Another fascinating podcast about Second Life and living in game space with special guests Sherry Turkle (THE leading authority on internet identity), and Wagner James Au from New World Notes
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I especially like this quote from Sherry Turkle:
The question of whether or not you feel fully yourself without these extensions is … something we need to acknowledge. … While we’re still in this intermediate space of being not fully tethered, I think we need to ask ourselves the question of … in real life … without the Second Life, without that ability go out into the game and to complete yourself through these devices, are people starting to feel as though they’re not quite fully themselves? Sherry Turkle on Open Source
Very interesting and something I wrote about in this soon to be published book chapter:
Thomas, A. (in press/2006). Culture, Community and Citizenship in Cyberspace. In: Lankshear, C., Knobel, M., Leu, D. and Cairo, J. (Eds.), The Handbook of New Literacies Research. Erlbaum.
Harvard Business Review have posted this article and accompanying podcast on avatar-based marketing. It’s really interesting because it covers many of the issues I’ve mentioned here before about identity. It talks about the way advertising could potentially tap into the ego - this quote for example, summarises the goal of most commercial advertising:
Advertising has always targeted a powerful consumer alter ego: that hip, attractive, incredibly popular person just waiting to emerge (with the help of the advertised product) from an all-too-normal self.
The piece goes on to explain that the avatar is that alter ego. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts here about commodity fetishism that skins are one of the most sought after items - and one of the most expensive - in Second Life. But that’s just the beginning - and I have talked about my love affair with the fashion designs of Nonna Hedges, my desperate quest for long eyelashes, and the shopping spree where I bought 10 pairs of the most fabulous SL shoes I have ever seen from a shoe designer called Sylfie Minogue! I think anybody who is marketting to the ego by making body parts and fashion items is actually making a very good living in SL. Nonna told me that her SL business is her full time job. The Harvard business review reports that there are some people with businesses in SL making 6 figure annual incomes!!
What I really like about SL so far though is that most of these designers were residents first, business people second. The businesses grew from user generated content motivated by their need to enjoy their world more completely and in various ways. As big corporations recognise the potential of SL for their business it will be very interesting to see how they impact on the resident businesses.
The Harvard Review article is slightly jarring in the way they seem to divorce the avatar from the person it embodies, but the point it ended on was interesting: will people go to a business in SL and buy one item for their avatar, and a duplicate item for their real self? Let me think about the items in my inventory and see whether I would buy any of them for real…
skins, eyes, hair, shapes: no, I don’t like the idea of plastic surgery and couldn’t afford it anyway
houses (I have several), pagodas, pavilions, furniture: no, I couldn’t afford the real ones
musical instruments: well I do have real instruments but I would never buy a SL instrument for real because when purchasing an instrument you need to test it and hear it and touch it
jewellery: no, again i need to go to the real shop and try it on, besides I couldn’t afford diamonds
hmmm…. the list goes on.
I guess it makes me think three things:
1) What purchases do I actually make online anyway?
2) The fantasy of Second Life is that I can afford to own things that I cannot afford in my “real” life.
3) Many of the most interesting things in Second Life cannot be replicated for real, and that is what makes them so fun.
Take for example this gorgeous music box:
The beauty of this music box is that I can code in new melodies to play (it’s quite simple). I can customise it however I want. The best things in SL are the ones that you can work with to develop and customise - web 2.0 in play again here. But if I bought this real music box, I would be limited: the music it played would just be static. The dynamic nature of the online world allows me the chance to be creative, to contribute, to participate. Now I think people who can tap into that marketing opportunity might have something! (I mean that is why Second Life is so successful - the Lindens were way ahead with the web 2.0 concept!)