Written 2 March, 2007
More on Voice
Veronique Lalonde’s comment to my previous blog about voice addresses what I think is the crux of the issue about voice in Second Life. And that is that it will pose new limitations and opportunities on the use of Second Life as a fantasy. For many reasons, the use of voice can threaten, obscure, or destroy fantasy:
* As Veronique points out, voice replaces our complex fantasies with imaginations from the physical world. In this way it can diminish our experience, just as a movie based on a book simplifies and condenses a novel and removes much of the nuance.
* Those playing avatars of the opposite sex may find their relationships threatened or even wrecked. As one wag pointed out in the comments to the Linden blog on voice, the SL escort industry will be devastated. As a self-identified transsexual poignantly wrote, a female avatar with a male voice may find a cherished second life in ruins. And just to point out how very important a second life can be, she made a not-so-veiled threat of suicide if voice comes to Second Life..
* An avatar’s voice may not match other characteristics—age, for instance. A Lolli controlled by a 45-year-old man is going to have difficulty. And so will a bulked-up Gorean slaveholder with a soprano voice. Or a chipmunk who roars like a lion, or a lion who squeaks like a chipmunk.
* Language differences may be exacerbated. Citizens who can get by when chatting in another language may be unable to follow spoken conversations. And an accent won’t show up in chat, but will in voice.
* Some people just don’t like their voice. This may be because of a regional accent, or an impediment, or because they just don’t think their voice is melidiflous (spp.?).
* Some people just communicate better in writing than in speech. I know I do. I’m much more indirect in speech than in print.
* Chat enables one to compose a thought and edit it before sending. Speech is just hung out there.
* Speech adds a level of realism that some will find too much for certain Second Life activities. A self-identified female escort wrote in her comment to the Linden blog that she would not be using voice because it would take her out of her comfort range in doing sex work
* Speaking will compromise the real-life privacy of some SL residents, who may have husbands, wives, or children in the next room.
I’m sure there are yet even more issues with voice.
Voice, or rather, the discrimination some (probably rightly) believe will come to those who don’t use voice, will indeed threaten the Second Life of many residents. As Veronique wrote, it’s a hurdle we’ll somehow get over. But it will be difficult for a lot of people.
I'm so very sorry for that. But I still can't wait.