Tuesday, 22 April 2008

My own white washing

Looking over how my AV has evolved I see that unconsciously (I hope unconsciously) my own AV has been slowly but clearly white washed. The above AV is who I was one year ago. Below you see the outcome of gradual changes to my AV which has left me looking far more northern European.

A combination of factors are a play. Some are as simple as finding the blond hair is easy in my inventory, where as the brown and black hair are hard to find (lots of things called brown and black only the hair is called blond). The skin didn't offer one the precisely color I wanted. I wanted to have the skin tone of a South Asian, Hispanic, or Arab. A good friend purchased it for me and its a very very good skin, one of the best you can buy so I keep it.

But I wonder about the influence of Second Life community upon the forming of my AV. Most of my clothing, hair, skins, and eyes were selected with the input of people in RL and SL. My AV is formed in a discourse. And I did get the blond hair because the long black was not appropriate for certain SIMs and kinds of RP.

As I recall I got the short hair when I rented flats in New Babbage, since long black hair did not look right with Victorian clothing. What are the Ideological forces lying unconscious or even conscious in some of these forms of RP? Victorianism produced a society of extreme racism where the racial superiority of certain people was established in their version of science. From the point of view of identity formation the Victorian middle class followed sets of practices on self control and personal life that Mauss called Technologies of the Body and Self.

The Victorian Age created people who saw themselves proper to dominate the world. The effort of Victorianism is to prove to oneself that one is the proper lord of the world. The Victorian gentleman is the master of nature, the master of his house, the master of himself. He is a man of adventure, science, and sound business who is also a public steward of religion and charity. As the Victorians took over what was left of African and Asia they spoke of humanity and charity.

Really there is nothing to Victorianism accept the effort to establish a certain ethnic group as proper world leaders. The ethical systems of Victorianism were undone entirely by the rise of ethnic, racial, and gender liberation movements. Once women and minorities demanded their rights, once Queer movements demanded liberation Victorianism with its strange compulsions and extreme style simply vanished. I live in the UK now and its strange to see the mass of Victorian structures, they are like an extinct lost race. They might as well have been expelled from the country.

Today for most people Victorianism is a dirty word: and probably it should be.

But what is the purpose for the steam-punk genre, the envisioning of Neo-Victorianism?

One must remember the genre is Japanese in origin and therefore was forged in a setting independent of the social meaning it carries in the English speaking world. For Japan the Victorian period was one of emerging nationality and power. For a Japan strip first of its military power and now stripped of its economic lead even in Asia steam-punk promises return to a time when Japan could be more confident and more sure of its future.

But what is it when people from the United States and the EU enter such a RP, how do the ideas that form Victorianism become re-established?

I don't mean to just select the case of Victorianism, other RP genres are probably worse. I hope to do a deconstruction of Capture and Gore at some point.

But it is the community in which I rented an apartment and I am speaking for my own experience. When I put on the fancy Victorian clothing and rode upon my English horse I rode as a Master, as a Lord. The name Lord is taken on by so many in the Neo-Victorian estate. Lord of what Peerage? Lord over ourselves, lord over others, lord over the chaotic world of impulses and desires? Lord when in fact you are alone in a room with nothing to do but be glued to the computer?

The danger of all play is narcissism, an effort to establish ourselves as total masters of a world. In this narcissism the assumption forming the world of our play can subtly form us.

I assert that in Second Life this is resulting in a trend of whitening, where AVs are becoming more and more and more white. I have seen it in myself and seen it in another.

I think this trend is very bad for Linden Labs. Given the small per play profit and the small percentage of people who get Second Life the metaverse they are creating needs the developing world to become profitable. I would rather think people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa reject SL if it is too white than that it becomes another instrument extending the myth of white superiority.
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