Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seeking Pleasure in a Virtual World: Revisited

“Whatever our values, we carry them with us into this place, and they are tested against a new set of possibilities and constraints.”

At first glance, from very early on in our marathon 2+ hour discussion, it seems that we have established that we are indeed moral beings. Oddly enough, a topic that has been bouncing around my circle of friends and acquaintances in both worlds, to one degree or another, and unbidden across varying circumstances. Even the populist media seems regularly to ponder this most existential of questions, with noticeable recent headlines about the sentience of viruses alongside the incessant opining of how war is probably wrong. Here we are at a stage of human evolution which affords us perhaps the time and certainly the energy to find ever more clever apparatuses to conduct our ongoing experiment of self-awareness, and yet one can’t help but feel that there’s a ruling minority of folks out there that don’t read writing left so rudely on the wall(s).

“Perhaps pixels are not as intimate or sacred as flesh?”

This is perhaps the heart of the matter, if not the matter of the heart. We all however agree that the level of personal emotional investment in SL can vary wildly, and reflects proportionately what one takes away from the experience. And that hearts break just as easily in-world as out.

“And those are mainly the creators and the people that get deeper meaning here.”

The old computer maxim still holds true: garbage in=garbage out, good stuff in=good stuff out. Turing would be proud.

“How many of us have noticed our analog avatar taking on traits from our digital lives? I know I have.”

“And in RL, I sometimes think of how [my avatar] would react to a situation. Because we are two different people.”

Aside from the humor value of trying to right-click someone to check their profile while you’re at the drugstore buying cat food, it seems that one can’t help but identify and at least at some levels acknowledge a rather surprising degree of cognizance of the multifarious aspects of our consciousness, vis-à-vis (pun intended) our personality development in SL. Being a vague Freudian myself (please forward all hate mail to my junior Literary Forensics professor), I see this as akin to giving our id and superego a doughy little homunculus to conduct a passion play on stage as large as the entire planet. But I’ve always been a romantic that way.

“And really, I see escorting as a form of therapay [sic] for the masses.”

“Well the fact is, sex is part of what keeps me here; engaging in it or not, it is in the digital air.”

Ah, the transactional romance culture; as unlike as Edwardian and Victorian, in ways, yet as constant as time itself. The world’s oldest profession may have been trumped by scripting (though I doubt it; I don’t doubt the first script was created to be placed in a pose ball), but it remains firmly ensconced in the human condition. It is something that we need, and it is in our nature to seek it, even revel in it—by rights and good sense we should revel in it, for it is an integral aspect of our own divinity, this power of creation and connection. We are troubled gods, indeed, but constant seekers, and SL is a wonderful garden to sow.

“But I’ve sought out people who prefer reading an erotic novel written for them only, on the spur of the moment.”

“To keep it here, to play the sexual and the sensual out as the experiences of our avatars, to respect their ownership of that experience, is the crux of what drew me to this talk. The development of that as an art form.”

After we ponder the wonders of creation, the revolutions of the planets, we try to express that to our companions, and thus Art is born. From cave painting to pixels, it is the engagement of the sense that we all seek, of knowing that we indeed have a higher consciousness without and within, and that it watches us, most amused by our every exploit.

I would like to thank all those that attended; it was a grand feast of which only a few morsels are presented here for your reflection. It was a wonderfully paced exchange of ideas; the conversation flowed like the wine of Khayam. Please note that the editorial content is mine alone, thought the quotes are directly transcribed from the discussion, with my own amendments to punctuation and spelling in the interest of readability. Also I apologize for taking so long to post the review; computer problems prevented me from doing this sooner.

I encourage all readers to pursue your time in both worlds ever-mindful, for that is the basis of a life fulfilled.

Shrutiyan Anatra, 27 March 08

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