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April 22, 2007

Evolution of a Facebook Pic

This one’s been making the rounds.

February 25, 2007

Old Topic But Interesting

Hi everyone. I saw this blog post about Second Life and thought it was really interesting, and what is currently happening in Second Life

http://thelastboss.com/post.phtml?pk=2308

February 6, 2007

second life in distance ed

Since a few of you have been talking about using Second Life in the workplace, I thought I'd point out that it's also starting to be used in distance education courses like this one. In fact, if more of us had prior experience with it and the course was set up for synchronous meetings, we'd be meeting that way now.

Here's one example of how Harvard Law is using it:

February 4, 2007

Real, Virtual...I choose real people

I have not particularly been a big user in the virtual world, or even what I might call an alternate reality for creating a life inside the world wide web to express, explore or even be someone you might not be able to be in real life. I have known about IRC's on the net for awhile, but never became involved with them. I have never created a character online as in RPG's (role playing games) like "World of Warcraft" ect. Most of interactivty online has been held to only long weekends running some LAN parties with some of my serious gamer friends. The readings definitly shed some light onto how involved people can get with regards to life online. i had actually never heard of the term MUD (multi user dimensions) or MUDding as they refer to it. Probably the closest I become to having some kind of virtual identity would be related to me playing Halo 2 (XBOX) online, but I did not create a new identity for myself. i just played the game way to much and I almost dropped out of college to become a professional and go on tour with my team, sufficed to say I stayed in college and I am glad I did. So I might not have created a new identity online, but i understand the effects can have and how much of your real, physical life can be consumed with you honestly not being aware of how much time has really been devoted to your virtual reality or gaming life in my situation. When dealing with a person's identity, I belivea person can change their stars (quote from "A Knights Tale") and that change to be real should not be done with a mouse, keyboard and screen just sitting lifeless in front of you. I am not trying to imply that living an online life is completely negative or cannot be used for some positive reinforcement as with the young man named Robert in the reading. " He was able to use MUDding as an environment in which he could talk about his feelings in a constructive way", otherwise he had problems doing this in the real world.

Continue reading "Real, Virtual...I choose real people" »

The Counter-Strike 2nd Life.

Looking back on my “second life,? I would say that it all started back in the day, when my buddy introduced me to Counter-Strike. This really was not much of an online community (it is a first person shooter,) but with so many servers online, and after one has established a “home? server, one starts to develop a somewhat of an online counter strike persona. So you are probably wondering what could possibly make a first person shooter online personality. Well, in the world of Counter-Strike, there are many different ways to play the game, much of which reflect on the type of person you are. (ex. A ‘camper’ is who just sits and waits for people to come for them, an attacker who is always on the move, or the sneak who just kind of sneaks around and does their own thing.) This is the beginning of the Counter-Strike second life. After a while, people start to know the name you have been using, and when you are constantly talking to the other players throughout the entire time you are logged on, a second life emerges. One can only choose one of two teams to be on, and each team has four player choices. Yes, they look human, but are all very generic. When your user name has been established in the server’s community, other players will start to recognize you and either enjoy playing with you, or not. There are many quirks that go along with an online first person shooter virtual persona, but really, it is not that great.

After looking around on “Second Life,? I realized that this community offers a lot more that I had initially thought possible. With their own currency and so many options, I find it quite entertaining and interesting. But I feel that the whole second life scene really isn’t for me. When Kirkpatrick writes in his article that “(the) 3-D realms such as Second Life the ‘next phase of the Internet's evolution’ and says they may have ‘the same level of impact’ as the first Web explosion.? I disagree with this; I honestly look at the whole second life scenario as a game rather than having any sort of serious impact comparable to the ‘first Web explosion.? But then again, maybe I am wrong. Maybe the whole second life scenario will take off, and become bigger than I could have ever imagined.

Online Self-Actualization

Today, the social aspect of the internet has become as lucrative, if not more, as the online shops and multitude of other web-businesses that operate, launch, and degrade into non-updated web-junk day after day. I am a regular user of social networking sites (such as facebook and myspace) as well as (how can we not today?) an email junky. There are definate choices I have made however, regarding my 'online-self.' For example, I don't provide very much information on my facebook.com profile since I feel that many of the peopleI have become "friends" with [in the online sense] don't really need to know too much about me. And as for the real friends that I actually socialize with, outside of the web, they could probably ask for information or come to learn it as they see me. Either way, I have always been opposed to putting too much information about my personal tastes and things, as, to be honest, I find it rather trivial. Another aspect comes with my use of myspace as a music promotion tool. I do not use it as a personal social-network communications device, so that changes what information I have available as well. Only news regarding future shows, and etc. can be found there. Also, the profile I have written tells really nothing about myself, but is rather more of an impression to instill on possible listeners. Whatever the case, I spend too much time on social-networking sites, but the thing of it is, as people keep writing me messages and adding me to thier lists, it has become a responsibility rather than a leisure activity, similar to the evolution of my email inbox as a fun space where I could read jokes and lame chain letters to a workspace where each new message has some task included therein.
I found the Turkle readings kind of scary in conection to the Second Life phenomenon. Immediately in the beginning, the author pinpoints the major swing in peoples' social habits today.
Many of the institutions that used to bring people together—a main street, a union hall, a town meetring—no longer work as before. Many people spend most of their day alone at the screen of a television or a computer(Turkle, 178).
It immediately called to mind the mainstreet in the town I grew up in, which was only bustling on holidays like the 4th of July or during a parade, otherwise a deadzone of human activity. Home is where the heart is, and the internet connection I guess.
I also like the points about the ability to "forge" an identity in online-sociability. In a way, I suppose, my band's myspace site is a "forged" identity since it gives off an impression that is solely related to my musical self, and has very little to do with the rest of my identity.
Though, I did find the interviews with extensive MUD users rather disturbing. The most telling line, I think, was the example regarding a flodded dorm room (from a burst water-pipe) and how this trauma increased[!!] the users' MUD time from approximately 80 hours a week to somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 hours per week. This kind of escapism is frightening as I see it all over these days, from friends that play WoW to people that sit on facebook and look at hours and hours of profiles, photos, and whatever other information they can find about thier friends whom are probably doing the same.
Second Life I suppose is just another cog I would imagine, and like anything else, users will have to learn to use it in moderation. The seamless integration to real life however, (using 3-d models, real cash, and citing the IBM meetings example) seems to raise the stakes a little more for someone who is prone to compulsive behavior. As a child of a former compulsive gambler, this kind of fantasy land is very, very frightening. Like the casinos where the windows tint and the lights are always bright, it's easy to lose sight of time, and in this case, identity. But for those with money and time to waste, I'm sure it will be great. I guess I can't forget to mention the third group, those with ambition and skills to turn second-life into a career.
As a last add-on, this comes directly from the second-life website:
"Islands are priced at US$1,675 for 65,536 square meters (about 16 acres). Monthly land fees for maintenance are US$295."
Wow, that's pretty cheap for some electricity and server space....right?? Right??? Who will be god of this universe that's being created? Will it be a virtual, or actual democracy when we know cash is the bottom line?

