The great escape

There has been a spate of posts about the balance between First and Second Life lately, starting with my friend’s Dandellion’s thoughtful and entertaining blog post Going Schizo. At its core is the question how to handle the realisation that the personalities we evolve in the 3D metaverse of Second Life might seep back into our atomic life (a distant echo of some of Dusan Writer’s earlier thoughts). Besides a fair number of comments, it has also spurned Kit Meredith to ask the question if atomic her is jealous of her avatar, and Botgirl Questi to complete her schematic of the relationship of metaverse and meatverse. Independently of those, Zippora Zabelin has touched on the same topic in her beautiful Life is a game.

The funny thing about all these is that, much as I wanted to give feedback and tell the authors how much I enjoyed their posts, my own uneasy balance between First and Second Life has not let me do so until now. Consoling and supporting a friend much in the same situation as Dandellion’s unknown avatar, but also saying a chance good bye to another one who was leaving SL, as well as finally accepting some other friends and lovers will never come back, has made me painfully aware how ephemeral our second life can be — and how fragile whatever fleeting balance we find is.

It also made me think. Because while we often discuss how, and why we leave this world for good, we rarely dwell on the question that maybe should have been asked first : why bother with the effort of two lives at all ? Why come to Second Life, and stay ?

I have an answer to offer, though I’m not sure it will be all that popular : need.

One way or another, we are here because we seek something we miss in our First Life ; sure, mere curiosity may lead us here, but if nothing taps into our urges and needs, we won’t stay. And though it’s most certainly not as simplistic as Philip Rosedale’s bumbling quote implies, there is something in the notion that where there are no needs, no feelings of inadequacy or frustration, no restrained sexual urges and suppressed identities, no boredom or loneliness, no social handicaps, no unrealised pet projects and crazy ideas lurking in the back of our minds, there is nothing to push us into the virtual world. Need is what makes the virtual world attractive, and addictive. It is the reason why virtual worlds work (with immersion being the how).

What happens when we get there is another thing again. What starts as a mere avatar, a pixel puppet we direct with some detachment, soon develops a life of its own. As we design our shape, choose our looks and clothes, seek friendships and activities, we define what we want to be, and how we want to be perceived in this world. And behind all of it, we have a feedback line into our first world ; as our avatars ripen into personalities of their own, and despite the struggle of identity this brings, despite the lack of sleep and the strain leading two lives puts on us, despite the drama due to the volatile environment, we find solace, and contentment. No wonder those who do not manage this are insistent Second Life is nothing but a game — in a space where you can start afresh, your RL slate wiped blank, nothing hurts more than failing, because it is painfully obvious the failure is yours alone.

But for those of us who do not fail, what will grow on us is a second identity. It is complex and powerful, as befits the interplay of our needs and the complex and powerful world we seek to sate them in. And for many, that identity will grow more and more restive, refusing to stay boxed away as time and social constraints keep us from logging in. It will start to suffuse parts of the world outside. Hamlet Au noted that :

There are hundreds of blogs about Second Life; there are nearly 1000 Flickr groups devoted to SL; there’s a few SL Facebook widgets, an active SL-oriented Twitter community, and searching “Second Life” in YouTube returns over 21,000 videos. […] So a tremendous level of Second Life activity really takes place within Web 2.0 systems which weren’t made with the metaverse in mind.

Surprising ? I think not. Blogging, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube : these are the parts of the web « into which one can ‘write an identity’ into a public arena ». And writing our new, second identity is what we do all along, telling the story we have invented, and keep inventing for ourselves. Dusan Writer was right on the fact Second Life is a Story Box — maybe the greatest made yet. Where he was wrong was in thinking the storytelling experience is collective. It is not. It is individual, even where the multitude of residents interacts. They interact because a story without an audience might as well remain untold. But the essential thing about this is that it doesn’t make a community out of the multitude. It’s a cacophony, not a campfire group listening to the griot.

Our stories are ours alone.

