Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Avatar, Myself

I've been active in Second Life now for about 10 months or so (in world I'm hondomac Dalgleish). In that time I have found that the lines between SL (Second Life) and RL (Real Life) have effectively disappeared.

I use the same language in both places (I am me and my avatar is me), when I see the avatar of someone that I know in RL, I say "How are you?" and "Don't you look nice". I have friends in SL who I consider to be just as close and as important to me as my RL friends yet I have only ever engaged with their avatars and in some cases do not even know their "real" names or where they are from.

Those of us who know each other in both SL and RL quite often remark on the "blurring of the lines" between the two worlds. We refer to conversations and activities without saying that they occurred in RL or SL. In SL our social interactions are firmly rooted in acceptable RL norms and behaviours. Why is that? Do we need these norms and behaviours in order to function in the brave new world of SL? Is it a comfort thing? I don't know the answers to these questions (yet).

The blurring of the lines was completed for me yesterday. I was wandering in a local shopping mall when I walked past a women's clothing store. Looking in the window, I thought to myself that the clothes were nice, but that the clothes at Dazzle were better. Only thing is, Dazzle is a Second Life women's clothing store, selling only to avatars and without a RL presence. There you go, I now just live in a slightly larger world than most others.

Go anywhere in SL and you will see structures of all kinds - office buildings, homes, stores, shopping malls, and they for the most part look like their RL compatriots - they have floors, walls, and roofs. Why is that? It never rains in SL (unless you want it to and even then your avatar doesn't get wet). More line blurring or the continued transportation of RL norms and behaviours into SL?

One of my main interests in Second Life is its educational potential. There are literally hundreds of educational institutions with a SL presence, and many of them are now offering credit courses in SL. Again though, almost without exception, their SL selfs are represented by painstakingly accurate reproductions of their RL campuses. While this might be great for helping learners get around, how much sense does it make for an avatar to sit in a classroom all day? I have found that the most innovative educational facilities in SL look nothing like a "traditional" classroom. Rather, they are open, modifiable spaces that can be made into whatever it is that the learners need - that's the power of SL - learn underwater, in space, inside a living cell - down with the classroom!!

So, do I live in two worlds or one slightly larger one expanded by my Second Life experiences? I need to think some more on this, but I know one thing for sure - I wish I looked as good in a tux in RL as I do in SL - boy that hondomac is a snappy dresser! Hmmm...

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