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Monday, October 10, 2005

AFTER AVATARS

Reflections on what happens when the curtain is briefly pushed aside

So some 120+ Second Life Residents made the trip to New York Law School in Tribeca for yesterday's SLCC 2005, the first Resident-sponsored gathering on a massive level. Several Linden Lab staffers and contractors came along for the ride (including myself), while some members of a few major media outlets came to report on it, too. Those may actually be the best people to cover the event. Several folks have asked me if I planned to blog it here on New World Notes, but my beat ends when I click the Exit button.

However, there's some fascinating questions to ask after this convention, which are appropriate to this blog, and I'm inviting SLCC attendees to answer them in the Comments section of this entry:

You met a lot of Residents last weekend, most of whom you've never met in person before; some of them looked and acted very much like their avatars, others not at all. They've also had a chance to meet the person behind your avatar, too. So what happens when you meet again as avatars? Will last weekend change your relationship to them, and how? Will it change the way you act in-world, and how? Post your thoughts here.

UPDATE, 12:30PM EDT: I am writing this from a coffee shop on the Upper West Side, a few hours before I fly back to San Francisco. Having thought I had already logged out of that temporary extension of Second Life into the material world downtown, I find I still can't escape it. A few minutes ago, by total, gobsmacking coicidence, legendary land development entrepeneur Anshe Chung quite literally walked in. She had no idea I'd be here, and until this morning, neither did I; she's here, as it turns out, to meet with a photographer from the Associated Press. He has her log into Second Life from a barstool, so he can capture both the real person and her avatar together. She points me out to the AP guy, however, who promptly shifts her over to a nearby table, so we'll both be in-shot. (Virtual land baroness and virtual reporter, laptop to laptop!) Before she leaves, she offers me two shirts emblazoned with her AnsheChung.com corporate logo (which to maintain some semblance of journalistic integrity, I'll be donating to Linden Lab.)

So despite my best efforts, even now, the worlds just refuse to be kept apart. But I wonder if the Residents I just met feel the same-- please post here, and share.

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Comments

Coincidence? No, that's the mighty dragon of synchronicity breathing fire down your neck! And that's not a euphemism! @_@

Posted by: Torley Torgeson/Torley Wong at Oct 10, 2005 12:19:40 PM

The RL to SL meeting experience can be surreal at times. Flipper and I both have met numerous SLer's over the past year or so in a variety of spectrums from the comfort of our own home, to smoky bars and clubs, on vacation in the UK, at our RL wedding or the swanky LL offices in San Fran and now the convention. Suffice it to say we have experience in this field. At first it was weird to meet someone and realize that they looked nothing like their avatars and their personalities were different. When I meet new SLer's now, I try not to walk into the situation with any in-world expectations. I realize that the tall pale vampire in-world, may be a blonde haired blue eyed businessman with a Ph.d in Economics.

There is always that initial wondering of what the person behind the avatar is going to be like when you meet them. Neither Flipper or myself are into role-playing -- we are who we are and pretending to be anything else would take effort that which we are not willing to expend or remember for that fact. We realize that there is the element of role playing within Second Life, whether in world you are into bdsm, are a pale fangy vamp, a furry or a man playing as a female character. There is no harm in that.

That being said, we've met all types of people, from those whom I have never had any interactions with, to some of our closest online friends, the most feted of the feted designers and content creation, of course most of the Lindens to name a few. Mostly everyone has been wonderful...even the notorious villians of SL are charming in their own respect. A couple times I've met people in the real world from online that I would rather have not met, but c'est la vie.

I'll finish with this thought, Second Life is as diverse in the real world as it is in the virtual world. There is no real stereotypical Second Life user. Now, that is impressive.

Posted by: Jennyfur at Oct 10, 2005 12:39:20 PM

Hamlet:
1. I missed your session at SLCC, but bravo to your intelligent and insightful comments at your session at SoP3 and the identity break-out session.
2. "The worlds refuse to be kept apart" - I think it's because the whole point of the Metaverse is to bring people together. The "exit button" doesn't make SL go away, it just makes it go idle. ;)
3. Hammy ... man ... you're a damn cool guy.

Posted by: HiroPendragon at Oct 10, 2005 5:07:39 PM

Hamlet, how did one get an invitation to these closed workshops at SOP? No one seems to be able to explain this process to me, and it was annoying because the workshops were listed publicly on the websites as if open to the public. And they aren't going to be in the video archives, I guess.

For my impressions, go here:
http://secondthoughts.typepad.com

I found that everybody looked *exactly* like their avatars. And I mean -- exactly, to the minute. The avatar is the window to the soul...

Posted by: Prokofy Neva at Oct 10, 2005 5:26:09 PM

I found the whole experience to very invigorating and inspiring. SLers are wonderfully social creatures in RL just as they are in SL. After the convention, I found myself wanting to approach random people on the street and say, "Hi, what's your name? What do you like to do?" I mainly refrained, but I was struck with vision of how it could be in another 5/10/20 years if SL gets to be huge and its culture continues to be so open. People might find it far more natural to strike up a decent conversation with a stranger in the cookie aisle of the grocery store.

I was especially delighted to see the number of women who attended the conference. I'm an engineer in RL and the conferences I usually attend are overwhelmingly male. I did notice quite a few looks of surprise, though, when people found out that I'm a scripter in SL. C'mon girls! Let's close that gender gap!


Posted by: Digi Vox at Oct 10, 2005 8:57:47 PM

Great review Hamlet-san!

I did not go but I was an in world sponsor and have written about my experiences on my own site.

