I don't want to end up in a MUDdy life!
Back in the 90's, I had one ID that I stuck with through and through: airwalk_21. I still remember alamak.com, which I have not looked at for at least 5 years until today, as my first ever live chat experience. Back in those days, there was no Java, so the page automatically refreshed every 30 seconds, or every time I hit enter. My name came from the type of shoe I was wearing when I first started an account, and 21 from Kevin Garnett, my favorite basketball player at that time. I chose a pseudonym because everyone else in the chat room had one. Alliterations and titles like "princess" aside, most names were pretty random. So how did I delve deeper into someone's identity? A little symbol I picked up quickly, A/S/L, which stood for age/sex/location. After that you could hopefully relate to the person, and they lived close enough that you could talk about something you both knew about. Since then, I have just used my last name, or my x500 from the U. I figure in an age of identity theft, it really doesn't matter. If they want it, they can have it. If I am chatting or using another application, I want my friends to know who I am.
I never used avatars until yesterday. I have never used SecondLife until yesterday. But after reading Kirkpatrick's Second Life:It's not a game, I decided to make one that looked just like me. Unfortunately my experiment proved inconclusive, I didn't stick with SecondLife too long, and I am, after all, a 20-something who is not obese (in real life and in the game). So I kind of fit in with the rest of the crowd that is "buff, invitingly, dressed, and about 20 years old." I really enjoyed reading the rest of Kirkpatrick's article, it was the first time I had ever heard of SecondLife. The things that got me to try it were reading that IBM was involved with it as a business platform, and that people could make money. I found it very interesting that Linden did not encourage anything, but just tried to let the users create everything themselves. I see him as a philanthropist of Internet and technology, on the levels of the creators of Wikipedia (Larry Sanger) and craigslist (Craig Newmark). The want to let the Internet serve as a place of learning and full-use, although SecondLife does make you pay at times for what you want to create.
I find it amazing that we have a virtual real estate market, inside a virtual program. It made sense to me when popular URL names were fought over in court, such as nissan.com, or have 6 or 7 digit price tags, such as many adult-themed-words.com (not this site, sites with adult-themed names). This is a whole universe I never new existed! Who needs space travel? I can walk, I can talk, I can fly, I can look however I want, raise an eyebrow and flatten my face. I don't need clothes, I can change those however I want for free, and if I really want I can be naked. There is a world of difference between the material Turkle writes about and SecondLife. I never used IRC or MUDs, but they seem prehistoric to what we have now. Before we had that, we had nothing, or did we? I feel like my generation is really bad at personal communication. I thinking picking up the phone, speaking in front of class or interviewing is a lot harder for the 20 year-olds than the 40 year-olds, but that is a different blog.
I really liked when Sherry Turkle talked about the example from the mailing list discussing MUDding from Finland. Someone goes on to talk about how time spent in the computer is better than watching a television show all day, because they are actually talking to "real people through the machine". But are we talking to real people? Turkle goes on to talk about how people "are able to build a self by cycling through many selves." Here I see Turkle explaining something that I do every day, but via email. I write letters in so many different ways to different people. Out here in government, our internal email is strictly business. When I correspond when working in the Twin Cities, people seem a lot more fun and personal, but business is the majority of the letter. With family and friends, I can talk about basically everything. Here I change my personality to different "levels" of me. It was interesting to read about Gordon, Matthew and Julee, where lives are changed through using a MUD. People can come out of depressions and find other outlets for their anger that the don't want to deal with in the "real world". While MUDs and IRCs are acronyms of the past, the way they were established and used seems to continue to how we use SecondLife and newer applicatoins.