Monday, March 14, 2005
VIRTUALLY TRUE: EMBEDDED JOURNALISM IN AN ONLINE WORLD (A SXSW TALK)
Expanded notes from a talk about New World Notes for the South by Southwest panel "Virtually True: Journalism and Blogging About Online Worlds" (Monday, March 14, 10:00am-11:00am)
SECOND LIFE DEFINED: A persistent, streamed 3D reality that simulates a world. Using the building and scripting tools available to them, the paying subscribers (or Residents) create and own all the objects contained in it: homes, public buildings, vehicles, weapons, clothing, etc.
MY ROLE IN SECOND LIFE: I began as a game writer and freelance technology journalist for Salon and Wired, then was contracted by Linden Lab in early 2003 to cover the development of Second Life as an emerging community for a blog called New World Notes. My in-world avatar is "Hamlet Linden", modeled after myself, but wearing a white suit in tribute to Tom Wolfe. My alternate avatar (while covering wars and other chaotic situations) was inspired by Hunter S. Thompson. (Avatar discontinued in respect to Gonzo's passing.)
New World Notes functions in at least two discrete but often overlapping kinds of journalism.
AS A CATALYST FOR REAL WORLD JOURNALISM-- SOME EXAMPLES:
- In-world technological innovation with social and scientific transformative possibilities:
Science and technology journalism, as in "Lever to Move the Mind", my report on a UC Davis medical doctor and programmer creating a simulation of visual and audio hallucinations, based on testimony of real life schizophrenic patients. Scientists, programmers, engineers continue to use Second Life as a research and development platform-- as do social science academics.
- Enabling story subjects to recount deeply personal issues from the protected anomynity of their avatars:
As in "The Freeform Identity Bebop of Eboni Khan", which takes a discussion of her avatar's racial characteristics to discuss her own personal perspectives on race as an African-American woman. Since Second Life policy forbids disclosure of Resident's real life identities, and the immersive-but-safe intimacy of the 3D online experience, people feel comfortable to tell their stories of their lives, and how they relate to larger issues.
- Numerous opportunities to interview Residents from diverse, newsworthy backgrounds:
As in "The Soldier's Mistress", profile of a Resident just returned US military service in Iraq-- including a period of intense combat at Fallujah, during the first siege. Again, recounting intense, grim subjects behind the protective veil of anomynity.
In the same way, the displacement of real-time interaction in an online world as avatar who represents you (but at a safe remove), enables my reporter character to ask more provocative, confrontational questions I often hestitate to ask as an in-person reporter-- or even via e-mail or phone. At the same time, the immersive intimacy makes me more protective of my subjects, and that much more committed to telling their stories.
- Exploring who we want to be, and who we want to desire-- and why.
As in "Man and Man on Woman on Woman", about two (self-identified) heterosexual men who each play female avatars-- and decided to have their avatars fall in love with each other. (See also Eboni Khan's profile, where she discusses straight men she knows who play women-- so they can start relationships with other women, and then later "come out" to them as being straight men.)
- Modeling the role of religion and sexuality in culture.
As in "The Sacred and the Profane", the story of a man who built a Roman Catholic cathedral in-world, and even held recreations of Sunday mass service in them-- then later took the church down, because he felt celebrations of organized religion weren't welcomed in the relatively libertine culture of Second Life.
- Documenting the clash between capitalism and community.
As in "Anshe at the Gates". In 2003, Linden Lab announced a laissez faire policy on the buying and selling of Linden Dollars (Second Life's in-world currecy) for real money, and several third-party sites engage in such commerce. This has opened the door for Residents to make a real income from their activity in Second Life-- including real estate maven Anshe Chung, who recently bought a private island which had been home to a close-knit artistic community-- then got rid of the existing neighborhood (including its tribute to Christo's Gates), and converted it all into a vacation suburb for French and German Residents.
SOME LIMITATIONS TO AVATAR JOURNALISM:
- Objective truth is server side.
Hard to establish anything not witnessed first-hand to any fully reliable degree (chat transcripts can be altered, screenshots can be Photoshopped.) This sets a limit on "investigative" journalism, on the one hand, and threatens to turn stories which involve conflicts between Residents into He Said-She Said. My solution is not to emphasize the particular conflicts, but the larger themes they involve.
- On being paid by The Man...
Problem: how can you be an impartial journalist reporting on a world, when you're paid by the company who makes money from it? Tentative solution: state biases up front, and take on active role as ombudsman, promoting community concerns to Linden Lab. (Example here.) First Amendement irony: New World Notes stories which involve Residents being critical of Linden Lab (such as the tax revolt covered here) tend to be the most well read, and indirectly promote Second Life as a democratic online society.
