To Perceive is to Create

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I guess Pais’ blog topic will be a little philosophical today, but trust me, we are definitely sticking with the topic of his second life. The title I chose, “To Perceive is to Create” is actually one of those multi-layered statements that at one level can reference the notion that we are not really existing in a real world we sense and then construct a perception of that world in our mind, but reality is actually in our minds and by focusing we create a physical world.

Wait – don’t leave yet – I know this statement is a little in the “like, wow, maaaan, ever look at your hand, dude?” department… so we can scale back the ‘to perceive is to create’ axiom into the more pragmatic notion that whatever we choose to focus on becomes the world for us. Read: what is it about SL that keeps us wanting to spend time there?

So what Pais is really thinking about is the nature of his reality and his existence.

Does he exist? Of course – you are reading his blog.

Why is he here? Ah, if we could distill this answer well enough, we would be onto the answer so many seem not to grasp.

I had been talking to a friend who works for a library. They said the library had people creating a SL presence. I inwardly rolled my eyes, thinking that this was just like so many other RL businesses that seem to think they are magically progressive if they create an in-world version of themselves, yet in most cases after they spend scads of money they have a some lame sim with a pile of fancy custom prims in some sort of construction, zero traffic, and their logo hanging pathetically in the midst. My theory is they don’t stop to consider the nature of the reality of second life, and why those of us that live here are here. It is this Pais is contemplating while reflecting on his existence.

Scan through my recent blogs and you can see that my relationships in SL are important to me. Take a look at Pais or Flo and you see we wear dog tags.

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We made these dog tags to commemorate when we became partners. This was a huge event for me. We went a step further, as you can see in the image of RL dog tags that we had made and shipped to both of us. To me this illustrates how strong a connection can be that is formed in SL, it is the root of Pais’ reason to be alive, and I am coming to believe it is the aspect of SL that must be understood by anyone trying to incorporate SL as part of their RL business model. How is it we connect with others within SL? What gives it the “juice” that energizes our imaginations and our emotions? If we understand this, we understand ourselves better, but also understand what are the next steps to becoming more human in an otherwise synthetic world (referring to both SL and RL here)

I was looking for a compelling use of SL as a too to augment some bona fide RL need and found a Harvard Law School course that uses it called “Cyber One: Law in the Court of Public Opinion“. Here is a excerpt from their site, talking about the use of SL in their course:

The course will be offered as a distance education course to students at the Harvard Extension School. The experience of the Harvard Extension School students will include videos of the live lectures at Harvard Law School as in previous Harvard courses offered through the Extension School.
The Extension School audience experience will be mediated by participation in a 3D virtual environment called Second Life. Even to many seasoned computer and Internet users, the idea of a 3D virtual environment may sound more like a thing of science fiction or a video game. In fact, it is a cutting edge development in teaching technology. The Second Life environment for Harvard Extension School participants permits us to foster a sense of community among students taking the course at a distance. It provides a rich medium for students to interact directly and satisfyingly with their instructors and their fellow students.

At first when I saw this I was pretty dismissive, thinking why bother to use SL when they could get pretty much the same results using websites and more standard web-based video teleconferencing tools. But I read the professor’s blog taking about their first classes in SL and looked at some other first-hand descriptions and I realized my dismissiveness was pretty hypocritical. The simple fact is that Pais finds real connection with his friends, family, and especially his beloved partner, Flo, in SL. I project part of myself into SL as Pais and when I see him interact with others, as well as the media content and chat, it all comes together into a compelling reality. We can see from the class that uses this that students that are otherwise connecting remotely to the school can have an in-world experience that helps them better connect with other humans in their classes, providing a dimension that is otherwise lost with “extension” learning. Maybe there is really something to this.

It seems to me that if any real world business wants to create a presence in SL, if they don’t understand some human essence of ‘to perceive is to create’ and how it makes being in SL worthwhile, they are going spend a bundle on a zero traffic sim. At the same time, we as residents can also learn to capitalize on the more human side of our natures here, also evolving the experience.

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7 responses to “To Perceive is to Create

  1. Kurtis Justin Corrigible

    I have such mixed feelings about this.