Which might be why my very first reaction to Grace McDunnough’s brilliant essay on Upholding Social Norms was dismissive (good for me Grace does not currently read me. Balance again, I guess). There was too much of the longing for the campfire in it for my taste at first reading. I am distrustful of communities, whose flip-side always seems to be exclusion. Some of the comments and followup posts listed here do indeed little more than sing the melancholy tune of « once, my son, all of this was green and pleasant land, and man was not a wolf unto his fellow man » ; but then, telling us the world will end because youngsters do not respect their elders’ ways hasn’t lost its novelty value in the last 2500 years, so what did I expect ?

But in Grace’s essay, that tune is only a faint echo in the background. First and foremost, she raises the question if the recent newcomer’s unrestrained approach to the watershed between First and Second Life identity does not mean the stories we can invent for ourselves will soon be much, much poorer — because in a universe where avatar identity is firmly linked to RL identity, your second life becomes just another facet of your first. Without true pseudonimity, without alts, in this age of weblogs and social networks, you will soon find out that, in the metaverse, too, people know you are a dog.

Looking back at her own SL childhood, Grace points out the existence of a community of residents that was able to channel and collect the trickle of newcomers, teaching them the ways and norms of the world they entered, respect for the divide between identities coming first. But that community is no more. If Grace’s story starts with « When Grace entered Second Life in Feb. 2006… », mine could start simply with « 52 weeks later, Second Life was a very different place… ». It was indeed.

In the SL of early 2007, there was nobody to teach me beyond what I taught myself ; nobody expecting me to mend my ways ; no one to enforce limits and rules. Seeing how allergic I am to patronising hints and the review of self appointed peers, that might even have been a good thing. I probably wouldn’t be here if somebody had told me « we don’t do it like that around here » in my first weeks. « Welcome to Second Life » would have been nice, though.

Still, I learned. And if you keep in mind that I am neither brighter, nor more creative or more social than the average newcomer, you can be sure there are more, many more who did, and who will do. The transition from avatar to person still works the same way. What has become impossible, now that the original community has dwindled into a minority, is to socially enforce rules that favour it. Giving your avatar the chance to evolve into a person, by disconnecting it from RL you, has become a personal choice instead of a norm. How obvious a choice is it when you come from a world where the notion of a second, semiautonomous identity is preposterous ? Paradoxically, and in spite of some old time residents thinking most everybody having entered SL after 2006 is a barely social attention-getter, or a sociopath even, we have been spared the full impact of the question yet by SL’s sheer inadequacy.

Right now, the frustrating newbie experience, confusing interface and lack of reliability of the service still ensure that those who stay have a certain level of need, curiosity, or sheer bloody-mindedness which makes them conductive to learning the ways of the world they entered. Safe to say that as the 3D metaverse gets more accessible, the share of people willing to accept it on its own terms, instead of terms they bring from RL, will further dwindle. You were complaining about the brook the trickle has turned into ? Just wait for the flood, friend, just wait for it.

Because 3D avatars make sense even if they are no more disconnected from RL identities than Facebook profiles are — the immersive sense of a place to be in, the intuitive simplicity of walking up to a person to strike up a conversation, the option to do things together nicely balance the disorientation and bewilderment its sheer size and lack of structure beget — and there are other advantages as well. As technical deficiencies become less, we can be sure to see this kind of social metaverse attract a larger audience, an audience to which the idea of disconnecting identities might be utterly outlandish.

So does that mean we are doomed to lose the world we have made ? Are we a civilisation on the brink of extinction ? Maybe. But against the angst, I would like to set the hope we can make a difference, and that when history will label our generation, it will be by the word avantgarde, not fluke.

Granted : history does not teach trying to make a difference ever made one. But it does teach that not trying is the best way not to make one. Let’s stop pining for drier days, and start learning to swim while we’re still ahead of the flood.

