Thursday, 25 November 2010

How do you understand Second Life

When I first started to study Second Life I was inspired by post-modern and post humanist theories. I looked mostly to Donna Haraway who provided to me an image of a post-gender cyborg human using technology to break the binary of male/female. At that time I saw Second Life as a space of total possibility, and the likely springboard for the Singularity which I imagined would form from people rapidly developing new kinds of selves and building a faster more agile reality separate from RL. My goal was to see that day when we could say SL was over RL. That our avatars were freer, more joyful, and more intelligent than any role the banal world could produce. But there is so much truth to the rule RL/SL. And over the years I have come to see SL more in terms of Freud.

Now I understand Second Life, and really most technology we make a fetish, in terms of fantasy. The free space of Second Life is an area where people can form fantasies to deal with the anxieties of day to day life. Second Life is not a road to Singularity, but kind of a loop or repeated "dramas" working out the anxiety of day to day life. It is this repetition of anxiety play that gives Second Life is stagnate feel, like a repeated dream it does not as much evolve as simply grow.

Most of the building and almost all of the "drama" in Second Life is fully conditioned by real life conditions.
People come to Second Life to try and perfect their identity. They quickly become fixated on a single identity and they use Second Life to try an cut away features of themselves they don't like and extend features they do like.

For example, during a period of profound situational depression in my life I was going in to Second Life a great deal. At that time I was very depressed about my weight, so I produced an avatar with a thin body. I also resented a stupid job forcing me to have short hair, so I wore long flowing beautiful hair. Because of my depression my personal relations were falling apart, so I created myself as a dandy, a social butterfly who lived to dance and meet female avatars. In Second Life I became that which had been taken from me in real life by the nature of my life situation and my depression.

Once my depression lifted enough for me to return to the "real world" I lost most interest in this. My avatar become more flexible and I started to play around with it to get attention. I sometimes became a robot or a flock of butterflies. But I also lost interest in SL and spent much less time in it. And as I recover further I spend less and less time.

Frankly the only reason I even keep interest in Second Life is that I turned it in to a kind of game like Foursquare, trying to see as many places as I could. Its the "game" of Second Life blogger that keep we somewhat engaged. I also sometimes attend interesting talks and meet interesting people. But these wonderful features are not enough to keep me on for more than an hour a week. I blog much more about Second Life than I intend.

I simply don't have a need for a fantasy self anymore, I am interest more and more in the real self. Rather than building a thin fit avatar I go to the gym and check in with Foursquare. I am the mayor of my local gym. I am moving the skills I picked up in Second Life but as I feel personally healthier I am more and more interested in applying these directly to the real world.

I think this accounts for the radical flakiness of Second Life. People go through periods they need to embrace the fantasy, but either they get happier in the real world or the nature of the fantasy itself becomes too strong, and they have either morph or leave.

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