The Matrix

Where does the movie "The Matrix" fit into this world of 3d internet/SL/avatar? Is it the next level of a virtual reality for the players?

Just a random thought on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

Mike

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?

February 3, 2007

Interesting

I never thought of something like this happening, and wonder how it will work, you lose all the facial expressions and gestures... Jimmy Carr, avatar superstar

February 2, 2007

Is there life on the Web?

How the internet has grown...from dial-up to broadband we are now moving into the realm of creating new identities for ourselves. While I have not taken the opportunity to engage in teh world of Second Life. I can see why so many people have. It is interesting how we portray ourselves on the internet. We change our looks and identities to something we are not and believe that this will make us feel like we are something different. As I stated before I do nto participate in Second Life or WoW, however, I contribute to things online and never use my real name. I always use pseudonyms that if someone looekd hard enough, they could figure out my name birthday or my home address. I know some people that use avatars that look exactly like them. It is actually scary to see this because we could run into someone we have not seen in years on the web. The only way I have dealt with the issue of Second Life and WoW (World of Warcraft) is through my roommates constant play. They have failed classes, lost jobs, and are struggling to be social anymore. I occasionaly play games on the internet, but not to the extent of Second Life, however, as Gurak puts it, "these sites reflect an anger and disempowerment that have become noticeable in the United States."(54). Some of the things I see on the Net and the rage that people have toward each other makes me question whether having a second life online is a good idea?

From looking at the Second Life sites I am amazed how successful it has been. From the amount of money that it has made to the possibilities that it holds. One can form friendships, build a blogging site, and form romantic relationships. The site makes sure to continually update to keep their Lifers happy and actually publish a guide that will help people be more successful in Second Life. It is even changing the way people do business. ""We're all used to teleconferences," says Hughes. "But in Second Life we gather and mingle before the meeting, and when it finishes, some people stop and talk again. We start to form social networks and the kinds of bonds you make in real life." (Kirkpatrick). From looking at the sites and the readings I believe that Second Life is a positive thing. However, if peolple become too involved and detatch from reality will there be anyone that will stop thinking about making money and help?

Username: vote4me2008

This was on the radio this morning, and it seems to relate to our discussion of online identity. I think it's interesting that the 2008 presidential candidates are not only using the web to tailor their messages (perceived identity) to appeal to certain groups of people, but that being seen as a web-savvy candidate is a bonus. I'm curious what you all think about this approach-- do you pay attention to internet campaigning, or does it seem like more of an advertising gimmick than regular televised speeches would?

February 1, 2007

A Second Life? To me, its still a game.

Sorry that this is a day late everyone. My computer crashed and is currently being fixed by Chipheads (a great company by the way!)

In the past, the only places that I have had an internet identity were on AOL in chat rooms or instant messaging, or facebook (which really isn’t a hidden identity at all!) But, on facebook, I have decided to limit who can see my information. I made this decision because I know that what I put up there could be used against me or in the wrong way. Especially as I go into the workforce, I am careful to post only things on my profile, picture, and on others’ walls that is appropriate. MY rule of thumb is, “What would my grandma think if she saw/read this?? That way everything is respectful and not offensive. On AOL, my account was set-up when I was in second grade. Therefore, my mom made up our screen names. She used the first part of my last name for all 4 screen names (mom, dad, brother, Kate) and then our initials after that. We ended up with “GUSTTA, GUSTSC, GUSTTJ, and GUSTKC.? Original I know. On facebook, I am hiding nothing. There is no need for a pseudonym. Again, neither one of these allow me to use Avatars. Well, I suppose AOL allows you to use a symbol or a face, or a musician, or a season to decorate your name. So, in the past, when I used to IM a lot, I remember using things like snowflakes, hearts, and sometimes smiley faces. I can also remember dealing with chat room problems. The whole a/s/l took me a while to figure out. Once my mom found out what I was doing, chat rooms were off-limits in our households! (Little did she know that IMs were the real problem!)
After reading the assigned articles, I find the Turkle articles the most thought-provoking. I believe that my experiences do not relate to the MUDS talked about, but the idea behind it makes a whole lot of sense to me. I think that individuals seeking social contact, but may fear rejection can come to an online environment and feel like they can project themselves onto characters or be someone entirely different. As far as the argument between psychotherapy or addiction, I believe that any online community with any hint of anonymity allows people just one more outlet to “try? being someone else. The example of the individual who was violent online instead of real life is actually a saving grace. So, in my mind, as long as the environment does not change the individual and does not become a habit that can become defined like any addiction, then the activity is just fine. But, summed up nicely “MUDS blur the boundaries between self and game, self role, self and simulation? (Turkle 192).
I also think the CNN article by Kirkpatrick is a nice lead-in to what’s to come. It’s an outlet for individuals to explore who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to act. But, what I find most interesting is the statement regarding future business. “But what's beginning to catch the attention of IBM and other huge corporations is something potentially far more profound than a new online pastime. It's the ability to use Second Life as a platform for a whole new Net - this one in 3-D and even more social than the original - with huge opportunities to sell products and services? (Kirkpatrick 1). As a marketing major I find this compelling. You could use product placement, have avatars be spokespeople for items, offer services in the virtual world, and so on and so forth! The opportunities are endless, and an entire new media outlet would be created.
Secondlife would be a nice addition to the online world, but I also think there could be dangers in it just like any other online community. People have been known to abuse things that are new in the virtual world, and this program should be monitored and used with caution until it is wholly figured out. If I joined Secondlife I would bet that I would try things that a CEO of a large marketing firm would do. It would be interesting to “test? ideas without real consequence.

Mo Linden Mo Problems

My online personality has changed over the years. Like I stated in my first post my virtual birth was in the form of an AOL account: Booboo1187. It was a nickname that my uncle gave me for who knows what reason. It was the dawn of my internet personality. I was chatting and making online friends via AOL at the age of 13. Our computer was pretty slow and the only game I was able to play online was Mechwarrior 2, which did not work so well. So the only way to represent my virtual self was my AOL profile which doesn’t even remotely come close to what my Facebook profile looks like. I don’t have much experience using avatars or characters in massive multi-player online role playing games. I tried playing Runescape once, and even a little Diablo 2, but none of that captivated me like my former roommate who still plays World of Warcraft. He was addicted to it, which he even admitted and referred to playing it has “playing some crack.? My exposure to such online realities is limited, but I think if I were to get into it, I would probably not have my character look like me.
Second life is CRAZY. I never knew such a world existed, I always thought after playing the Sims, that it would be neat to interact with real people and not Sims. My dreams, as well as millions of other gamers’ dreams, were realized; however I still have not joined. Reading about the currency, the Linden, made my eyes pop. It is crazy how there is a simulated economy that follows some of the same trends as real life, because after all second life is modeled after real life. I will not be surprised when there are robberies for Linden or hostage situations where someone is attempting to delete a character unless given so many Linden. It is funny to think of how many real life situations can be played out virtually with all the creativity Second Life has to offer.