First step, breathing regularly and taking our bearings :

  1. The days of unquestioning community norms enshrined in the ToS and Community Standards which Chestnut Rau recurs to are gone. They will not come again, not in the guise of the tacit governance Grace puzzles over, nor in any other. That kind of social homogeneity, stemming from a common background — as Washu Zebrastripe jokingly put it, « reading [Neal Stephenson’s SF novel] Snow Crash was pretty much a prerequisite to joining SL in beta days! » — is no more.
  2. This means enforcing norms — either by fear of retribution or by community regulation — is out, because that only works if the norms enforced are based on a large consensus (when they are not, you get, respectively, a reign of terror, and a clique). But there is another way, not to enforce, but to spread a minority’s norms beyond its original scope : making people want to be like the minority. Let us show the newcomers to our world, through our example, what gift they might find here if they surrender to its workings. Let us make them understand how rich and compelling the cacophony, how beautiful the chaos is out of which our second personalities emerge. Let us make them understand that what they get, here, if they can stand it, is the one thing mankind has always wanted : the freedom to live your dreams. It works, believe me. It did on me.
  3. To be able to do this, however, we have to accept what and who we are, and get rid of one misunderstanding : whatever Philip Rosedale may think, the 3D metaverse is not the future of the internet, but something else entirely. Powerful as its applications in teaching, social research and conferencing, in architecture, engineering and other areas where real-time, collaborative manipulation of 3D models is a real plus might be — or rather : turn out to be — this is not the future of information publication, retrieval and exchange. The fact that early adopters of technology regularly focus on the communication aspect (as was the case for early internet adopters) only muddles the waters. The flat, 2D internet is far better at what it does than the 3D metaverse will ever be. You wouldn’t be reading a blog post if it wasn’t.

So Second Life won’t supplant the internet. In fact, it needs it to exist, and probably always will, as the identities created there seek a wider field of expression. As Botgirl Questi remarked, it is very much possible to have a network of residents you have never met in-world. The greatest potential of Second Life lies elsewhere than its use as a 3D internet : it lies in our dreams, in our needs and aspirations, and in the freedom to give them a shape we find there. Second Life is the great escape.

All right, I’ve said it, now hit me. No, better yet, repeat after me : Second Life is the great escape. What we are is the vanguard of tomorrow’s escapists.

There is nothing wrong about being an escapist. There never has been anything wrong about escapism, for that matter. From the first caveman gazing at the stars, wondering if there was something else and better there, escaping from the daily plight has been one of mankind’s overriding urges. We have built civilisations and religions on it. Even today, without existential plight, we need to escape from our reality, once in a while. And we do : every daydream, every scrap of entertainment, every bit of culture or leisure we create or assimilate is an escape from the needs of life. Dreaming, and escaping into dreams is part of what makes us human.

Self styled pragmatists have, at all times, missed the significance of the escapist dream, and not the moral or ideal significance either, but the very tangible power, economic and cultural. Even when they stood at the core of it, when they created the means for it, they often missed its essence. Take the Frenchman who, when asked in 1895 to commercialise a novelty he had invented said : « My invention can be exploited… as a scientific curiosity, but apart from that it has no commercial value whatsoever. » He was called Auguste Lumière. His novelty was the motion picture camera.

Today, once more, we confront a novelty whose potential is beyond conventional wisdom, and once more the pragmatists’ tell us there is little application beyond what they can see — their visions are of the same, just more so. They are wrong, as wrong as Lumière was. Let us not play their game, on their terms. Let us be proud of what we are.

For the first time in mankind’s history, we have a world to escape to as complete as the one we live in, but without most of its limitations. We have a place where what we are, and are not, in our atomic life is not important ; a canvas we can re-invent ourselves on, again and again, every day. We have, in short, a place where we can make our dreams come true — the birthplace of our second (and sometimes third, fourth, fifth) selves.

We have just begun exploring its possibilities. One thing, however, I know for sure : for the right to live there, going schizo is a very small price to pay.

Welcome to the new world.

33 thoughts on “The great escape

  1. Rheta, once again you have written something that should be required reading for anyone who wants to really understand Second Life. This will all take some time to digest, but for now I can only provide the response your insights typically immediately evoke from me… “Wow.”

  2. Thank you for a truly brilliant post, Rheta! I agree with your hypothesis; people are here to fill in the blank spots in their lives, if they can determine what the blank spots are, and if they can figure out how to fill them. If not, they tend to fade away, back to their RL, complete with those unfilled blank spots.

