My second life (possibly even my third or fourth?)
I must say I havn't remembered a time being connected to the internet in which I wasn't hiding behind some sort of screen name/userid/avatar or the like. The first thing I used the internet was aol instant messanger and while it sort of shows my name (my initials plus MN and three numbers), it still keeps some degree of anonymity. While chatting with your friends who know you it cuts down a bunch because they can make the mental connection between you and your screen name. One disadvantage to this factor is that people might accidently say things to one screen name when they are under the assumption that the person using the program is the actual person with that screen name (IE, maybe your roomate or friend of some sort has signed on to your aol?). I remember this happening a few times with some quite private information being given out. As far as having an avatar I don't really have one at the moment (although I have a buddy Icon which is a picture of blonde dude throwing his hands in the air so maybe that'd be some sort of an avatar).In any case other examples I have had of this were: I used to play Diablo and Diablo II online and you had your own individual character of which you could name, purchase items for, and customize to some degree (sorta like a WOW character for those newer gamers). I think The Sims online kinda fits to this category as well.
As far as the second life website goes I didn't really see a reason to sign up for an account but a few things I noticed that were pretty interesting to it: Its open source so you can essentially create whatever you want for your avatar, you buy and purchase land (with real money too?), of course it has a blog, and its free. Also the fact that you can hold virtual business meetings on it and all the other strange possibilities. As you can tell by my tone I'm not a huge proponent of this concept in general. I liken it to the fact that people might feel so enveloped in their virtual lives that they tend to overlook the real life that surrounds them. The author makes an anology to a child she interviewed who was highly involved into a well known roleplaying (I would call it an anologue version of virtual) game called Dungeons and Dragons, "One ten-year-old boy explained that Dungeons and Dragons was like history, except that Dungeons and Dragons 'is more complicated... there are hundreds and hundreds of books about Dungeons and Dragons' As far as this boy knew, there was only one book about history, his textbook." (Turkle 237). I do however like how the author likens virtuality to the effect that people get when reading books (just in much more extreme cases). I can imagine some times in which it would be nice to escape one's life to an imaginary one. The author quotes someone on this as well, "I live in a terrible part of town. I see a rat hole of an apartment, i see a dead-end job, i see AIDS. Down here (in the MUD) I see friends, I have something to offer, I see safe sex." (Turkle 239). For sake of keeping my post from getting to long I think that should be enough for my post.
I want to talk a little bit more about how money got involved into second life because I found this fascinating. Not sure if we were supposed to go into that article or not but I jumped at something related to my major. In second life you can purchase money called the Linden Dollar. This money can be used on the site to purchase things with the main thing being land. An interesting fact is that the sites creators are finding increased pressure to appreciate the Linden Dollar against the american dollar because of the difference in growth rates in world (in the second life economy) and out world (US). Of course the sites creators created a few ways to manage the virtual money supply and curb this which I find quite hilarious. A virtual economy? My question is this: will we someday see the value of the Linden shown in the money pages in our local news paper (or is it now? I havn't looked).