Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How Real is Virtual?

Last night, I was compelled to put PJs on my avatar and to try out my new bed. In real life, I was getting ready for bed. In SL, I was also in bed. I even found a camisole and a pair of Rolling Stones boxer shorts in my inventory - something I might wear in real life if I owned them.

For some reason, this was comforting to me, like the right thing to do.

I recently had someone ask me if, when they log out of SL, their avatar just hangs immobile somewhere on an island, taking up space. I have to admit, I wondered about that myself when I first logged in. I would sometimes see avatars with (Away) by their names, and this, I thought, was proof that when we log out, we are still there.

Eventually, I figured out that (Away) meant that the person was away or inactive but still logged in. Now I'm fairly comfortable believing that my avatar just goes "poof" when I log out. But last night, I just thought my avatar was going to be lying in bed throughout the night.

This morning, when I logged in, she was still in PJs, standing up next to the bed. That seemed so...normal.


Today I met a nice "woman." I say woman because of the avatar - blonde, buxom, wearing an electric blue dress with a plunging neckline and lots of bling sparkling. Her name was decidedly female as well - Esmarelda. As we chatted, I asked where she was from. Korea, was the response. I suddenly thought how odd/interesting it was that an Asian woman (or man) would select a lithe stacked blonde to represent her/himself.

It also made me wonder about diversity in Second Life.

Then I had an impromptu meeting with the moderator of a panel I'm speaking on at BlogHer 07 in SL. Her name was East Indian, and when she appeared from a teleport I sent, her avatar's skin was dark. Which got me thinking more about identity and race in virtual worlds. She is one of the few dark-skinned people I've seen inworld so far.

The only other I know is one of my girlfriend's in real life who is a blonde and married to a black guy. Her avatar is very blonde and very dark-skinned, nothing at all like her real world self.

When I first set up my avatar, I created a computerized version of me - average to slender build, average height, long dark hair, brown eyes, pretty but not stunningly beautiful, casually dressed in a long sleeved t-shirt and jeans. Over time, I've morphed my look into what I'd like to wear if I had a lot of money with the kind of hair I'd have if I could. I change my outfits and hair color at will. Different clothes, different hair, but I still think it is me no matter how I look.

Is it me? I mean, is it my avatar... don't I?

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