Archive for August, 2007

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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .

August 29, 2007

As of tonight, I’m no longer homeless.

OK, so I haven’t really been homeless, because my wonderful gf Tobie has allowed me to use her place after I sold my land 🙂 What I should say is, I can once again be counted among the landowners of SL.

Since Tobie bought her land, I’ve talked about buying the adjacent plot. I finally put my lindens where my mouth is and purchased it tonight.

Tobie and I are going to treat the two plots like they’re one, so it’s more like we share a 4064 sq.m. plot. I really like where we’re at, and I can’t wait until I can build again. Tobie may build us a beach house, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with as well.

Watching the sun rise from our land.

Maybe once I’m back on broadband and we’re done building, we’ll have everyone over for a party. I’ll keep you kids informed 🙂

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Kitten love =^.^=

August 22, 2007

I’m going to break my recent trend and not post anything very thoughtful or introspective this time.

*waits for the sighs of relief to die down*

Anyway, tonight I got to spend some time with Tobie. We actually haven’t been able to see each other too much recently because I get online so late and she has to work. If only she were an unemployed (unemployable?) bum like me . . . 🙂

Monday, Tobie bought her first parcel of land, and I think she made an excellent choice. She now has a waterfront lot in a low lag (maybe lag free) area with some very cool neighbors. I may be among them, soon 🙂

Does this pic even need a caption? 🙂

This makes me want more and more to get broadband back. I look forward to many nights on the beach with my favorite kitty 🙂

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Right and Wrong

August 20, 2007

Last week, my friend Dirk and I got into a discussion about the concept of right and wrong and whether they actually exist in the natural world or if they are purely the fabrication of humankind. Yeah, we’ve been having some rather serious discussions as of late, but that’s beside the point.

Dirk and me, unfortunately *not* from the night of the discussion.

Dirk asked me whether I believed in right and wrong, and though I said that most things are relative to the situation and people involved, I did respond that I believe that there are certain things that are definitely right and some that are definitely wrong. Of course, Dirk had to put me to the test and ask for examples.

I agonized over claiming something to be definitely right, and I finally settled on the Golden Rule, though I wasn’t entirely happy with that answer. Dirk then asked me for a definite wrong, to which I responded with rape and murder. I immediately devalued my murder answer, though, by stating that there is always the “would you murder Hitler” question, which makes the inherent wrongness (God, I’m word dead tonight) of murder questionable. I stuck by rape, though, as I can’t conceive of any scenario in which anything beneficial would come from rape. It is a totally self-centered act which can have incredibly detrimental and lasting effects on the victim.

I won’t go into detail into the debate that ensued. We finally concluded that we both saw the issue similarly (if not identically). The concept of right and wrong is one that really does not crop up in the natural world; instead, it is a reflection of the mores of a society and a tool used to control behavior. Saying that someone is wrong or doing something wrong can become a powerful deterrent, given the right conditioning. We end up internalizing the concept of right and wrong so much that we oftentimes do not question it (in my opinion, one of the reasons why people are so opposed to certain social changes). We base our world views on what we believe to be right and wrong and work within that construct.

So, if we accept that right and wrong are not explicit rules set forth naturally, they become much more malleable and dependent upon the beliefs of a particular society. In Second Life (yes, I’m finally bringing it back to our little metaverse), we see the interaction of multiple societies from across the globe. What does this mean, then, for the conceptualization of right and wrong in world? Are there actions that we would consider definitely right and wrong in SL?

I think this is a difficult question, and it seems to be one that the Lindens have problems with as well. I’ve only been in SL slightly over six months, and I’ve already seen changes in SL due to a particular group’s or culture’s beliefs about right and wrong. Likely the most notable recent controversy has been sexual roleplay using child avies. Is it intrinsically wrong to engage in sexual acts with an child-like avie controlled by an adult? I’m sure we all have opinions about this, but what are we basing them on? What about gambling? Is it wrong to gamble? Has there been real harm done by SL gambling?

SL is a virtual world. It is a world that promises possibilities unattainable in RL. It is a world that allows us to do so much without the risks we would face in the real world. No one can ever physically harm you in SL. No one can force you to do something without your consent. In the event that you find yourself in an unpleasant situation, escape is just a click away. The only ways I can conceive of anyone actually being harmed in world are emotionally or financially. The former is a risk any time you form relationships with others and can only be defended against by the individual. The latter is something that, to my knowledge, LL isn’t all that concerned with guarding residents against.