Second Chance at Second Life

In my online life I've never felt a need to lay everything out on the table as did poor Stewart in Turkle's "Aspects of the Self" (pp. 193-209). I remember reading a book of correspondence of Flannery O'Connor, and she recounted how a fan wrote to ask her how much she weighed and what she looked like. Her answer was "300 pounds, and I have one good tooth!" I always thought that was about all the information I was willing to provide the online community. I've never had advanced enough technology to be part of an on-line interactive game--so I can't say that in the context of a fictional situation that I would assign myself attributes that were painstakingly accurate to my personality. I could see creating an avatar that is younger, hipper, stronger than me--but it would depend upon the game and what the goal is--or at a deeper level what my goal is in playing the game.

I think the idea of working out problems with games is fascinating and Turkle's commentary about who is helped (Gordon, Matthew) and who isn't (Stewart) is interesting. I do think that Stewart's illness may have had something to do with his glass-half empty outlook on his real life. These were all college students kind of working things out, though. I wonder if Turkle had any case studies on older subjects, Mr. Bungle the dirty clown of indeterminate age notwithstanding (Turkle, p. 251-252).

My computer at work did not allow me to download any of the SL software, but I was able to see the contest winning trailer/ad and some of the photo galleries of characters created by members. As the CNN/Fortune article (Kirkpatrick) mentioned there are "lascivious fantasies" being indulged as well as, apparently, real estate fantasies being realized in real dollars. While the concept is initially compelling, and there are no doubt pockets of brilliance, I had to wonder how much time it takes to set up and control a parcel of the cyber-American dream. Also, I did attempt to create a (free) avatar, and noticed that my choices were almost exclusively young ("many avatars appear buff, invitingly dressed and about 20-years old." Kirkpatrick) and white--so much for diversity. I guess that is only available if you subscribe. But making diversity desirable is a step forward.

The mix of commerce and entertainment in SL did have a mall quality about it. Turkle was wise to compare malls (new versions of main street) and virtual main streets. I worked for a time at the Mall of America. When I interviewed for the job, the manager asked me why I was attracted to that location. I told them that I thought the Mall was kind of like its own community-- a town even-- and I wanted to see how the store would fit into that community. I love the mall for a lot of reasons, but I was dead wrong about that one. There may be mall groups and sub-groups, both those who frequent the mall and those who work there, but there is no community per se.

If I were to enter the SL world, I think what would most hold my interest would be building things ($$) and interacting with other participants. I enjoy games where I'm building communities, growing crops, or solving problems. Don't enjoy killing people or foiling the progress of other players. All in all the allure of a second chance with a new personae is compelling, but I think I would always wonder whose problems I was helping to solve under false pretenses on the other end. Perhaps it doesn't matter--that there is such a thing as virtual truth. I enjoyed Gordon's revelation in his trip to India that he was not forever doomed to be friendless. That was a real life-second life.

Are you stuck in the MUD?

I try to keep my online identity true to who I really am. I have no desire to create different online personalities for myself. I think that it is dishonest to represent yourself as something that you are not. When it comes to blogs, messengers, e-mail addresses and other online forums I generally do not use my full real name, I usually use just my first name (with some numbers or another word) or I’ll use a pseudonym that represents who I am. I chose not to use an avatar, nor do I have the desire to do so. If I had to make an avatar for myself I would make it to resemble myself, which would be a twenty-something white girl, and from the sounds of things that is pretty common. Ho do you know whose avatars really represent them or if their avatar represents the person they wish they were?

I personally don’t really understand the point of virtual worlds. I have friends that are obsessed with them, but it seems like a waste of time and money to me. I have a hard enough time paying rent to spend my money in virtual realities. If I have extra money I’m going to spend it in this reality! But there must be something cool about it since according to the Second Life website over three million people have joined since 2003. If you haven’t done so already check out the “police blotter? I found it pretty amusing!

With so many people already wrapped up in these virtual worlds it is a little bit disturbing to think about the quote at the end of Kirkpatrick’s article: “virtual worlds are where video and VCRs were in the early 1980s, or where the Web was in 1993" (Kirkpatrick, p. 3). If this is only the beginning, I don’t even want to think about where it is going to end up.

January 31, 2007

The Internet: The Resource to Search for One's Self

I believe the articles for this week focused on the human anonymity within the internet. “MUDS? as described by Turks can be a safe place for individual exploration and the opportunity for people to belong to a community. This community, although virtual, often blurs into reality and individuals can be confused and controlled by this sense of belonging.

The following statement is a description of the ways people are using virtual communities as a crutch and catalyst to present their so-called true selves:
“The internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life. (Turkle, p.180)

It is my belief that often people are using pseudonyms and avatars that may not truly describe who they are physically, emotionally, socially, etc. For this reason, I myself support the use of pseudonyms as a form of online protection. I have not been introduced to using avatars as described in the Kirkpatrick reading but assume in the near future this may be the necessary norm in the virtual communities that I belong to. I personally do not subscribe to many online communities as my social commitments lead me to desire physical presence of one to one communication. Meaning my social community is the sort of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, churches, and other city hotspots.

My own beliefs about social interaction and social communities leave me with doubts that people will be able to “fill the gap with neighborhoods in cyberspace. (Turkle, p.233) To me Turkle is leading us to believe that the world is becoming less social within our communities, therefore people are seeking community through non conventional sources such as the internet. Interestingly true, but I don’t believe it is too difficult to say hello to your neighbor while getting your mail, etc. In short, I would encourage individuals using online to seek social acceptance to use this as a tool and not a way of life.

I had a challenge fully understanding Second Life but through the Kirkpatrick reading it is obvious that virtual communities are now exploding in the business world. In this case I should be educated on this specific program, the benefits, and the ethics and safety behind it. Kirkpatrick stated that “The virtual world-don’t call it a game,? accompanied with the support of companies such as IBM, signifies that the virtual world can be a respected and useful place.

Second Life? Are you in??

