Friday, March 7, 2008

Who we are.

We are all immersionists, we are all augmentationists, we are all experimentalists.

Rheta Shan writes in a discursive and confessional way, it's a heart felt and searching cynosure of conversation, around which swirls many strands. It is a wonder to be able to hold so many voices in one head, and then be able to spin them out so respendently:

So we should stop asking ourselves if there is a fine point to be made between immersion and non-immersion. There is not. Second Life is an immersive world. The most advanced and most powerful to date, because while it does nothing as well as specialised ones, it does make nearly anything possible. Its power has nothing to do with how much we want to disclose about our RL selves, or how much we care for the impact it might have on society at large. And no, it’s not separate of the atomic world, obviously, but it doesn’t have to be to stand on its own : not anymore than the colonies of his gracious majesty, the King of England, had to be separate of this globe we live on. That hasn’t stopped them getting quite headstrong first, autonomous against the will of his not-so-graceful-anymore majesty a tad later.

Rheta Shan

Artificial divides often create the most excitement. The Hillary-Obama fight being one example: the smaller the differences, the bigger the emotive drama that wraps around them. The reality is that any one in second life must want a better life, an augmentaiton of that life, and any one must immerse themselves in the minutae of inventory and the rest of the things that make up second life, or any VR. We are all also involved in an experiment in the creation of virtual community.

I feel the best way to look at this is to view one's core as "the player." The player creates an analog avatar, a series of identities which mix physical, social, and conventional aspects. The web of relationships are often hard to tease apart, but all one needs to do is have a bout of identity theft, and it becomes obvious how interwoven with virtual elements even the most concrete of ourselves is.

Player's also create all kinds of virtual selves, as writers, as pages in social networking sites, as avatars. To create a virtual self is to be immersed in that self. Academic writing is immersive, and no on actually speaks the way they write an actual paper, and those that try tend to be regarded as socially inept. Virtual reality, or the realities of virutality, make it so.

In my world of escorting I divide people into a spectrum. There are hook ups, look ups, back ups, and screw ups. The last is sometimes replaced by a stronger word depending on my mood and their behavior.

A hook up wants a meeting in the flesh, or some in the flesh advantage right now. An advertiser, an asler, a hiring manager all have something in common: they want something physical to happen now, or soon.

A look up is not adverse to in the flesh meeting, but as some degree of space. They don't want a proton thing to happen right now. Most people are actually some degree of look up, in that the right incentive will draw almost anyone out. It might not happen, or be practical, but it is there. Putting yourself on facebook is like that. It's not happy to get a

heh hot stuff! I'll be in your area next week, and I was wondering if you wanna have some hot fun with me!

in your in box. Really, that's not what it is there for. However, getting a note from someone who likes your writing, which leads to a conversation, which leads to a casual invitation for coffee one day, is a different thing.

Then there are back ups. We are all in this mode sometimes. If someone makes an approach, a back up tells the other person to back up, and realize that's not what this is about. Any time a spam message comes into your email box, I will bet you want the other person to back up and learn some manners.

Then there are screw ups. A screw up is someone who simply doesn't understand that there are other people with their own needs involved. A person who gets offended when every girl he spams won't go on msn right now, is a screw up. A person who uses anonymity ot make death threats or grief people, is a screw up. Immersionist? Augmentationist? In a manner of speaking, but really, just a problem.

Does the immersionist/augmentationist divide have any use? Yes, in that there are people who take the stance that nothing here should be taken seriously, that it is all disposable and just another venue for their player. Then there are others who want to feel through this narrow doorway, and want the fourth wall to be thick. Though, as I've said, who is what in which circumstances, varies.

However, it is, for me, the experimentalist aspect which overwhelms the other two most of all. The ability to re-imagine the self, based on new possibilities, and the burden of having to work through a new geography of problems and challenges, is something that focuses my mind far more often. And yours too I think.

Sophrosyne has had a rough week with a gale of the problems from rl, and how people want. One reason for this is that the engine of prejudice is time. People want things to be in nice consumable packages, and that includes other people. We are all off the rack dresses. They want the signs that trigger a certain behavior to be out and visible, and without thought, reachable. Wearing a short skirt? It must be because it is OK for them to flirt. In a bar late at night? Then it must be because making a pass is alright. And so on.

This desire to put people in little boxes with clear markings does not go away just because a player enters a virtual world and acts through a digital avatar. Many players also want to push the costs of their searching on to others, like, for example, the men who want to proposition virtually every woman they meet, or pinch … well you get the idea. These people get very angry if they have to think at all before trying to grab what appeals to them.

This is a more important divide that aug/im, in my experience. There are people who want to restrain the information that others see, and there are people who want to be able to demand, or ignore the warning flags, of others. This is one of the things that makes the aug/im split seem worse than it is. Immersionists are almost by their nature restrainers of the very information that this class of unthinking people shoppers want to have, and take most offense when a less than well mannered people shopper wants to pick up the box and fondle it without asking.

I'm being casual about this, because I really believe that in not too long a time, what I am saying here will be common sense. I've heard the same thing from many other people in different forms, so it isn't as if this is something unique to me, or original to my thoughts. However, perhaps because I am in the business end of dealing with rather highly charged examples of it, I don't have patience for excessive academicization of the subject, or drah-mah about what is really people seeking their needs in a new medium.

We are all trying to make our lives, plural, better. We are all deep in this new world, which Second Life is a reflection of. We are all taking hesitant steps into a darkness that with our luminosity, becomes a new light.


  1. The reality is that any one in second life must want a better life, an augmentation of that life, and any one must immerse themselves in the minutiae of inventory and the rest of the things that make up second life, or any VR. We are all also involved in an experiment in the creation of virtual community.

    To the point indeed. And… ta for the praise. Coming from you, it' means a lot to me.

  2. You are welcome Reta, I find your writing to be nourishing and enlightening. I'm amazed at how you can keep up with the threads of conversation. It seems to me some times as if you can hear the all in your head and the all make sense.

  3. As we discussed last night, it seems that what evokes the most fear is the boundary transgressor, something you and I both represent.

    The escort/poet/political analyst? She is not one simple thing, and her uncategorizability challenges our notions that life is small, linear and containable.

    The winged goth girl/business suited enetrepeneur/political agitator? Defying convention is defiance against the conventional - and the only response is to lash out.

    We will not be boxed, we will not be silenced, we will not sit by while others are demeaned and devalued.

    So, yeah, we'll have hard weeks. But we'll have each other too. Thank you for being there for me, and know that I am for you as well, any time.