  3. Wonderful. Brilliant. Damn smart. At last someone is giving voice to us in a very precise and fearless way. I don’t want to hide anymore! Yes I am here probably to escape something or maybe just to dream more, cause I stopped dreaming before SL in my 1st life.
    Plus, tough not always the best solution *escaping* is always an option, and I’m so happy I do not need a weird philosphyc construction anymore to try to “justify” what I do in and with my SL
    This dream is real enough for me to be worth living.
    Thank you for setting me free at last.

  4. Rheta, I love your posts. They always make me want to seize a flag and wave it over my head in front of a crowd of cheering people, and it looks like others share that sentiment. This is indeed brilliant, but there are a couple of things that have been bugging me after I read it, and here seems to be as good a place as any to address them.

    This means enforcing norms — either by fear of retribution or by community regulation — is out

    Have you ever banned someone from your land for particle spamming? Or muted someone who was being particularly verbally abusive? If you have, then you’re enforcing a norm. Maybe you’ve only done it in extreme cases, but you’ve still done it.

    People in SL will always try to enforce norms, even is that norm is just “leave us alone”. Every society chooses who they exclude, and how they exclude them. The act itself is not good or bad, but it shapes the course of that society (to an egalitarian paradise or a 6th grade clique, depending on the choices made).

    I agree with your tactic of providing a positive example to the majority. At this point we’re pretty much at their mercy in terms of numbers. The other tactic available is to simply create smaller enclaves where we are the majority – the danger there being devolution into a backstabbing clique or a reign of terror.

    3D metaverse is not the future of the internet, but something else entirely

    I’ve always thought of SL as a kind of evolutionary cul-de-sac, at least for people like us (“us” meaning people who like pseudonymity, user created content, and a great deal of freedom). We’re like those bacteria that can only exist in thermal pools at the bottom of the ocean. Change the salinity of the water, or the temperature, or the light levels, and we expire.

    This is why some people react so strongly to voice, others to Identity Verification, still others to content enforcement (the “Adult” region tag and so on). They threaten the very conditions that make being a Digital Person possible.

    So, I understand the urge to tell people who want to change the platform “Nothing to see here, move along!”, but it’s not true.

    The 3D metaverse is whatever the people paying money to build want it to be, even if that’s not the best thing it could be. They may be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole by using it for business conferences, or presentations, or whatever, but damned if they won’t try.

    We need to recognize this fact, and not deny it, because it’s just as possible for us to influence the course of things as anyone else. Maybe if we try we can keep this world on a path where we can survive or, failing that, make a new one with the tools at hand. Again being positive, and being vocal, and showing new people what this place can do, is a great idea.

    Second Life is the great escape. What we are is the vanguard of tomorrow’s escapists.

    I think your definition of escapism is probably the most palatable one I’ve read so far, hands down.

    I’ll tell you straight though, I don’t like that label. It’s got too many negative connotations – we are escaping from broken lives, or when we’re here we’re amoral gods, or any number of other interpretations. Plus, I’d bet good money that the person who created that label wasn’t an escapist, and I’m leery of labels that come from outside.

    I understand the idea of making the label our own – the “We’re here and we’re queer” tactic. I just can’t get behind it yet. I’m a Digital Person, and a native of SL, but I’m not ready to take up the mantle of escapist just yet.

    But…those points aside, I agree, and I’ll do what I can to help. Tell my story, build castles in the air, and ask newcomers the same thing I always ask them “Show me who you really are.”

    OK, now I’ll jump up in front of the crowd and wave the flag ^_^

  5. Kit, ArminasX, Dusan, Eidur : ta such a lot for all your praise. It might not be deserved, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel like purring 🙂

    Argent : I didn’t mean to say enforcing norms as such, in any situation, is out. All depends on the context and applicability of the norms enforced. Banning someone from your land is very different from trying to define norms for a society at large. The first will work, because its origin (your wish for privacy) matches its scope (your private space), the second not, because its origin (a small minority) does not match its scope (the majority). What the sentence thus meant is : enforcing the minority community’s norms of social behaviour in society at large is out.