    Sure, I feel those personal connections, too. They’re incredibly strong and so very real. But I don’t know that it carries over into other activities, like classes, or that I’d want it to. It’s the old “if all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” principle.

    And I hate it when technology gets all the attention and credit while people do all the work, and the value of the content takes a back seat.

  2. I think that our perceptions in Second Life are in a way sharper than in the real world: we open ourselves up more, using the facade of the avatar to replace the ones we usually construct to hide behind in real life.

    Thus in a way we are more open, and truer to ourselves. We perceive and allow others to perceive more of the real us than we normally would.

    That has to mean something significant.

    On an interesting note, a poll today of 6,000 people showed that two thirds of them would give up their TV rather than the internet and of those, half prefered it to talking to family or spouse/partner.

    People would not invest so much in something that does not somehow connect. Social networking is seen as so important in business and posh society; yet the internet, a peer in the social networking arena, is dismissed as folly, unimportant, of no real value.

    An interesteing conundrum indeed.

    On the other hand when we do embrace the opportunities that the online world can give, do our “real” lives and relationships suffer because of it. And which is more real anyway?

    There’s a fine balance here somewhere I suppose.

  3. Pingback: Pais Kidd and My Strange Loop (Escher, Godel, and Second Life) « Dusan Writer’s Metaverse

  4. Pingback: Virtual Worlds and the Strange Loop II « Dusan Writer’s Metaverse

  5. The main reason I stay in SL at this time, why I want to spend time there are the friends I’ve made and that I care about. I cherish the time I get to spend and interact with these people.

    I went to SL originally for the potential roleplay value. I never imagined the depth and possibilities that would ultimately be presented. Some steadfastly proclaim to keep “RL” 100% separated from their “SL” existences. I cannot – I am Toby in heart and spirit. While I am roleplaying a scenario where I took possession of my own life and changed things when I was young – fundamentally the boy in game is the boy behind the keyboard – just a bit older. If you know in game Toby, you know the guy behind the keyboard too. Oh, well I am shy “RL” until you get to know me, but then I started off real quiet in SL now you cant shut me up!

    I see some education potential in SL because some 3D concepts are very tough to explain or demonstrate in a classroom that a virtual reality world could really illustrate. Also, you cant always take your students to places you’d like them to study. The improvements to resolution, texturing and scripting of SL could facilitate some fascinating educational possibilities that will only improve with time.

    I agree with the irony [and pointlessness] of a business creating a virtual presence just to be seen as cutting edge. However, I don’t think they need to reinvent themselves either. The point of the exercise is to leverage the 3D world to express their offerings in a manner simply not possible in the real world. (e.g. car manufacturers letting you drive accurately detailed and physically “correct” versions of their real life counterparts. Fashion designers letting you wear the hottest fashion trends. That is where the payoff comes for both consumers and businesses.)

    Toby

  6. This is in response to Mav’s wonderful comment.

    I couldn’t agree more – SL enables freedom of expression, especially those like me who have been badly hurt in the past and tend towards being highly introverted and internally repressed. There is no reason to not be confident, I can be whoever I want to be in SL and I take advantage of that.

    However, in all honestly the last year or so I’ve made some effort to be more open in my real life. It’s tough to do but in some sense, I credit to SL in helping me. I’ve also made a very wonderful real life friend that began as an SL friendship and that makes every moment worth it. I am hoping to create more friends that will become real life in nature as well.

    I think the danger of giving up real life relationships in favor of SL is real. But you need to ask yourself a question. If you are giving up something in real life, why? What is it that you do in SL that cannot be expressed in RL? I think sometimes we surround ourself with people in the real world just because they were there or because it was expected of us. But then we get into the game and realize – they really weren’t your friends. You can’t express yourself or talk in the same manner, you don’t share the same interests – and so you naturally gravitate to those that do.

    Very insightful thoughts Mav…thanks for sharing them.

    Toby

  7. hey Pais,

    I love this lil note you wrote about SL relationships and the effect on RL they have… I just want you to know.. that the horrible hard times Ive been having … well yeah they do effect my RL… but i also in a positive way.. ive gotten to know you and flo so much better and Im starting to realize..that these new found friendships can help me get over the loss of those in the past… I love you two..

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