Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Building a Virtual Identity

Linden Lab Founder Philip Rosedale speaks about building the virtual self. It is often thought that user-created characters are completely false representations of the user in reality or these generated characters not only allow for the chance to make oneself as physically appealing as possible, but also allow a type of freedom of speech and actions which would otherwise not be characteristic of the user in everyday life. While some of this may be true, Rosedale argues that there is much more of the actual self (especially in terms of personality) that becomes imbedded in these characters as the virtual self becomes more complex.


  1. Second Life is such a good example of this. There's an incredible amount of flexibility with the ability to change the appearance of an avatar at any time, and users can generate code to add just about anything to an avatar, from clothing to costumes to...extra appendages. There is a sense of play to virtual identities like this. I think the relationship is highly complex, particularly when individuals are spending large amounts of time on line. I think of it not as a split between an online/offline self, but rather a fragmented, decentered, relational understanding of the self that crosses over physical and virtual contexts.

  2. This is so interesting!

    There are so many considerations "irl" when making a decision about how to look--many of which are social implications. Like, "Oh, I can't get a septum piercing because I need to get a job" or "I'll get the social stigma associated with being a hipster if I dress like I want to," etc. But I wonder if these social stigmas are often carried over into the digital world? Maybe not as strongly, but still existent.

    There's so much to think about!

    Thanks for sharing! =D

  3. Thanks for posting this. I think the flexibility and creativity offered by Second Life for avatar creation is very interesting. To be honest I have never tried Second Life, I've only seen a friend of mine edit her avatar. I've always been perplexed as to what the point of it is? I understand that it's a virtual world where people can take on any form and interact with others from around the world, but I guess I just don't get what is so great about that? I did notice that both the real and virtual crowds in the video were rather empty.

  4. In accordance to Jeff, I never really grasped onto this sort of "second life" virtuality. However, I used to and I'm sure many of you have also, played "sims" which was so invigorating and exciting being able to almost have socia control and have these animations act in certain ways. I can see the whole avatar thing as a fun way to live life through a new identity. However is it actually living? The people are real, just displayed as virtual? Would they really act like that? The actions they display online may influence their actions outside the screen...

  5. Here's an interesting article I talked to my health comm class about a couple years ago, concerning a group of individuals with Asperger's who used SL to find others like them and to learn to communicate more effectively with others.

    I think to answer the "what's so great" question, its important to understand that not everyone is going to find it to be a productive or valuable experience. However, universities offer classes in SL (some of which can be attended by anyone), businesses can make a profit, individuals could test the perceptions of others if by trying out a different gender or race identity. Why do we do anything that we do online? To communicate more easily and often, to find and share information, to have fun. Same purpose, different context.

  6. That's really interesting, Michelle. One of my two undergraduate theses was on Asperger's ... I'm going to pass that on to some of my colleagues! Thanks for the link.

  7. Michelle, I remember you telling me about that article and I think for some Second Life is a great virtual world in which they can have some meaningful social interactions that otherwise they might be able to have. That being said, I still don't have an answer to the "so what" question of SL and in general I just feel like it is being overhyped. Below is a blog post with a link to a newspaper article about corporations abandoning their SL endeavors because of lack of interest and the second link is to a newspaper article they mention. In regards to education, administrators like it because it is comparatively cheap to online systems like Bb and they don't need to worry about maintaining physical space (just the virtual space). For those who are geographically distant from their physical campus, SL is a way for them to interact in a virtual classroom environment without actually being there.

    I think we essentially agree that "its important to understand that not everyone is going to find it to be a productive or valuable experience", but we probably vary on how productive or valuable it is, in which case I'm willing to agree to disagree.