    As to the 3D metaverse not being the future of the internet, I rest my case. I did not mean to say (and in this case, I am pretty sure I did in fact not say at all) that using it for, say, engineering, teleconferencing, or as kind of 3D Facebook is forcing square pegs into round holes. All these uses make perfect sense — the pegs do in fact fit. What I am trying to say is limiting ourselves to these uses is a waste of holes, because it is only the smallest fraction of them there are such pegs for. Basically, I’m not saying « don’t change the platform » — I say « look at what else you can do with it, it is so much more than what you think ». After all, even if Auguste Lumière’s invention begat remote missile guidance systems, CCTV, telesurgery and many other applications that are entirely valid, its real power to this day lies in Tinseltown and its children and grandchildren, TV and internet video.

    Finally, yes, there is something of the « proud to be queer » in my affirmation of escapism. Why should we let people demean us because they have managed to infuse the term with a derogatory meaning ? Why listen to those telling you that escaping from life is bad ? Wouldn’t you rather ask yourself if the place you are escaping to is not worth it ? I think you have long ago answered that question by stating you are a native of the metaverse, dear Argent. So — feel free to wave that flag 🙂

  6. I can’t help but recall a post I made coming to the same conclusion on march the 3rd, greeted with so much resistance it spawned at 30+ post discussion, however, I am in awe of your way with words and placing your observations into much better context 🙂 Truly an insightful post.

    I think the experience of stories being shared or solace is subjective – of course the experience is private/individual in essence, but would you have the same experience if you didn’t share the moment with someone at the time you told/participated/conjured up the story. It’s one of the subjects that’s really been my focuspoint of research as of late (from a marketing perspective i should add) I’m inclined to say there is a power in presence that amplifies the experience thus there is something to be said in favour of the ‘campfire experience’, perhaps its a need for confirmation or something more deep, I’m not sure.

  7. Rick, ta for the sweet compliment, dear. Your post, and the ensuing head butting with Dandellion was, as you probably are aware of, the starting point for my own The world Philip made. Though I didn’t get into the debate then, and I still don’t see a reason to, I would like to point out a few aspects we do not agree on, even if we use similar terms :

    The way we relate escapism to immersion. As I said before, as far as I’m concerned, the immersion versus augmentation debate is moot. SL works by immersion, without exception but a few puzzled tourists. If one’s stance is platformist (and I agree with you the platformists are opportunists, or as I said : self styled pragmatists) or autonomist (i.e. considering the metaverse a realm of its own) does not change anything about that. I can’t see how trying to match one stance with a mechanism, immersion, and then with escapism on top is leading anywhere, but that might just be me.

    The spin we give to the term escapism. You did not posit escapism, allowing for all negative connotations of the term. Note I do not say that is what you intended to do, but it is very much what was perceived, hence the strong reaction by Dandellion and, to a degree, Sophrosyne. I on the other hand consider escapism something that is, in its entirety, positive — though, of course, as with anything positive you can carry it too far. Like Argent said : we’re queer, we’re here — in a manner of speaking.

    As to the experience being individual, I agree entirely, of course : Our stories are ours alone. But we tell them by projecting our identity into a social space. Quite an asynchronous cacophony indeed 🙂

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  9. I’m a big fan of yours! Thanks for providing much food for thought and for sharing yourself with us here. I’ll eventually have some thoughts to contribute related to the the actual content of your post, but I didn’t want to just whip something off, except to express my appreciation.

  10. Rheta, I sent you personal comments on this in the vein of excellent, wonderful, so on. And something like, gah, I wish I could write like you.

    And I wrote more to this response but think I need to put it on my own blog and link back. After all, the web is just one big ol’ blog, right? 😀

  11. Botgirl, Harper : I might be amenable to tweak the order of comments, just a little — if the right amount of, ahem, convincing, was applied. Shall we have an auction debate 😉 ?

  12. The way we relate escapism to immersion.

    I see your point but I think the debate moved beyond, if in fact it was ever intended, as a ‘versus’ debate except for the label Orange Island gave the discussion and which ignited a series of posts. I still can’t make you see that apparently 🙂 However, I think it’s also imperative to recognize there are different, sometimes opposing mindsets on this ‘metaverse’ (I think the most obvious one is still Cory vs Philip, which was more than a business/marketing disagreement), and obviously are a lot of greys in between – but they are not split by whether one augments or immerses – which was actually never the intention of the debate (which ironically makes you right and wrong at the same time when you say the discussion is moot).

