coffee/absinthe) and visit the magazine online via Calameo. The technology is really entertaining, allowing for a more actual reading experience - have fun flipping the pages back and forth, just like a real magazine, minus tearing and folding over the pages. Here's the link to the magazine - click "read the publication". Happy reading!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evolution of an avatar

avatar - 5 minutes old

20 minutes later

the following day

1 month later, forming an identity - club casualty

1 month later - an alt's alt - real wife of orange county

(avatar surviving on freebies)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Daedalus Project

Today I’m contemplating the Daedalus Project – Nick Yee’s psychological study of mmorpgs. Scholars have found that there is an effect on the real life behavior of people who have avatars, especially those who are considered particularly attractive in-world.
“Cyberspace grants us great control over our self-representations. At the click of a button, we can alter our gender, age, attractiveness, and skin tone. But as we choose our avatars online, do our avatars change us in turn? In a series of studies, we've explored how putting people in avatars of different attractiveness or height change how they behave in a virtual environment.” (from the Virtual Human Interactive Lab at Stanford).

Siri is definitely not conventionally attractive – I’m experimenting with that idea through an alt. As Siri, I’ve noticed that she is rather shy in-world, more so than her typist, as she figures out the technology, defines her place in a community, and navigates the myriad of virtual relationships and respective identities. Cultural immersion or assimilation takes time; there is a learning curve, and customs must be observed then practiced. Admittedly, after all the time I've spent in-world, in the actual world, I’ve noticed an increase in my sociable conduct. I’m more willing to make a call, get to a show, step out of my routine. I’m re-learning the art of socializing…