The world has grown so large, it's far exceeded one journalist's attempt to cover it. Fortunately, there are nearly forty Resident-run blogs, and my hope is to become just as much a straight SL blogger, as a journalist, acting as editor for dozens of different points of view.
And that's an open invitation for more bloggers and journalist bloggers to add online worlds to their beat...
Posted at 07:28 AM | Permalink
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference VIRTUALLY TRUE: EMBEDDED JOURNALISM IN AN ONLINE WORLD (A SXSW TALK):
» links for 2005-03-15 from Roland Tanglao's Weblog
Online Extra: Commentary: Apple's Blueprint for Genius apple's maniacal attention to detail pays off - "In the iPod Shuffle, for example, designers cut a circuit card in two and stacked the pieces, bunk-bed style, to make use of the... [Read More]
Tracked on Mar 14, 2005 10:23:12 PM
» Notes: Virtually True from Clickable Culture
Out of all of the journalists and bloggers in the world, there really aren't all that many covering online worlds in their regular "beat." But, for reasons I'll elaborate on in this morning's SXSW panel "Virtually True,&qu... [Read More]
Tracked on Mar 15, 2005 11:48:49 AM
» For Elderly, Extra Pounds May Lower Mortality Rates from those who were
rates than those who were in the normal range (18.5 to 24.9). The findings suggest that the [Read More]
Tracked on May 28, 2006 11:00:17 AM
Tracked on Jun 2, 2006 7:54:03 PM
» /POEZIQ/What-s-new from StihiNew
new Илья Янкелевич Габай. ( 2k) GABAJ_I/stihi.txt Илья Габай. Посох ... new Орхан Вели Канык. ( 6k) ORXAN_VELI/stihi.txt Орхан Вели Канык. Избранные стихи ... [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 5, 2006 6:18:04 PM
Tracked on Jun 7, 2006 11:44:52 AM
Tracked on Jun 18, 2006 8:45:25 AM
Tracked on Jun 28, 2006 4:29:26 PM
Tracked on Jun 30, 2006 3:30:34 AM
» World Cup 2006 Day Fifteen - Match Reports from had his flag
that sounds exciting. I wouldn't be surprised if it goes to penalties. Attendance : 72,000 Red Card : Jaziri 45 (Tunisia) Assist : Shevchenko [Read More]
Tracked on Jun 30, 2006 4:46:52 PM
» Privasafe Provides Pop Up Killer Pro with Subscription to our E-Mail and ISP Services from software. The
with the standard monthly subscription to Privasafe, includes spyware protection, a pop up blocker [Read More]
Tracked on Jul 2, 2006 7:06:28 AM
Tracked on Jul 28, 2006 7:18:09 AM
Tracked on Jul 31, 2006 3:59:03 PM
» burberry from Burberry Perfume
Buy Burberry perfumes and aftershaves from the best UK shops online. Click on one of the products listed below to compare prices to find the best price to ... [Read More]
Tracked on Aug 4, 2006 7:22:21 AM
Tracked on Aug 9, 2006 4:20:06 AM
Tracked on Aug 9, 2006 8:17:42 AM
Forex forecast forecast forex
Forex trading training forex trading training
Forex education education forex
Forex day trading system forex day trading system
Forex online currency trading forex online currency trading
Posted by: tommy at May 31, 2007 3:24:05 AM
Thank's for the very informative site, these sites are some I would recommend.
the number one website for online craps.
online casino slot machine online casino slot machine Hope you enjoy them.
Posted by: craps at Aug 31, 2007 5:08:12 AM
Waterproof Rabbit Vibe Waterproof Rabbit Vibe
lighted rabbit vibe lighted rabbit vibe
hustler vibrator hustler vibrator
rabbit waterproof vibrator rabbit waterproof vibrator
rotating vibrator rotating vibrator
rabbit vibe lights rabbit vibe lights
clear jelly vibe clear jelly vibe
multi-functional vibrator multi-functional vibrator
Posted by: toy at Oct 15, 2007 11:00:55 PM
Buy Burberry perfumes and aftershaves from the best UK shops online good!
Posted by: warhammer gold at Mar 2, 2009 11:35:56 PM
I began as a game writer and freelance technology journalist for Salon and Wired, then was contracted by Linden Lab in early 2003 to cover the development of Second Life as an emerging community for a blog called New World Notes.
Posted by: Alex Pettyfer at Sep 20, 2011 2:42:00 AM