Identity

tiny ghosts "comic"

tiny ghosts "comic"

I like the tiny ghosts comics – each one is an attempt to tell a story in two sentences and images.

This one made me think about avatars and our identity – what part of ourselves we draw upon – what parts of ourselves we project on to others – what is real and what isn’t…

[update 4 February 2009]

This identity thing seems to be resonating for others, too. Dusan came at it from a number of directions in a post today, which evoked a number of comments, including this one from me:

Thinking back to my first SL experiences, I quickly got the message that in SL, people tended to avoid introducing themselves with things from their RL, such as name, age, sex, location, education, occupation, and maybe what car we drive as we typically do in informal social settings.

When I learned it was uncool in SL to tell those types of demographic parameters about myself, I had two realizations/reactions:

1. I realized how I had gotten used to my identity based on these things, and I almost felt handicapped to not have them if not for identity, then for small talk. This is one thing that led me to being a kid, because I was faced with the truth that I had confused my Self with my RL roles, something that, as a kid, I promised myself I would not do.

2. I then found the challenge of asking myself *who I really am* at my core with all the other trappings if identity stripped away. (paging mr. zen on line one… to take this call and receive the truth, you must release your hold on what you think it is…) And then, back in SL: given a basic cartoonish avatar shape and text chat, how would I project my true personality into that world for the other persons to grok and interact with?

And then also today, over at the SLC blog, Tepic posted asking, “Is a teen invasion looming?”, wondering not only how RL teens would interact with the SL adult world, in particular, with adults playing youth avatars. This once again got me thinking about our identities from a different angle:

I was having much the same thoughts as you – what would a bunch of teens in SL think of adults who have youth avatars?

That makes me wonder what the demographics are like in the teen grid- are they mostly humongous Barbie and Ken shapes, non-humans, SL versions of themselves, or what?

For each person in SL, there is an individual relationship between themselves and the fraction of which they use to fashion as their SL persona.

I know a lot of kid avatars in adult SL are not just wanting to return to a life before adult responsibilities and physical decrepitude; but sometimes wanting to go back and having something they didn’t when they were kids, such as family or friends or selves that they had dreamed of the first time around in that time of life.

So it could be there are teens that want the same thing – maybe having a parent that is missing in RL, or a sibling they never had, or any number of other things – that they could have by RP a young avatar.

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2 responses to “Identity

  1. Whether we like it or not the reality is that knowing people’s real identities is important in today’s business world, even when that world is “Virtual.”

    http://tinyurl.com/avataridentity

  2. That is an interesting comment.

    Is Pais Kidd a false identity? I created Pais. Any identity Pais has comes from me. Only one person brings Pais to the world.

    This could be tricky… I am not pretending to be Pais to deceive anyone. We may see some fallout about this kind of thing. Remember the case where the woman pretended to be a boy that ended in a girl committing suicide? So far, it would seem she violated Facebook policy, but there may be legal precedents later. In another Facebook fraud, a boy pretended to be a girl, got his schoolmates to send naked pictures of themselves to him, then used them as blackmail to force them to have sex with him. I think the key difference here is that Facebook is supposedly people representing themselves as their real selves (part of the user agreement when creating a profile), where SL accounts have no such requirement.

    Is Pais a *legal* person? No. He holds no birth record, no credentials issued by any government authority, no passport, no credit cards. The only thing he owns is in SL.

    OK, Valiant, I understand your point – and it is a very good one – there needs to be a way to deal with some important ownership, authentication, non-repudiation, and other mumbo-jumbo. There also are places where we need to be our “real” selves in virtual worlds to avoid confusion like Dusan talked about when his SL activities got him speaking in RL in front of a conference.

    However, what I am finding fascinating is the subtle issues of identity when we create an avatar that doesn’t attempt to mirror our RL identity and all that goes with it.

    I have been surprised at the legitimacy and depth my SL identity has become in my existence.

    I was watching an old Frank Capra movie called “You Can’t Take It With You”. In it, a family led by Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff eschews the industry of the world to pursue the things that bring them joy. They exist in a virtual bubble while the rest of the world pursues riches, including another character, Mr. Kirby, who is a rich banker plotting to corner the market on manufacturing in the buildup to a war. In the central dialog of the movie, Grandpa says the following to Mr. Kirby, suggesting he change his focus from business to his family and friends… “Maybe it’ll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? You can’t take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends. ”

    If all we take with us after our deaths is the love of friends, then Pais will carry the same kinds of things my RL self will beyond this existence, because he has friends.

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