Coming back to the question, do right and wrong exist in SL? Yes, I believe so, but more on an individual level, and I think that the trend towards outlawing certain actions in SL should turn. Some people on the grid act very much in ways that I don’t like, but I think creating rules against these actions is not a solution I’m looking for. I would like to be able to enter a sim without being immediately asked for sex. I think it’s rude and wrong to accost a woman (or man) like that. That certainly doesn’t mean that I want LL to start enforcing a sexual harrassment policy with an iron fist, though. I have tools at my disposal to ignore such people, just as others have to ignore the things that bother them.

Personally, I think it’s *wrong* that LL has succumbed to outside pressure. They need to set things *right* again by returning the freedom the platform promises.

But then again, this is all just one avie’s opinion . . .

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Avatar identity

August 13, 2007

Initially, we all created an account with SL, selected a default avatar, and began making modifications from that starting point. Though working with a three-dimensional model was a new experience for many of us, we finally managed to manipulate our avatars enough to differentiate them from the other avies on the grid and made them our own. We created a virtual life.

We got our feet wet on orientation island, learning the basics of the platform and how to make our avatar interact with other avies and the environment. Though our skills were still rather rudimentary, we finally took the step of leaving orientation island behind and venturing out amongst the general populace.

From that point, we began accumulating experiences. Some of us began chatting it up with other avies, enjoying the social aspect of the platform. Some of us began to explore, taking in all the interesting and not-so-interesting builds of our fellow avies. Others sought out places for SLex, curious as to the mechanics of it and why it had garnered such attention from the press. And there were likely those ambitious ones among us who immediately began searching for ways to make money. We all took divergent paths and began buidling our avatar’s identity in Second Life.

What does it really mean to develop the identity of an avatar in Second Life, though, and are all of us really doing it?

Some people claim that avies are merely virtual dolls. We dress them up and then join other users to play with them. We create storylines the same way that we did when we were young, playing with our Barbies (or Ninja Turtles or X-Men or whatever). We’ve just found a more sophisticated and more acceptable way of continuing the play acting we did as children.

Are avies just virtual dolls?

I have to admit that I do get a certain amount of pleasure out of dressing my avie in different clothes, especially recently, as I’ve been cycling through different looks. I’ll even admit that the wording some people use when referring to their avies also seems to promote we’re just play acting. For example, there is one person on Flickr who always starts the description of her photos with “In the game Second Life, I play the avatar . . . .” Personally, though, I think the relationship is more complicated than that.

Much of the time, I refer to my avatar in the first person, as we share the same emotions and thoughts, but there are times when I refer to her in the third person, which I definitely don’t do in RL. Early on, I would profess that she *is* me, but I don’t think that is entirely truthful. She is a representation of me, and one that is filtered through my own perceptions and the limitations of the platform. She is the RL Chloe as interpreted and presented by the RL Chloe through the medium of Second Life.

And yet, that doesn’t seem to cover it entirely, either.

A lot that has happened to the SL Chloe has impacted me in RL. The virtual has transgressed into the real, causing change. It’s something that couldn’t have happened if I were playing with dolls or were gaming. It’s as if avatar Chloe really has taken on a life of her own and sometimes is leading her user along, perhaps providing some insight into what might or should be occurring in RL.

I’m curious if and when the time will come when I bid adieu to Second Life. Will it be because my RL becomes too busy to devote time to the platform? Will something happen to change the metaverse so much that I no longer enjoy it? Will it be that I never get broadband back and finally decide that dial-up SL is too frustrating too continue? 😉

Perhaps—just perhaps—it will come when SL Chloe has finally provided me all that she has to offer and forces me off the grid to integrate it all into my RL identity.

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Cycle of prejudice?

August 12, 2007

As I’ve professed here (and elsewhere) before, I’m a fan of the Silent Hill series of games. My ex (a big gamer) introduced me to the series, and while I took a passing interest, at best, with the other titles he tried to get me to play, something about the Silent Hill games really hooked me.

Because I have such an interest in the SH games, I try to keep informed about what’s going on with them. I’ve known for a while that a prequel to the first game is being released on the PSP, and though I don’t own a PSP or have any interest in getting one, I have been watching its development.

