« The Machine is Us/ing Us | Main | The Matrix »

Only One Personality For Me

Like any one, I have made various choices over the years that I have spent online as to what to reveal about my "real" self, and what to keep hidden or secret. For the first several years that I spent online, I didn't have to make decisions related to this issue, as I used the internet primarily for informational purposes. What's more, even though this was before the popularization and broad media sensationalization of the internet or "Myspace Stalker", I had what must have been an innate sense that revealing information about myself would not be the right thing to do.

My internet isolation changed, however, when I began MUDding. I got into MUDs through a series of fantasy novels, for which inspired readers had created a MUD. The first thing that I had to do was create a "persona", or character, and to create a description of this character. It was easy to create fantasy character containing no identifying information; this was a fantasy realm based on books that I had read and loved, so I made up a fitting name and birthplace, etc. However, I found it hard to separate my personality from that of my fantasy character. Where some people in "Aspects of the Self" discussed being a different person on a MUD, or of cycling through characters and personalities, I simply behaved in the way that I would in "real life". Even when I created new characters I found that each new character had the same personality, my "real" personality.

Since then I have become far more active in various internet communities, particularly forums or message boards related to topics that I find interesting, generally programming related. However, I have found again and again that I cannot separate my "online" self from my "real" self. I wonder, does this make my online self more real, if it more accurately reflect who I "really am"?

One of the first things that I discovered, and was particularly struck by, when perusing the SL website was the ability granted to users to take part in the construction of the virtual world. This was is so highly reminiscent of certain MOOs and MUSHes, as mentioned in "Aspects of the Self", that it colored my whole perception of SL, and has made it seem far more accessible. I had almost no knowledge of SL before this weeks lesson (in fact, think I actually avoided contact with it, it seemed too "cool" to bother with). I see the SL concept as simply a graphical projection of such a MOO, allowing users to construct their own objects, and to provide new functionality through scripting. It seems that these sort of features are intended to make the simulation seem more "real", just as the introduction of a "real" economy (ie, one that can be valued in a "real" currency) might lend the simulation a sense of reality.

One thing that I found a bit disturbing, in some sense, was the following quote I noticed on the website: "Linden Lab creates new land to keep up with demand. What began as 64 acres in 2003 is now over 65,000 acres and growing rapidly." Land in SL costs money, from what I have read on the website. Therefore it seems clear that, despite efforts to market to the contrary, the economy in SL is not "real" in the sense that we are familiar with. I wonder if eventually the novelty of a "more real but not really real" economy will wear off for the broader population of SL?