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2007.10.16

Comments

Siobhan

While I was up visiting my sister, she mentioned a neighbor of hers just got a divorce due to Second Life - her husband was spending lots of time on there, of dubious import.

His entire income, by the way, is now generated from Second Life.

joshlee

Virtual reality is a continuum, ranging from fully-immersive (at least by current tech standards) MMORPGs and Second Life to simple augmentations of physical reality like homepages and Facebook accounts. Somewhere in the middle are sites like Cyworld, Gaia Online, and other services that mix MySpace-ish social networking with 2L-ish avatars.

I think virtual reality is as much about the opportunity for identity play as it is about replacing or augmenting physical reality; it's not so much about *where* you are as it is about *who* you are.

Vicki

While I admit that debating the definition of infidelity in cases like this is an interesting exercise, I can't help but think that it is somewhat irrelevant. The problem seems to be more the neglect of Ric Hoogestraat's real-world wife rather than his "marriage" in Second Life. I'm not sure that Mrs. Hoogestraat would feel any better about their relationship if he were spending endless hours playing online poker.

Oh, and it would be a cold day in hell that I would be bringing sandwiches to a husband parked in front of the computer all day, everyday, regardless of whether he was playing poker or Second Life.

Lisa S.

Josh, that's a really valuable distinction. Do you think we'll be looking at culture clashes based on people's degrees of online/offline self-definition?

joshlee

I'd say we're already pretty clashy: Ric thinks he can be two distinct people, one online, one offline. Sue only sees one person. Who knows what Janet sees? And that sidebar diagram attached to the article is all, "yeah, we don't know either."

Personally, I think things are going to move more towards a model where we use online spaces as extensions of the real world, rather than as an alternative to it. (in other words, someone's going to call Ric on his bigamous B.S.) But that may just be online Josh's opinion. Real-life Josh doesn't think too much about these sorts of things, and is more concerned with why he hasn't been able to find a decent burrito since he moved to San Francisco.

Lisa S.

Josh -- SERIOUSLY? San Francisco is allegedly the burrito capital of the Pacific coast. Check out this crazy wikipedia entry.

I am no burrito maven, as I do not care for beans, but everyone around me seems to be. I work on South Park, and the lines are out the door at the local burrito vendor there.

*

To get back to the non-beany discussion ...

I think things are going to move more towards a model where we use online spaces as extensions of the real world, rather than as an alternative to it.

I think you're right. What I find interesting from an anecdotal perspective: people in my generation seemed more prone to perpetuate strong online-only personae or identity play, and they made a distinction between online and offline selves in a way that the teenagers I know do not. The teens I worked with this summer treat MySpace, AIM and Facebook like facets of their real-world social life.

In a way, it seems more "honest" -- after all, I remember a lot of online diarists being "outed" as basically writing fiction -- but I do wonder how the integration affects identity play.

Kerry

The library world, especially special libraries, has been having a big push towards populating Second Life. I just don't get it--are you going to take a break from sexing it up with your avatar to look up stock prices or bop over to the drugstore to buy tampons, breaking the fantasy to engage in the drudgery of your first life? At least the Sims just lets you breeze past the workday and gives you credit for it without, you know, working.

True confession: I was involved with a LARPer and did some myself, and having relationships and identity/personas centering in fantasy like that is not healthy in many ways.


Polly

The teens I worked with this summer treat MySpace, AIM and Facebook like facets of their real-world social life.

This makes me feel young, Lisa, because I'm 37, and I've always been myself on-line (for better or for worse, I suppose). The first time I got involved with an on-line community was right after Firefly got canceled, and I was kind of expecting a lot of weird fantasy personas, but I was pleasantly suprised to find that people were generally pretty honest about who they were. As a result it wasn't this "virtual community," it was a real community, and people developed friendships, met IRL, and in at least one case, got married. When someone died unexpectedly, the grief and shock was exactly what it would have been in a non-virtual community, and people flew out to the funeral.

Personally, I think things are going to move more towards a model where we use online spaces as extensions of the real world, rather than as an alternative to it.

I think you're probably right, Josh--I think that the majority of people aren't as interested in creating fake relationships as they are in creating and strengthening real ones (and I'm sorry, if I'd been married less than a year and the guy had completely retreated like Hoogestraat has, I'd take that as a strong sign that the marriage was a mistake). I think that the whole alternate-world Web life is going to be more of a niche thing, just like RPGs are.

joshlee

One more note on real vs. fictional identities:

Mr. Lorenzen and other Silicon Valley investors are often dismissive of MySpace, Facebook’s larger rival, which has more than 110 million active users and is owned by the News Corporation. “MySpace is not based on authentic identities. Facebook is based on who you really are and who your friends really are. That is who marketers really want to reach, not the fantasy you that lives on MySpace and uses a photo of a model,” he said.

-- Microsoft to Pay $240 Million for Stake in Facebook, NYT, 24 Oct 2007

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