Yesterday, I went to Gamespot to check on the game (titled Silent Hill: Origins, if you’re interested), when I noticed that there was a link on the front page for this article on Second Life. The article talks about the lawsuit pending over copyright infringement of the SexGen products.

Already being somewhat informed of what was going on with the case, the article wasn’t of much interest to me, and I scanned over it quickly. Then, I began to read the responses to the article left by Gamespot users. Though I perhaps shouldn’t have been, I was surprised by what I read.

The Gamespot users were almost unanimously denouncing the Second Life platform and referring to its users using terms like “loser” and “pathetic.” Many of the comments referred to the virtual sex in world and how the users should spend the cost of a SexGen bed (reported on the site at $45) to go out and get a real date.

It actually bothered me to read the comments and the hateful tone many of them had. Why such strong, negative feelings against SL users?

I know that there are factors that cause such responses. I’m just guessing, but I’m certain that most of those comments were left by pre-teen, teen, and twentysomething males who have probably never been in SL and are only focusing on the stories about SLex that pop up all too often. I think there are also those gamers who are offended that SL is often considered a game (and I don’t think many SL users would argue that it is).

I guess part of what bothers me about this is that gaming wasn’t always so mainstream, and the same insults that these gamers are throwing at SL users have been used against them in the past. Is this just a way of letting out their own frustation at the prejudice they once had to endure? Do they not realize they’re just repeating the same behavior, do they just not care, or do they take pleasure in being the jerks this time?

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VFF (Virtual Friends Forever)

August 11, 2007

Regardless of whatever other opportunities may exist, Second Life is primarily a social networking tool (feel free to argue against this if you must). Even if you like to build, make clothes, or gamble (suddenly feel like Vint), what brings the majority of us back are the relationships we’ve formed in world. That’s why SL blogs frequently cover relationship topics. They’re issues that are of interest to most SL users.

A few nights ago, my friend Dirk posed the question, “How many people on your friends list do you think you would be friends with in RL?” Since my relationships with other SL users are what keeps bringing me back, it would seem that my answer would be most, if not all of them. I opened my friends list and looked through the names of those online. Out of eight people, I had to be honest and say, “two.”

But why two? These are people who are on my friends list. Doesn’t it seem that these relationships should carry over into RL?

I guess one reason—which has actually been discussed recently on Veyron’s blog—is that our friends list is not necessarily comprised entirely of friends. Mostly, it seems to be used as an acquaintance or contact list, so not only do friends populate our lists, but mixed in are people we might want to contact later or people who offered us friendship that we didn’t want to decline.

I believe it goes beyond this, though. I think there is a distance element that factors into SL and online friendships that perhaps widens the scope of whom one considers a friend. There really isn’t much of an investment in making an online friend. Of course, there is an investment in developing that relationship, but for how many of these relationships do we put forth that effort?

Maybe this isn’t so different from how many people manage their RL friendships. It’s not how I generally handle mine, though.

In the comments section of a post on Tiana’s blog, Zoe asked, “Is it possible to love in SL?” I guess my question is, is it possible to form RL friendships in SL—friendships that transcend the virtual world? For some reason, even though I think it’s possible, I’m more inclined to think they don’t transfer as readily into RL as we might think or like to believe.

Hmm . . . given my last two posts, I’m thinking of claiming dinee’s abandoned title of Cynical Second Life for my own blog 🙂

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Flickr groups

August 9, 2007

As I mentioned in my last post, I just created a Flickr group for horror pics taken in SL. This forced me to think about the other groups of which I’m a member.

Flickr group invites come often if you have very many contacts. I only have 55, and yet it seems like I get at least one new invitation each week for a group that has just started. I don’t ever think I’ve turned down an invitation, but I almost never post my pics to a group unless specifically asked to (the exception being the Second Life group). Starting my own group has made me realize how wrong my attitude has been towards other Flickr groups.

I’ve been against adding my pics to a lot of groups, as it just seemed like “post-whoring.” I felt that it was a method used by people to get a bunch of views of their pics, and since I’m not all that interested in racking up views (though I’ll admit that I do place some significance on them), I didn’t do it.

It took creating my own group to realize just how off my attitude has been. I certainly didn’t create the SL Horror group so people could post whore (need to find a different term for that). I’m just sincerely interested in the horror images that people are creating in world. So why did I assume some of the other groups were founded to rack up views?

So, to all those people who invited me to join their groups and I haven’t supported, I’m sorry about that. I’ll do better in the future. I promise 🙂