I have to say that I’ve been pretty cautious in regards to online identity and personal information of myself via Internet, but probably not as cautious as I should be considering the increase identity fraud that happens on a daily basis. Back a few years ago when I was in junior high, I had an American Online screen name, or a pseudonym if you will, which consisted of my first initial and a few letters of my last name, followed by two of my favorite numbers. I remember AOL have an option of setting up a profile, where you could list more personal information regarding your location, interests/hobbies, and things like that. However, I was very cautious about putting any information on the profile, and if I did it was far fetched from the truth. In the readings by Turkle it states, “On it people are able to build a self by cycling through many selves.? (4). The Internet has made it easier for people to pretend to lead a life that’s not really anything like their realistic one. Luckily, I haven’t had any problems with my online identity yet, and hopefully I never will. I don’t necessarily agree with the whole MUD concept because I feel as though it just gives individuals an excuse to do things and say things they probably wouldn’t normally do in real life. For example Turkle mentioned on page 251, “Virtual rape can occur within a MUD if one player finds a way to control the actions of another player’s character and can thus “force? that character to have sex.? Rape in real life is considered a crime; hence, why should it be ok for a person to go ahead and joke around about something like this with a virtual world or avatar?

Second Life is definitely something new to me. It seems interesting, but I’m still not too sure if I’d ever actually take the time to participate in it. When I briefly glanced over this article, Second Life kind of reminded me of the PC game SIMS. But after reading more into the article, found that Second Life is definitely more complex and involved than SIMS. It’s hard to believe that there are over 3 million residents involved in this virtual reality thing, when this is something completely new to me. I think one very interesting aspect of Second Life is what Kirkpatrick mentions the business use of the program, sort of replacing Teleconferencing with Second Life. It definitely would add a little spice and twist to the normal everyday meeting, that’s for sure! But, you wonder how beneficial it would be. Even though Second Life looks like an interesting program, it seems as though there is a downfall of Second Life, as mentioned by Kirkpatrick, and that is its’ software if difficult to use, “one in six who try it are still on line 30 days later?. So it looks like there are still some improvements that could be made to Second Life that would allow it to be a bit more user friendly. All in all, I think it’s an interesting program, who knows what the virtual world will come up with next!

Who are we kidding?

The only avatar I have created and actively use is for an online poker site. I initially picked a middle of the road male avatar. When I played online I realized that there wasn't any read of the other players other than their occasional banter or the speed in which they played their hands. Live poker provides many "tells" if a player has a good hand or if they are bluffing. Most of the game isn't about the cards, it is about the image and the play. I decided to see if there was any difference in my opponents play if I Ipicked a female avatar in a bathing suit. It was amazing the difference just changing to a static avatar. The avatar was an image of a player that wasn't serious about playing the game. It seemed like I was able to distract the other players by only changing my appearance. But then, who am I kidding? How do we know that the tough looking macho man at the table wasn't a little old granny beating me at my own game.

The percieved freedom that MUDs provide are just that. Turkle quoted a number of people who said that they were able to blossom online when their real world job was a dead end. MUDs do provide freedom because they are created any way the user desires. I think for some users, this can be a very beneficial outlet for their creativity. But not all creativity is positive. It was interesting how the issues of rape and violence are becoming more and more common. Turkle's interview of a virtual rapist (p252-253) dicussed how the victim wasn't the first to complain but it was the bystanders. The victim thought it was humorous. I would think there will be some legislation in the future regulating what we can do in our virtual world. I am sure there are cases of attacks on children. Are there child avatars in SL controled by adults? I think you have to be over 18 years old to join.

Second Life is making additional land as fast as they can. They will create a new land mass in the near future. I am amazed at the level of interest in SL by individuals. I think it is great that corporations are using these platforms for virtual meetings. Think of the savings in transportation that can be realized by some of the larger companies. Teleconferencing is nice but I think the virtual office location adds a little more fun to the meetings. Each employee has their personalized avatar and the lines become blurred as to what is real and what is virtual. Employees become known as their avatar.

If I had time to explore SL, I think it would suck me in very fast.

Mike

The story of my (second) life...

When I first started using Internet, my only purpose was to go to some chatrooms. At this time, my father was very precautious of the security and he did not want me to give an email adress to anyone (and we just had a common adress for the family). I got bored by this chatrooms very quick but a friend of mine made me play online with him, and a few years later, I have to admit that I had become an addict online gamer. I was spending more and more time on the Internet, I understood it much better and I had met a lot on people online. I was using a pseudonym but I did not really mind telling my real name to anyone who would ask me.
I think my behaviour online was very different than in life, and it was very true with this particular friends. We were in the same class, he was very outstanding, talked to everyone and I was more shy. At nights, when we were playing online the roles were in the other way. The fact of being a player was getting me confident, I was in a team, had a lot of "friends" and even if it can sound weird, I was very respected just because of being a "good" player.. However, from all these people I knew online, I finally met two, and they were very different than online, and now I would say that they would have never become my friends outside of the game.
I lost every contacts with people of this community as soon as I stopped playing.
At this time, I wasn't really paying attention at my identity online, about how much I wanted these people to know me etc... It totally different by now. All my accounts on the different sites (facebook, myspace...) are generally private, and I'm not looking forward meeting people on Internet. I use these websites to stay in contact with the people I already know.. However, I never had a problem about giving out photos of me. I don't really think that I lose a part of intimacy by doing that, people don't know anything about me seeing a picture... it's like seeing someone in the street.

I discovered Second Life a few weeks ago, on the French tv news. A candidat for the election had created on office on the website for her campaign, but I did not it before..
Ironically, the news network talked about second life tonight again, I watched it just before writing this. (If you're interested, and if you understand French, or want to practice, go to this link : http://jt.france2.fr/20h/ and watch the edition of "Mardi 30 Janvier".)
I have checked the community website and I don't think I would like to have an account. Maybe I should try to see how it really works, but I am always on a quite defensive posture about these "social networks". It took me two years to be convinced by Myspace, so maybe I'll change my mind. I find a bit ridiculous all the people defending these websites because of their abilities to make you interact with so many people, to help socializing etc... As Turkle says, on page 178 "many of the institutions that used to bring people together no longer work as before. Many people spend most of their day alone at the screen of a tv or of a computer".
I have five roomates and sometimes, we are all on our computers, each one in his room, socializing with the whole world, but not talking to the one next door.
I think people (me included) should try to take care of their own life before trying to reach to any kind of fame or accomplishment online.

On the Internet, no one knows you're a frumpy, uncharismtic shy person.

I nearly always create some sort of fake identity for online use, and after reading all of Turkle's accounts of people who are so heavily invested in their online lives and multiple identities (to the point of outright obsession), I wonder if part of it is that I can imagine myself getting "sucked in". If a website requires that I register before I can view the page's content, I submit ridiculous information, partly as a disguise, and partly in hopes that someone, somewhere will get the message that I don't appreciate attempts to collect information about me. I have never used an avatar, and I admit I've always found them to be sort of silly, but I've realized that in situations like this very blog, avatars would help me remember who's who.

