Monday, January 25, 2010

Connecting Real Life and Second Life - a Personal Opinion

There has been more than the usual amount of discussion lately about having a formal and public connection between your first life and Second Life identities (and I'm differentiating here between this topic and the more general ones concerning internet privacy). For what it's worth, allow me to express my own opinion.

First I'll start by revealing some things about my typist you wouldn't know. This will demonstrate my bias and put the rest of my comments in context.

If you googled my real life name right now you would get many results....but not one of them would be about me. I don't have a common name but there are some people in the world who share the same combination of syllables and you will get results for them. But not me.

I'm not proactively hiding from the law or actively "hiding" at all. I just don't think my life is anybody else's business. I share what I want with those I choose. But I don't think somebody I knew (and probably disliked) in high school has any right to know anything about me or mine just because they can type a query into a search engine.

I don't belong to FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter or any other web based billboard advertising the thoughts and activities of peoples' lives (intimate or otherwise). In fact, as far as the general internet is concerned, I don't exist. Please understand, it's not just about the internet. I have no desire to be on television, the idea of joining a reality or talk show gives me the creeps. Somebody else can have my 15 minutes of fame thank you very much.

Having said all that, you can guess that I'm not in favour of connecting my real life identity publicly with my Second Life persona. :) I don't like the terms augmentationist and immersionist, they are too restrictive and don't include all the grey areas most of us inhabit. I behave as the same person in both lives. I don't do "role play" in Second Life but I do operate as an Avatar with a name that's not on my real life birth certificate.

Some people are adamantly opposed to the idea of connecting the two lives because they don't want to advertise their activities in Second Life - I'm reasonably certain that there's a boss somewhere who doesn't know his male Account Executive spends a lot of downtime as a buxom kajira in Gor. Others are rightfully concerned about the increased potential for real life stalking and violence. Me, I'm just a private person.

Those in favour of connecting the two have a least two main arguments (if I'm following the discussion correctly).

  1. For business purposes, clients will feel more comfortable dealing with a real life persona/business. You must be willing to provide this information to realize the level of trust necessary to be successful. I am perfectly willing to share my real life information, when it is appropriate, with clients and have done so. I don't need to share it with the entire community to achieve the same results. In addition, I don't believe that business is the primary occupation of the majority of Second Life residents. So doing anything for "business" reasons and applying that to everybody would seem ludicrous.

  2. Second Life needs to be able to use "real names" to achieve the growth it needs for long term success. Proponents point to applications such as Face Book and social networking in general to highlight this argument. They also emphasize that the age group they're targeting (younger yet still legal) expects to be able to bring their real life identities into this world. Forgetting for a moment the number of "younger" people using non real-life identities in other virtual worlds and games.....they are holding up a target audience which appears to be largely composed of individuals who think posting pictures of themselves drunk and naked on the internet will somehow help them when it comes time to get a job. This is not an approach destined to win me over.

I'm sure I've missed some salient features of the arguments both for and against this issue. This is a short blog post and an overly simplistic analysis, not an exhaustive Doctoral thesis. However, nothing I've read or heard convinces me that my real life is the business of the world in general - physical or virtual. If Second Life makes the connection voluntary (which it already is in the First Life tab I guess) then those who want to use it will. If it becomes a social stigma for not using that function then I'm prepared to be stigmatized.

just saying ..............


Dedric Mauriac said...

It seems like it all comes down to whether the first life information will be required or not. A lot of these issues came up when voice was introduced, yet we still have men playing as woman, and no everyone is expected to talk. It's more of a selling point of a female escort offers a womans voice as an added bonus.

I think the same will go with associating real life information. It would be an added bonus - just like age verification plays today. No one has to prove they are 18+ unless they want to get to those adult regions on Zindra.

Everyone has a 1st Life tab as well, but (guessing here) hardly anyone looks at it on a first glance.

As long as real life information remains optional, I think everyone can benefit from it.

Perhaps a method of control over who sees this information would be an added benefit. Maybe some folks only want to let people on their friends list to see their real name. Just saying ...

Dedric Mauriac said...

er, that should read "not everyone is expected to talk"

Honour McMillan said...

:) I think gender identity is another huge potential obstacle for the whole linkage thing. A lot tougher for people to pretend to be what they are not!

Peter Stindberg said...

You sum up my thoughts very well. The problem as I see it was that SL got marketed for many years as a "second chance", as a fantasy world where you can be whoever and whatever you want to be. This promise of a dream refuge was limited more and more, and the notion of a (potentially mandatory) linking with atomic identities is the last straw that makes the bubble of that dream burst.

As Dedric says, it all comes down to how it is implemented. As long as we have a choice, and those of us who chose to keep their atomic persona seperate will not get discriminated, I see no problem with this.

There ARE cases where a link of the personalities is beneficial. There are cases where it is not.

Dedric Mauriac said...

The other side of this is that we are able to create alternate accounts to keep the two separate.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a hot topic. Many folks are blogging on it. You have, as usual, expressed yourself extremely well and, in doing so, stated my preference as well.

As you know, I gave permission recently to be "outed" if need be. I thought it over quite a bit before I gave permission. I do NOT want to post my RL name, photo or details. I will disclose that when and if I feel there is a need or desire.

There really is too much that I am trying to articulate, so I'll just say again that I think you hit the key issues for me. *grin* Thanks!