    I made a distinction between immersionists and augmentists by their goals and expectations of the metaverse. If you want to look at it clinically, think of them as 2 different niches with different needs and wants. Forget about augmenting and immersing for a moment, I choose those two words because they are the strongest factors within the distict qualities of these different views.

    An example to show both intention and relevancy is social networking in Second Life. The ‘augmentist’ (tourist is really not the right choice here – it’s judgmental and assumes lack of understand of all facets of this ‘world’, while even in the most positive outcome of the debate it would just be a lack of understanding the mindset of the ‘escapists’) will welcome a chance to bring their real life network into 3D, the immersionist would either or oppose or not participate in this because it breaks their central expectation of escapism – having your real life follow you around in your second is not something to be desired here. This will be important and far from a moot point in the present and future. Thats my connection and I don’t think that is an unreasonable one but feel free to tell me how that’s a wrong assumption. If social networking is to vague for you think ‘voice’.

    The spin we give to the term escapism

    Well denying escapism has a downside is indeed something we don’t agree on then – thats not how I read your words and certainly not one I think is true. As you say, you can take it too far, just as anything, and I think there are plenty of cases it has been. When one ‘escapes’ into alternate realities these realities can influence a person for good (inspiration, creativity, satisfaction) but for bad as well (losing respect for life for example in the case of a boy killing his best friend over a runescape sword, becoming lack of empathy to your environment – resulting in the syndrome of alexithymia as documented in ‘Excodus to the Virtual World’ by Edward Castronova, or the addiction to easy reward cycles). Even if negative mental effects stay out, it can have real life (meatverse to all you meatworld tourists :p) social, and physical effects – from my perspective, it’s a bit like saying cocaine doesn’t have negative side effects just because it makes you feel better and expands the mind. I think it’s far better to recognize it’s not a flaw – which makes the ‘we’re here and we’re queer’ point moot. Escapism can be a source of inspiration, culture, recognition and much much more rather than to perceive it as an insult (which I also noted in the argument over on my post, – if that is your perception I do understand why you’d feel offended).

    This might be somewhat of a diversion of the conventional perception of escapism – which I feel has to do with this generation growing up in which at least a large number of people have a more a profound opinion and curiosity about ‘reality’ as it replaces religion. The technological promise of replicating the 5 senses is food for thought for this generation that understands better than any before it the implications of simulation and ‘virtual experiences’.

  13. Castranova also points out quite accurately how even if escapism doesn’t affect you negatively directly, it could indirectly by affecting your environment, and mentions the example of the father of two spending 90 hours a week in a virtual world because he is unhappy with his marriage. Though of course this is closely related to losing empathy for your realworld environment.

  14. Well, I took the liberty of providing some first aid to the casualties of your hasty posting. I hope you don’t mind. Now on to the meat 🙂

    Personally, however you want label them, I can’t see the niches you name exist. At all. Or ever have. But let’s assume one moment these are useful ideal types, albeit very academic ones if you ask me. In that case, I will, please, have you note that :

    Tourist is not a way I found to relabel one of the two types. It is simply the name I have for those who are not subject (yet) to SL’s pervading mechanism (to which both types would be subject in an absolutely equal measure), immersion — be they newbies or visiting scientists. Simply put, « tourists » is not a (mildly insulting) new label for those once called « augmentationists » . In the same vein, Escapist isn’t an attempt to relabel the other type, those historically labelled as « immersionists », either.

    So if you insist on using these ideal types (and I think they do nothing but muddle the waters, but that is just me), please do me the favour of not, repeat not, matching these with the terms « tourist » and « escapist » as you did in the above comment. Rick, that was yesterday’s battle. Please let us stop fighting it. I’m tired of it.

    As to escapism and my perception of it — would you care explaining to me how you can, in one and the same comment, quote me on how it can be too much of a good thing, tell me I am wrong thinking it is only ever positive, and ask me if my perception of it is negative ? I’ll gladly own up to being a bit of a bumblehead at times, but not to that degree ! And the cocaine comparison… frankly, dear Rick, that is disgraceful ; whatever point you intended to make by that, all you managed was to give it an insulting bias. Knowing you as I do, I presume that was not your intent, but I’ll still have to vent some steam before I even consider tackling further discussion.