Like some others have mentioned, I was also sort of shocked at the amount of real money that moves around as a result of Second Life. I can't really relate to the desire to pay for a cartoon on a screen, but I guess if shopping for cartoon land and clothes helps people exorcise their consumeristic urges without having to actually go out and buy a bunch of stuff, I'm all for it. In Aspects of the Self, Turkle quotes a college student who admits there is a part of him that is like the violent characters he creates, and an online identity is a relatively harmless space to act out. (p.190) I'm sure we could all agree that however upsetting a personal attack in an online environment may be, it's infinitely better than having to experience/witness such antisocial behaviors in real life. And it's not as if social consequenses don't exist online-- I spent some time looking at the police blotter in the Community section of the Second Life board, and it seemed like the most common crimes were the use of weapons in the wrong space, sexual harrassment, and spamming. The listed transgressors were punished by being denied access to the site for a period of a few days, and presumably would be welcome to return if they mended their ways.

I'm just trying to get this life right.

It's interesting to read about all these people from all walks of life that participated in the earliest versions of virtual communities. They have different backgrounds and want different things from their virtual communities. I have a lot of respect for those pioneering people that for one thing started using computers before they became user friendly, and then started to connect with other people from all over the planet. It was a way to reach out and communicate with groups from all over.

Having said that, I have to say that I've always thought that my friends who opted to play crude games and endlessly chat online were a little odd. The use of computers did not interest me at all. I thought that my friends were crazy for goofing around on their machines, especially when it was a nice day out or there were other things to do. Sadly, I also thought that computers would never be useful or any kind of big deal. OOPs I was wrong.

From reading Turkle's writing about the different people that "MUD", I came away from it surprised that people would construct such elaborate "realities". Though the primitive technology of the time didn't allow for graphics, people would simply construct their dungeons with text and leave the rest to their imagination. Turkle describes it as "...a text-based, virtual reality" (Turkle 181).

Looking at it that way, it still sounds boring. But when you add other people to the mix, it seems less boring. From my own experience with online communities, I have found that communicating with other people that share my interests can be comforting. I usually just write into online forums. There is one for Jeep owners. On that forum I can communicate with other Jeep owners from around the world. I jokingly call it a Jeep support group. We help each other with mechanical problems and talk about off- roading. Some of the members are a bit backwards but I cope. There is also another forum for photographers that I enjoy going to. It's great to have access to so many photographers. We compare photos and give advice. In the real world it would be impossible to have access to so many people. I guess I get a sense of comradery from it. I belong somewhere! ha ha

So I guess when you add the human element into the mix, the whole concept can become more interesting. It's nice to communicate with others that share your interests. But there is a limit. I read about Robert in chapter 7 of Turkle's book. It sounded as if he used the mud to escape the realities of his dysfunctional family life. For a seven month period, he claimed that he "...MUDded over 80 hours a week" (Turkle 201) It's one thing to do something to escape or have fun, but something is wrong when it gets to 80 hours a week of usage.

I knew a guy that was a bit too obsessed with online gaming and chatting. He lived in his friend's parent's basement for a number of years. His teeth eventually rotted out from neglect. All he ever did was play and/or talk online. His skin was really white from his lack of exposure to the sun. Amazingly, he eventually met a woman (online) from Indonesia and married her.

I think that creating an alternate identity has its appeals, but I wouldn't want to do it constantly. It sounds like a good way to shed you inhibitions, but does it really help you in the real world? I'd rather go to Mardi Gras and shed my inhibitions there. (Not too much though ha ha) Or travel to another country. When I went to Europe, I definitely felt a kind of freedom and excitement that I haven't experienced here.

I do think it's good when the alternate identity serves a purpose. Gordon for example, used his multiple identities to help develop qualities that he wanted to attain (Turkle 190). I think that using these things as tool for self improvement is admirable. It seems like this new practice has limitless possibilities to help people.

Second Life looks like the next generation of virtual reality. It reminds me of the whole helmet, goggles and gloves interface that was hyped up in the nineties. The idea of owning your own virtual island sound kind of interesting. And using it for business purposes sounds really wild. When I read that, it reminded me of times when coworkers got a little lippy with me via email. I believe that the lack of face to face contact emboldened then to mouth off. (They back right down when you inquire about their attitude.) Maybe if businesses used Second Life for some interaction, the Avatar, or image of a person will remind the mouthy ones that there is another person on the end of that line.


You can call me Moondog

It is interesting for me, when looking at the creation of my online identity, that my "real world" identity becomes increasingly similar as time passes. I think when I first started posting in forums and chatting online I was very self concious about what I said and the impression of myself that I gave to others. In this sense I used the pseudonym Moondog because my aunt told me I looked like that character in the movie Gidget. This allowed me to represent myself in a physical sense but gave me the oppurtunity to create my own online identity. My personality is very outgoing and socialable and as time passed the image I created online of myself became more identical to the image I wanted to represent in reality. Now, as I post online or chat, I am completely comfortable with allowing others to see me as the person I am. My use of avatars does not directly corrolate with the online community but more towards game consoles. I enjoy creating characters or players that I think accuratel represent myself. However, I myself think that I choose character traits that maybe do not accurately represent how I perceive myself but how I want others to perceive me. The social implications of this are huge mainly as Turkle raises to question on page 178, does this use of online personalities satisfy our humanistic needs to be seen, touched, and acknowledged?

As I looked through the SL website I was amazed at how many people are already participating in this online phenomenon. Irving Wladawsky- Berger states in the last paragraph of "It's not a game", that virtual worlds are currently at their developmental stages and the abilities we have now will be minor in comparison to what eventually might come out of this. This to me is very scary! It might be that I do not fully understand this online community, but the use of real dollars in a virtual world to buy virtual things seems rather frivolous and unuseful. I picture the game Sims where you are able to create the world you live in. The game is extremely intriguing and fun but it isn't reality, just as virtual clothes can not be worn or a virtual island with virtual water cannot be swam in.

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.

A Second Life? Thanks, but I'm OK with only One.

I remember the first time I logged onto AOL. I was probably about 12 years old, and the whole “online thing? was fascinating to me. I had heard the craze about this new thing called a chat room. I decided to give it a whirl, and I was amazed when I entered in on this group of people typing back and forth to each other. For a while, I just sat and watched. I eventually learned that you had to randomly pick someone you wanted to talk to, and address them. Its strange how on this first experience, I immediately knew that I didn’t have to be myself. The question, “What do you look like? eventually came, and the chance to be someone different appeared. In this fake world, I was 17 years old and a senior in High School. Times changed, and eventually AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) was the common means of communication. To keep my identity safe, I knew not to use my real name, so instead I used a pseudonym. At first, I was very cautious with who I gave my name out to on the internet. However, now I have come to realize that for the most part, keeping a separate identity is not that big of a deal any more. I personally do not use the internet to enter a different realm like Turkle addresses in “Identity in the Age of the Internet?. I have never had an online relationship, and don’t ever plan on it. However, it seems that with each passing year, society starts to accept the “online dating process? more and more.

