Monday, August 22, 2011

Maybe it's not about the "I" in Second Life

Rossers Landing II  (moderate)

There's a lot of discussion in both the physical and virtual worlds about the concept of identity and what "I" means in the metaverse.  This is a huge and important topic and one which, if we could ever figure out a useful and easy to understand vocabulary, helps ensure dialogue between those of us firmly ensconced in a pixel based life and those who distrust both us and the concept.

My thoughts this morning were with those watching clocks in every world counting down to a major surgical procedure in just one of them.  I also have the news on in the background and various parts of the world are undergoing massive change while my own slice of the planet is dealing with a significant loss.  The common theme in all of stories I'm following (from my perspective) is hope.  I am hoping for the best for everyone involved.

All of this combined in my admittedly odd brain and led to some tangential thoughts.  They are only partially formed but their impact on me is so strong that I'll voice them here just to quiet them long enough for me to contemplate the implications with more reason.  Maybe.

Rossers Landing II  (moderate)

I've noticed that the announcement of the death of a physical alt brings me real sorrow - even if I have had little or no interaction with them - and the knowledge that the typist behind an avatar is going through personal pain and difficulties affects me deeply.  I don't consider myself an overly emotional type of person and my reactions sometimes surprise me.

We've all witnessed an outpouring of support for individuals or groups represented by Second Life avatars - whether it's the efforts put forward to help a musician dealing with floods, a country devastated by nature, a large percentage of the population impacted by a fatal disease or one glorious talent threatened by an invasive tumour.  We've felt a personal connection to world events - uprisings, riots, war, elections and more - because we know individuals whose physical lives are impacted and we've felt closer to those events because those individuals are involved.  On occasion we can "witness" that involvement or feel closer to it because of parallel events inworld.  We also learn from each other about cultures and events and we're better for it.

Rossers Landing II  (moderate)

I believe the reason for the connection we feel, the sincerity of emotion, is that our sense of self is not the only thing at work in the metaverse.  Our sense of "You" and "Her" and "Him" is growing stronger all the time.  Individuals we would never encounter in our real lives are no longer faceless.  We know we're dealing with "persons" not cartoon characters and we're dealing with "persons" from around the globe - time zones become the only barrier to reaching out of our narrow corner of the physical and, since many of us apparently need little sleep, that barrier is often broken. 

We encounter positions and points of view based on life experiences we've never even tried to imagine.  Events and philosophies are no longer theoretical when we interact with somebody to whom they are personal.

Rossers Landing II  (moderate)

We get very frustrated with news reports that portray Second Life as an online source of porn and virtual sex and retaliate with stories about RFL and other initiatives to demonstrate the "good" that is done inworld.  It could be that the "good" being done is much subtler and much more important.

As intriguing as it is, the discussion concerning our sense of personal identity as it relates to an avatar may turn out to be secondary.  It just could be that our freedom to develop a sense and understanding of the "other" and the resulting impact on our capacity for empathy and compassion will be the real story of the virtual world.

I can only hope. :)

Rossers Landing II  (moderate)


Anonymous said...

Spot on

SpaceCase M said...

Wonderfully said!

Uccie Poultry said...

/me wipes a tear. "Huggs."

Apmel said...

Beautifully written!