    P.S. : judging from your example, I’d venture that Mr Castranova obviously does not know the first thing about marriages, happy or not.

  15. No I think made my points clear enough, and I don’t really like the assumptions made in your argumentation.

    1. you deliberately look for something to insult you here, I think the point made with cocaine was quite obvious about something being very capable of having an incredible upside, and a deep downside – closing your eyes for the negative is equally harmful as closing your eyes to the positive.

    2. You ‘tire’ of it because you keep replaying the same tape in your mind instead of reading the argumentation. Is there not a clear distinction between users that would welcome and hate voice and how is this distinction not relevant? This is a somewhat rethorical question now because

    3. You reply along the lines of ‘Castranova simply doesn’t know what he is talking about’ (which quite frankly is quite disappointing to hear after our last talk) instead of answering the valid points raised by him, effectively converting it to yet another ‘you had to be there’ argument which makes further discussion rather pointless 🙂 Now the argument has become about the argument itself and to prevent further deterioration I simply withdraw from the argument. It has been an interesting read none the less.

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  17. Hmmm I won’t weigh in on rhetoric, Prok did a nice job of that recently. 😛

    But thank you again Rheta for provoking deep thoughts and we’ll keep cycling around some of this I think, there are few black and white answers to anything. But I dropped a post of my own, inspired by you, but also inspired by Tom Bukowski’s book which I can’t say enough about.

  18. I need to go back and read this intelligent post when I have less wine in me but I want to say I am not comfortable being made out to be the poster child defender of the TOS.

    The idea that we should respect each other’s privacy is basic and the TOS, no matter how flawed, attempts to set out rules that preserve our right to RL privacy.

  19. Rick : sweetie, I am sorry you take it this way ; you are right I should take a deep breath and talk about this reasonably. It seems tempers run high whenever we argue, and that should most certainly not be.

    You deliberately look for something to insult you here : Oh Rick… I appreciate the point you are trying to make, but where I come from, cocaine consumption is ostracised. Comparing escapism to it thus means — to me at least — stating that its overall effect is, and always will be negative, and that there is no positive effect I could name that would outweigh this. Plus — again, to me — it implies I am an addict unable to see my addiction, and defending something no one in their right mind would defend. Your background and attitude on this might be entirely different, but to anybody who shares mine, it is a disgraceful comparison, sounding like you only meant to invalidate the argument for escapism from the onset. I said I presume you didn’t mean it like that, but it takes only one side for an insult.

    You ‘tire’ of it because you keep replaying the same tape in your mind instead of reading the argumentation. Well, that is not a nice thing to say about somebody. Where in your first comment (or original post) did it say it is voice adoption you are talking about ? But no more squabbling. Of course there are voice users and voice non-users — obviously. I am not sure that you can extrapolate useful ideal types from that, but if you can do so without following the beaten path of the imm vs. aug debate, I will readily listen.

    Castranova simply doesn’t know what he is talking about : All right, that was catty. I didn’t mean to imply Mr Castranova does not know what he is talking about in general — I wouldn’t know, not having read him. Maybe his point about the « father of two spending 90 hours a week in a virtual world because he is unhappy with his marriage » is given in enough context to make sense to me. The way you quote him, however, as if the example meant anything in such short form, makes me want to discuss at length about the morality it implicitly posits, the dynamics of marriage it fails to take into account and much more. My apologies for blurting this out so angrily. But catty or not, this was not about « You had to be there. »

    So — why not try to convince me ? As the French saying goes : qui est mal compris s’est mal exprimé. I tried to clarify what I meant, and I’d really appreciate if you did that, too. 😉

    Dusan : I retrieved your original comment — sorry for that.

    Chestnut : ta for the kind words. I very much hope that people will not think you are defending the ToS at large just because you recur to a clause you agree with. I do agree with it, too, by the way, but « the idea that we should respect each other’s privacy » is exactly what the whole debate is about, isn’t it ? Ours and many newcomers’ definitions of what this means as to RL information seem to differ, and though the ToS is historically camped on our side, my point is how long that will help if the majority of users does not agree with it.