Turkle also talks about how people are becoming more and more involved in online communities such as IRC. After taking a deeper look into Second life, I began to think how primitive online features such as simple text chat rooms, and even current programs such as IRC have allowed the creation of Second Life to take place. In a theoretical sense, IBM has simply taken the community that has been built online over the past years, and expanded it to a three dimensional setting. However, I’m not sure that I completely agree with David Kirkpatrick, author of “Second Life: It’s not a Game? on Second Life becoming the sol way people use the internet in the future. Rather, I predict that it will simply remain as a form of entertainment for people instead of being truly integrated as the considered norm for the internet medium. Turkle explains about one woman who feels that when on IRC, she is very popular, but in real life, she is the exact opposite. By using this example, I can see that a large majority of the population enjoys having a second identity on the internet, however, I do not see them having the time, or the need to have a complete second life. I personally would rather put the equivalent time and energy into making my “real life? better.

Second Life and Identity

I have used different usernames for my email accounts and also different screen names when I’d go onto online chat rooms. From my experience, the reason why I would choose to use different names was because of security. In a way, I felt secure that I could vent about something freely without having to worry about seeing the person that I was writing back and forth with down the street or in a class. It was a way to hide, but also a way to express my thoughts and feelings. In a way, I can relate to Josh from “Virtuality and its Discontents? when he stated that the MUDs gave him a sense of freedom and hope. Josh stated “Down here [in the MUD] I see friend, I have something to offer? (239). Chat rooms were my form of MUD because they helped me to be more open with people that I barely knew. MUDs and chat rooms also enable people to “understand what it’s like to be a person of the other gender? (238). Even though I’ve never tried that myself, I think that it may help other people to relate to those of the opposite gender and have more respect and understanding. On the other hand, there are drawbacks to having excessive contact with virtual communities. “Virtuality and Discontents? raised a question “is it really sensible to suggest that the way to revitalize community is to sit along in our rooms, typing at our networked computers and filling our lives with virtual friends?? (235). My response is that it’s all right to play MUDs and chat to people online in other countries, but I think that everything has a limit. I don’t think that it’s healthy to be addicted to virtual communities like MUDs because it almost takes away a part of what makes us different from machines: we need human contact. We need to feel love and feel touch as well as hear other people’s voices to not be alone and to build social skills.

My email account usernames are a little different in a sense that the people that I write to know who I am and so I have to censor what I say just like in any other form of communication. There’s more anonymity in being online in some chat room hiding behind a silly screen name where you feel like people can’t judge you. Even if people do start to judge, you can just ignore them because they mean little if anything to you. Unlike Steve from “Virtuality and Discontents,? I never gave other people my real name. Even though most of the time I was not trying to pretend to be another person, I had an issue with trusting people online and I had a fear of being tracked down. Whenever I’d be online, I would talk with people about the problems in my life and in a way it was my escape. “Virtuality and Discontents? states that “there must be something wrong with Reality, if so many people want to escape from it? (242). I agree with that statement, I think that a lot of people do want to escape from their problems, but I don’t think that it’s possible to hide from your problems your entire life. I think that the reason why so many people rely on online communication is because our social system is set up where people try to be individuals and independent of other people. Young people also may feel like adults are looking down on them and not taking their opinions seriously because they don’t have as much life experience. “Virtuality and Discontents? supports this assertion by stating “these young people feel they have no political voice, and they look to cyberspace to help them find one? (241). However, there is another side to online communication in that it allows people from all over the world communicate with each other. As in the case of “Achilles? otherwise known as Steve, he was able to play the MUDs game with people in Germany.

I personally find Second Life very interesting. It’s definitely a new creation that will boom over the next few years. When I visited it, it stated that there were 3,147,284 residents and that there were 1,026,594 people that logged onto the program in the last two months. I know that this number is definitely going to grow at an exponential rate as more people become aware of it. It’s a cross between computer games and online communication with people from all over the world. According to CEO Sam Palmisano, “Second Life is the next phase of the Internet’s evolution? and that it will probably have “the same level of impact as the first Web explosion.? I couldn’t believe that people actually made money buying and selling their virtual islands. Second Life is more interactive than any other computer game/program that I know because “residents? can “build, own, or sell their digital creations.? There’s also real money involved because people can buy “Linden dollars.? I think that it’s like a real virtual community. The website even has a newsletter and mailing lists along with a classified section for the buying and selling of the virtual islands. I think it’s amazing.

In Computers We Trust

In the past, I have been impartial to those who create slightly tilted online identities. I never put much thought into it. Personally, I have been straightforward online with regards to who I am, what I look like, and have always used my full name. I have never used an avatar. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t even know the term avatar.

Logging on to Second Life was similar to my experience visiting House on the Rock in Dodgeville Wisconsin. Every time I visited a new page (room), I kept thinking, this can’t exist, this is crazy! But 3 million ‘residents’ as well as IBM view it differently. IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano Calls “3-D realms such as Second Life the ‘next phase of the Internet's evolution' and says they may have ‘the same level of impact’ as the first Web explosion? (Kirkpatrick, Second Life: It’s Not a Game). Several other corporations have become or want to become inhabitants of this “admixture of fantasy and reality? world (Kirkpatrick, Second Life: It’s Not a Game) to the point that the creators of Second Life, Linden Lab, is having difficulty keeping up with the demands. While Second Life’s growing success may appear to be connecting online users (mostly cartoon-like avatars), it also creates a grey area of authenticity. Interesting how the word avatar stems from the Sanskirt word “word Avat?ra, meaning ‘incarnation’? (Wikipedia). Further, the word is related to the eighth avatar of the Hindu religion, Krishna. Which was subsequently, in the 60’s, borrowed by the infamous cult the Hare Krishnas. Are the ‘residents’ of Second Life not only re-incarnating their identities as well as joining a cult? And how healthy is it to wear an online ‘mask’ for a up to a quarter of your day? In her book, Turkle states that, “on it (the internet) people are able to build a self by cycling through many selves.? (Turkle, Life On The Screen, p 178). Again, I am impartial or indifferent to the somewhat fictional identities we find online. On one side I see the benefits of vicarious wish fulfillment that releases psychic energy and allows an individual to socialize and adapt normally. But I also see how detrimental Second Life can be when the user needs to act accordingly in the RL (real world) and the communication skills they will fail to learn or maintain. Skills such as facial expressions, body language, even physical proximity which all play into communication. This lack of complete communication is disconcerting as well as the loss of physical community (opposed to online community). Turkle states, “we seem to be in the process of retreating to our homes, shopping for merchandise out of catalogues or on television channels, shopping for companionship via personal ads.? (Turkle, Life On the Screen, p. 235)
For instance, I went shopping at the Mall of America during the holiday season. It was extremely empty and the sales associates looked miserable. I asked, where are all of the shoppers? They replied, buying gifts online. Moreover I went out to eat (downtown Minneapolis) at restaurant the other night and my husband and I were 2 of 4 patrons in the restaurant.
In conclusion, I believe that virtual worlds can be healthy if used in moderation. I believe that employing an avatar or several avatars is a great outlet for self-exploration. But I also believe that the greater the increase of accessibility to live your entire life online (shopping, dating, trading, working), the greater the chance that commerce will fail, as well as town halls, bars, restaurants, YMCAs, and other venues that bring people together. We will eventually be completely co-dependent on a machine, the computer.

