Friday, April 6, 2007


Written 6 April, 2007


I’ve been mulling over my Second-Life experiences.

You, dear reader, must now muddle along with me.

Oh, you don’t really have to, but you know what I mean.

I realized as soon as I started Second Life that life on the grid transcended real-life boundaries.

Age, for instance. That pretty 23-year-old girl may indeed be a 23-year-old woman. Or she may be 72-year-old man named Willard. Or a precocious 9-year-old who has figured out Grandpa Willard’s SL password.

Sex, for instance. The example above pretty much covers that waterfront.

Size. That seven-foot-tall woman may be four-foot-eight. And that Tiny av may be, as one of my friends likes to say, five-foot-seventeen. And she may weigh 92 pounds or 492 pounds or anywhere in between.

Race and ethnicity. When anyone can be a member of any race, skin color means little.

Geography. Dealing with the time differences can be difficult, but SL is really a melting pot. I have friends from the all over the U.S. and Canada, Europe, Australia, South America, and Asia.

Language. Yes, language still separates us, but the grid exposes us to each others’ languages, and that provides learning opportunities. And if Google would ever allow Babbler to start working again, the separation would be considerably less.

Disability. That av to whom you’re talking might spend six hours a day in a wheelchair. Or you might. Or you both might.

And there’s another—and it doesn’t relate to the real world, for it isn’t possible.

And that’s being more than one person at the same time.

Dakota’s recent experiences come about as close to that as is possible to transcending the experience of being a single human being. She seems real to me. Her reactions come naturally. When I rezz Dakota I am Dakota. When I rezz Cheyenne, I am Cheyenne. When I rezz both at the same time, I’m confused.

No, not really. When I rezz both, they are their own selves.

In the past people have had the chance to be two different people. Spies. Amnesiacs. Fugitives. But, with the possible exception of polygamists who maintain two or more separate families in secret, it hasn’t been possible to be more than one person at the same time.

It seems to me to be sort of post-human consciousness.

In SL, the distinction between role-playing and being oneself is a tricky one. Some citizens engage in out and out role-playing— but what about the rest of us? Are we role-playing our avatars or simply being ourselves through the actions of an avatar? Is that distinction even valid?

I never thought Second Life would mess with my head in such profound ways.


Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

One of the few things I remember from an intro to anthropology class, aside from the instructor demonstrating brachiating :), is that in primitive cultures innovations start out as toys. (If a predator is staring you down, being a beta tester suddenly looks very unattractive...)

Perhaps SL serves that purpose for experimenting with one's behavior.

Cheyenne Palisades said...

My friend Boofhead Oh-- I meant to paraphrase him in the blog but forgot-- was talking about the use of masks in tribal ceremonies. The mask, even when worn by different people, retains its essential character. Maybe avatars are like that. Who knows?

I think innovations start out as toys in our society too.