The question I asked myself a lot and I am sure many have asked is ' do I wish I had been there?' on what was a history making exercise. Strangely enough, though you know i love SL dearly my decision is I am glad I did not go. How can I put it?.. well.. since being a little grl I have loved virtual life, and I have whoop with joy when I managed to get Lara to jump another gap, or escape another trap..it's always been an 'escape' for me, a fantasy world. I am not sure I want to meet the other SL AVs in their human forms, I prefer to meet them resplendent as winged angel, giant robot or cute bunny, or just as their 'wannabe' self!

I do like how virtual worlds bring out the kindness, help, friendliness and cheer or many yet also reveal the greed, selfishness and anger of others.. that way one can judge the human behind the AV.. in world without rules.. one becomes as one truly wishes to be and can leave behind all those excuses for not being what you can be, at your best !

Also much of what I listened to tho fascinating was very business like, about money, corporate expansion, technical needs and such, and of course the ever present politics .. and I am still myself (naiive?..) to prefer to continue to be the wide eyed child when in these magical ' I can fly' worlds.
For me, the experience, which reflects in the places I create is one of immersion, of wonder, of adventure and variety and I think for me to sit in a conference room and discuss it with others would not have been the same. I was struck looking around that there were more ANSHECHUNG.COM sponsor banners than SL banners!

I think I will continue to enjoy the varied multiverses I visit as Snakekiss just as they are, as uniquely separate worlds from my 1L self, yet places where I can be a 'better' me in many ways, physically, behaviour and ability. I want it to be that same magical feeling that I get when immersed in the lastest Harry Potter book overnight, or the 'can't wait' feeling that I get as the cinema curtain opens. That to me is the ultimate value of this...and the chance to see us humans better ourselves and learn. Perhaps if lessons come back from 2L to the 1st world yes this will be worth it! Maybe some day I will go, who knows.. WELL DONE Hiro !.. well done all.. a great and historic event made real by your hard work and imagination!

Posted by: Snakekiss Noir at Oct 11, 2005 1:30:54 PM

Hamlet > despite my best efforts, even now, the worlds just refuse to be kept apart. But I wonder if the Residents I just met feel the same

During my opening remarks at the convention I told the story of my roommate's avatar walking up to me in Second Life and asking me to buzz him in the front door *in real life*. Turns out he'd forgotten his keys and cell phone in the house but was able to log into SL from our doorstep and find me inworld. That really got me thinking about a time when SL is so pervasive that you can expect the people around you to have accounts and avatars. At that point people meeting in real life will share av names the way they now share IM names, and SL will also have a strong local component. So the worlds will not be kept apart. Which is certainly not to say there won't be room for anonymity or a strictly "Second" life, just that real world identity can be amplified incredibly for those who embrace it. Personally, I'm drawn to SL as an extension of the real world, so it's the direct inworld-outworld connections that I tend to find most interesting.

And hey, what the heck happened? The convention was like a day and a 1/2 ago but I've been thinking so much about it and what's next that it feels like it was a week ago! I believe the convention footage is now in the hands of the Ideal World documentary team, and we'll see what we can do about re-streaming sessions inworld (check out this pic of Koyuki Michabo watching it live in SL on a laptop!). Here's part of a post about the convention from the Ideal World site:

"I am exhausted and my head is buzzing. The conferences were amazing. We were able to pick up over 20 hours of footage at State of Play and the Second Life Community Conference. We captured many fascinating moments and there will be a more than a few “wow” moments for our audience. We have known it from the beginning but the past four days really crystallized things. Simply, we are documenting a movement at a moment in time critically important to the future of communications, economics and social behavior. It’s almost overwhelming…"

Sounds about right to me!!

Posted by: SNOOPYbrown Zamboni at Oct 11, 2005 2:19:46 PM

I loved meeting everyone and was not expecting most to look like their avatars. I don't get out much in SL; I tend to be a Roadhouse hermit. At the party on Saturday, I did what a lot of us were doing. Walked up to a person, asked who they were. If I knew them, a big hug. If I didn't, a hi, nice to meet you, what do you do in SL. I have already contacted residents I met just to say, Hi, I'm glad to have met you this weekend, hope to see you in SL.

In real life, I was fortunate to bunk at Misty Rhodes, and Pendari came to stay with us. I have been SL friends with both of these women for a while, but now I have two incredible real life friends.

I did miss the conferences due to exhaustion (all you young folks), but I was able to sit in world and watch the stream, and that was also a bonding experience. And no, it wasn't my idea to have Torley throw watermelons.

I have been working nights since the Convention and can't wait until the weekend so I can wander around and see where my new friends live and work.

Posted by: MagicJustSue Kojima at Oct 12, 2005 4:04:36 PM

i must say it was truly wonderful meeting so many people none of witch i new in world before the convention. I tend to spend lots of time alone or with a few close personal friends in world.
however after meeting so many nice people at the convention i have made some new friends in world. :D

hugs to you all :)
crucial

Posted by: Crucial Armitage at Oct 12, 2005 8:44:09 PM

Late post to this-but I thought I had an interesting petrspective at SLCC. I arrived there after being in SL for only two weeks. I barely knew anyone in SL and was delighted and encouraged by the many people who greeted me at the conference and then later proved true to their character by finding me in world and extending the hand of friendship again. My view is therefore a bit reversed as my initial impression was of the human, not the avatar and although many were dissimilar in appearance, most proved true to their RL nature and personality. SLCC was a blast, and a great initiation for the novice wall-banger. The Lindens were very mellow and friendly, and the seasoned citizens were light-hearted and accepting of my naivete'. All gave advice freely, usually with a promise of in world support, and often with a bit of a twinkle in their eye!

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