A Second Identity for Second Life

I began using the internet by way of America Online when I was in middle school. For awhile I would spend time in chatrooms since they were so easily available on the interface. I don't really remember which rooms I frequented more than others, unless I chose by location. For the most part, I didn't change any aspects of myself to better express them online, but I do think I remember lying about personal aspects a few times. I suppose I did so because I was able to, and it caused me to avoid topics I didn't want to get into, and maybe even to make the person more interested in talking to me. I never spent a whole lot of time on the chatrooms, though, and once our America Online subscription ended and we were off to another service, my chatroom use ended with it, much like Robert from the reading (Turkle, 202). These days I just chat online with people I already know so in a way i'ts more personal, but at the same time, beyond talking to those people online I really don't put much at all of my personal self online. I generally keep a fairly close profile online, kind of like I do in real life.

In looking at the Second Life page, the metaverse seems like an interesting place to explore, and its users obviously have created a sense of community there, but I have trouble seeing the appeal of it, beyond the novelty of exploring the universe and talking with other users. The most curious aspect of Second Life to me is that users pay for items for their avatars, something that the user him or herself won't ever be able to hold. However, I do see the purpose of shopping for real items on the system, something which is doubtlessly going to take hold as Kirkpatrick mentioned its "huge opportunities to sell products and services." The way Second Life is described makes it seem like something of a recreation of real life without any real improvement over real life. Once on this train of thought its hard to divert it from thoughts of Turkle's interviews, and what effectsthat programs like Second Life can have on and what purposes they serve our mental well being.

I'm a Man in a Suit... Not a Level 47 Warrior

In my experience with an online identity, I’ve never used my real name. The closest thing to my real name is my identity on this blog, as it is my U of M identity. However, with the Second Life interface, I would be more inclined to use a real name, maybe not my real name, but a name that could be real. This is because unlike a messaging program like AIM, or a game like World of Warcraft, it is meant to mimic real life. You can even buy your own land, and it is tempting. As for avatars, I usually don’t try to make them look like me, although I have used a picture of myself as an avatar in some online forums. In the Second Life interface I would not want to make an avatar that looks like me. I see the Second Life as a way to lead a second, simultaneous life, and what fun would it be if you looked the same in both lives?
“’Nintendo has a good one [game] where you can play four characters. But even though they are very cool,’ he says, ‘they are written up for you.’ They seem artificial. In contrast, on the MUDs…he says he feels free.? (Turkle, 236). The freedom to create an avatar that looks however a person wants it to look is definitely what is making the Second Life interface so popular. In comparison to a video game, this interface seems less childish. It isn’t marketed as a game, in fact, the opposite. Sex clubs and bars are something that isn’t seen in video games, and IBM executives in suits indulging in an online world is proof.

Who am I?

Ever since I first started posting on message boards and playing the few online games I've played regularly, I've had an online identity, essentially a name I call myself in every online thing I've done. I've always used some variation of the same thing, either CombatC or CombatC122, in everything from games and message boards to email and instant messaging. So far, I've found this identity hasn't carried over from one thing to another since no one in one community has ever recognized the name from a different community or game, but within individual communities, it provides me with an identifier while allowing me to remain somewhat anonymous. I even have people I consider friends who know me by my screen name. Generally, I suppose the identity represented by the name is pretty similar to my own since I don't approach online discussions any differently than I would normal ones, but I'm sure the simple nature of being anonymous and allowing me to express myself with written rather than spoken words could give people a different impression of me whether they know me online or in real life. I'm definitely quieter in real life than I am online, and my online friends really can't get to know me as well as they would if they knew me in person. I mostly just talk about pretty superficial things with them, like common interests and random stuff going on in our lives, and I try to stay away from overly sensitive or personal information that I might not necessarily consider so sensitive or personal if I was talking to someone face to face. Most of them seem like pleasant people who I wouldn't mind meeting in a chance encounter somewhere, but I don't think I'd ever go out of my way to meet anyone I only know online.

While the kinds of online communties I'm used to involve pretty simple discussions and the people who continually show up for those discussions, Second Life takes the concept of community to the extreme and actually allows you to design a new life for yourself. On one level, all it's really doing is taking those kinds of discussions away from the context of simple lines of text on a computer screen and placing them in a more relatable, human environment, like a bar or restaurant. Part of the fun of having friends is going out and actually doing stuff with them, which is one level I've found I haven't been able to relate to my online friends as well as my real life friends. Sometimes, I don't really feel like interacting with them not because I don't want to, but simply because I don't have anything interesting to say to them. Second Life is able to give you that illusion of taking your friends out. But then, that's all it is, an illusion. You're talking to people in the context of being at a bar, but is that the same as actually being at a bar? I particularly like Turkle's analogy of main street and Disney World to explain this (Turkle, Life in the Network, 234). An online cafe is a representation of what a cafe actually is, but it's there for a totally different purpose. You may go out to a restaurant to meet friends, but you also go there to eat food, which you need in order to stay alive. Meanwhile, your online avatar in Second Life may appear human, but it's still a computer program. It certainly doesn't need to eat, and yet you can get food for it when you go to the virtual cafe to meet your online friends. But even though nothing in Second Life is actually real, it's interesting how wealth in the virtual community corresponds to real life wealth, exemplified by how money within the virtual world and real dollars are interchangable. The story of Anshe Chung is particularly remarkable (Kirkpatrick, It's Not a Game, 3). I can't imagine having that much money and being an employer simply because I'm doing well in what amounts to a huge online game. In a way though, the world itself is sort of like an avatar of the real world, just as the people are avatars of what they are in real life. Some things are similar, but overall it's a representation of how we wish the world was.

January 30, 2007

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).

stepping foot into my SECOND LIFE

In the past, I actually used a ‘disguised name’ other than my screen name. I first used AOL and met quite a number of people there. Everyone knew me as that disguised name, or ‘pseudonym’ but it was the fact that I was also fourteen-fifteen years old and felt like I should not give too much information out. Now, I use blogs where I don’t worry as much with my identity although I usually put my blogs on private for friends only. I don’t think I’ve had any real big issues with identity online before because I’ve always kept most of the information secured. Other than using aim to chat and blogs, I’ve never actually experienced using avatars before.