  20. Pingback: Dusan Writer’s Metaverse » Killing Sacred Cows II: Improve Orientation

  21. No, Second Life is not the great escape, it is a prison like any other web2.0 tool that has no other mean but make you lose your time and not enjoy the real life.

    Second Life is an illusion, your avatar is not a “second self”, it is only an extension of your own imagination and its only merit is to make a lot of people write a lot of stuff about it without any tangible effect.

    I was fed up losing my time chasing ghosts, now I play a real game and things are clearer.

    Of course all this is my own opinion and I understand that others can have a different approach (les pauvres…)

  22. In connection with this swirling vortex of thought, one comment I came across on the Resident Answers forum keeps coming back to mind: basically, that in the absence of “normative” social brakes, people can get lost in the virtual thingy. Increasingly, I think that’s a useful comment. Perception may drive cognition, sure, that’s all nice, but we are indeed physical beings in a physical world. The emotional disorientation so many of us fall prey to may simply be a function of “no enforceable laws.”

  23. What a wonderful world which has such tools for thinking as this one! As I gaze into my companion Catahoula’s golden eyes and speculate on his thoughts or even what those eyes see, I sit here reading these words, and speculate on living entities in other places doing the same thing. Metverse? Virtual? Life? All these and other touchstones of existence give us reference for the buzzing cacophony of the electrical flashes in our brains, and in the box sitting in front of us.

    Literature, art and music are all our ancestors had and they certainly were quite sufficient to transport 100’s of generations into fantastical worlds of reality, history, travel and romance, escapes into other flickers of someone else’s life and thought. As media blossom, our beautiful bionic CPUs adjust and configure to maximize our experience, to immerse us into escape of whatever current plane or solid we are on.

    Thank you for the post, and all you thinking avatars out there, keep those cards and letters coming. Thinking is the best way to travel… Barry/Farnham/Grinbear/Wayman/Llead/Barry48/beverett/ (and some you’ll have to find on your on…lol)

  24. again you’ve said things I’d felt but not yet put to words… (yes, still alive) glad to see you still insightful as ever =)

  25. Rheta, you have obviously given this matter a great deal of thought, and that carries through in your writing. And I think you certainly have your finger on the pulse of the future.

    I recently found myself saying that most of my Second Life actually takes place OUTSIDE of Second Life. Most of it takes place reading and writing in blogs, and sending frivolous Tweets to my SL friends. I realized that my logins for Flickr and various other Web 2.0 resources were for my Second Life self, not my Real Life self. What was initially an attempt to protect my RL privacy gradually morphed into a way for my SL self to expand her reach. It is giving me much to think about.

    I know that you were going for the best “bang for your buck” in your closing:

    “We have just begun exploring its possibilities. One thing, however, I know for sure : for the right to live there, going schizo is a very small price to pay.
    Welcome to the new world”

    but I wish you had not chosen to glorify the earlier quote that the “schizo” reference comes from,and to continue to spread it about. For people who suffer from schizophrenia, their lives are very difficult, and I am quite certain that they would find your comment that “going schizo is a very small price to pay” as very insensitive. Schizophrenia is not something to be bantered about as a joke. It is a very real, very painful mental illness, and the people who suffer from it would give anything for it to go away. So please do not say that you would welcome it, if it gives you access to this “new world.”

    Other than that, Bravo. A very thought-provoking article.

    Princess Ivory

  26. Again, such a lot of undeserved praise. Ta for the sweet words, Eveline, Void (the much missed, well named), Princess.

    @Princess : I couldn’t agree more with you as to the seriousness of a clinical state of schizophrenia. All I wanted to do was reply to an often heard polemic on the topic with a little polemic of my own — I’d never dare imply incurring a medical condition is something we should or would like to do, or that those afflicted by that same condition have it easy. Having had experience with one case IRL, I know all too well they don’t.

  27. Most of my thoughts having already been expressed, the only thing I think worth adding is: EVERYONE is always looking for something. Sometimes, we simply may not be aware of that, but no one is obviously fullfiled 100%… not even 80% most of the times. But being in SL at least makes me feel I’m trying to do something about – searching for some sort of filling solutions, perhaps in a not that much conventional way… but trying, nevertheless.

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