Second Life is something completely new to me! I think it is very intriguing and a great invention. It’s amazing the things you are able to do from creating your own image, building your own space to however you wished, becoming your own business owner, and meeting new people from all over the world. I actually created an account myself to see how it really works although it is a little more complicated than I imagined. This is truly a new way of meeting people online, by building your own avatars where “each person dreams up his own avatar. A control panel allows you to adjust your avatar's body, including eye color, cheek thickness, pant length, and girth. You can make it resemble your real self, or someone - or something - else.? (Kirkpatrick, David) There is even talk of voice conversation coming which adds to the whole package! It’s amazing what technology can offer us today and I believe it will only continue to surprise us.

There are different reasons to use Second Life as David Kirkpatrick states, “In the case of IBM, it's not just a matter of touting the wonders of Second Life; it's really using it - both as a business opportunity and as an internal tool.?

The Life One Builds for One's Self.

This is a good assignment because people my age have been having second online identities since we were little kids (I am 21). For example, I play an online game called nation states. It is a game that lets you be the leader of your own cyber nation. The game gives you issues of which you are allowed to choose from, and then ultimately support, or dismiss. In this world, you can also band together with other players (nations) and form regions within the nation states world. My friends and I have done this. It is a fun game because one’s identity is totally confidential, other gamers only know you as the “leader? of your nation state. This is great; because the things people decide to do to their populous…well, I would hope would not happen in real life. As far as my “character? being human, it is not. My character/avatar is a nation, which takes on characteristics based upon the legislation I pass daily. The nation can grow (as it did when I raised taxes) or it can shrink (as it did when I put all people with harpies on a deserted island). Therefore, the game has consequences. Ultimately, this game allows one to gain a second online identity of a world leader, bent on what ever form or life one would want to build for one’s self, and nation.

Nations States is a great example of how we as a society are beginning to become more an extension of the computers we spend so much time using. As Turkle points in Life on the Screen, “many of the intuitions that brought people together- a main street, a union hall, a town meeting, no longer work as they did before.? She continues to state that, “being the social beings we are, we are trying [to use the internet for which we spend all our time on] to re-socialize (p 178).? Nation States is a prime example of people socializing on a web based reality. Nation States is its own world, with social groups dominated by people discussing everything from dictatorships and genocide, to what’s on TV later that night. While many people, as little as twenty years ago would have come together in a non-internet forum to discuss how nations should be run, today one can achieved this without leavening one’s home.

Second Life goes onto prove Turkles assessment that internet based worlds are not to be demeaned as mere play sites as once thought. They are indeed webs of interaction and socialization between people. The real draw of Second life over Nations States lies in first person interaction. While Nations States lets one act on behalf of a nation, in Second Life, one acts on one’s own behalf. In this game, you are…you. Your character becomes an extension of your self, and you have the ability to interact with other people. As if they were next to you in the room. Therefore, society is indeed beginning to draw them into the internet and taking on characteristics, and alternate identities through their computers. According to Kirkpatrick, “More than 2.6 million have checked it out, a figure that in mid-January was growing by about 20,000 per day (CNN 01/27/07). Also, major firms such as IBM are looking to worlds like Second Life as new areas for economic growth. This means that the potential of Second life as becoming a mainstream venue could be a reality.

Get A (second) Life

I am very security conscious. Probably stems from my days in the service with Naval Intelligence and my current profession as a computer programmer. I’ve given far more information to this course blog than to any other online entity. It’s an issue of trust. I have an inherent trust of the students at the University of Minnesota. We all belong to an actual physical community and are merely online as a medium for communication versus being total strangers conducting business online. I do not use my real name online, only pseudonyms. I have never used an avatar. I primarily manage my investments and conduct other business online. I have never role-played in the MUDs. That doesn’t mean that my online experiences are dull however. I find that “getting away? from the office to research a stock and make a trade or two extremely therapeutic (Sherry Turkle, Identity in the Age of the Internet, p. 197). I can’t say I get away from some of the tortured lives Ms. Turkle investigated, or that I have an online addiction. But getting away from the daily barrage at work really helps me get through the day.

Rooting around Second Life was quite interesting. It reminded me graphically of early 1980’s Apple II computer games. Those games were only interactive whereas Second Life is reactive. Ms. Turkle conducted her research in 1995. How far Second Life has come from the text based virtual reality to that of the graphics and avatars of today, as klunky as they may be. The panoptic (Turkle, p. 246) view individuals have in the virtual reality space of Second Life is very interesting. Granted, this view is classically only reserved for the wizards (system administrators) (Turkle, p. 248), however, I think everyone also has that power because you are not really there. You can observe others interactions with one another and disguise your own true identity.

What's My Identity?

My desicions that I have made about my online identity for the most part have been to keep a little private. I hear too much about online identity theft where hackers can get into your system and find out who you are with just a little bit of information. I really never have used my real legal name in the past when having to give my name online. I also don't give out my real birthdate, address, or phone number. I think all this is pretty standard now. It's really hard to trust people on the net and it's a wise move not to give out your personal information. I have also recieved very convincing e-mails in the past from Discover Card and other credit card companies claiming I needed to give them my credit card number, name, ss#, etc. It looked very authentic and when I clicked on the site, it looked very similar to the original Discover Card site, however it was a scam and I never did give out any of my information. I don't really log in to any virtual worlds and I don't have any avatars or anything like that. I just don't have time to log in to a virtual world and play online for hours on end, I find human contact more appealing. I think that some people just find that being in the online world is more appealing. In turkle's book, "Life on the Screen," she says, searching for an easy fix, we are eager to believe that the Internet will provide an effective substitute for face-to-face interaction, (Turkle, 236).

Second Life was really new to me. I didn't know anything about it and I never heard anything from it. When exploring the site I noticed it was moving really slow and I had to double and even triple click things just to get around. I did notice that you could buy virtual property and then sell it and make money off of it? People spend a lot of money to build their own virtual house and then sell it for real money? This to me sounds insane. Actually I think the encyclopedia Brittanica should add this to there definition of insanity. I read in "it's not a game article" that One resident, whose avatar is known as Anshe Chung, has become a celebrity of sorts by claiming to have accumulated a real-world net worth of more than $1 million in Second Life real estate. She now employs 30 people in China who build things and otherwise improve the land she buys and develops for resale. (Kirkpatrick, 3). Wow, that's all I can say to that. I believe online communities does however play apart in developing our identites. When we step through the screen into virtual communities, we reconstruct our identites on the other side of the looking glass, (Turkle, 177). I believe that's why so many people make there avatars into fit, dressed well, 20 somethings, instead of there real selves. Turkle also goes to say, play has always been an important aspect of our individual efforts to build identity, (Turkle, 184). Which is basically stating that when we play online, the way we play is apart of our identity building. I am not too familiar with online virtual games however I'm sure that we can make choices as how to play, either we kill an advisary, or leave them alone, or we can talk to them.

I really enjoyed these readings and really had no idea what Second Life was until well just about 25 minutes ago. It's all really new and interesting to me.