‘Virals’ And ‘Definitives’ In Second Life®: An Essay By Extropia DaSilva


Well, at this point in time I would have to say it would be bordering on the impossible. But, not every resident forms a strong link in a Ubuntu-web. In fact, for every such person there are probably thousands who represent those faint links out on the periphery of the web. Such people would have, at best, only the vaguest notion of who Gwyn is, or who I am. If somebody else were to log into my account, especially if they had some idea of what my interests are (perhaps they read my essays and forum posts?), most residents in SL would probably assume they had met ‘the’ Extropia they had heard about.

But what an impoverished outcome this would be! To be recognised as oneself only when interacting with strangers or near-strangers, but revealed as a fraud in the eyes of the very people who matter the most? Why would any digital person wish for such a future? Clearly, things are going to have to become possible that cannot be done today, or becoming a ‘viral’ would be largely empty of meaning.

The prospect of any digital person becoming a viral (that is, a character role-played by many different people over the years, but always persisting as one person in an online world), has at least two major problems to overcome.

Firstly, it is hypothesized that the i-genes (pre-existing concepts, scenarios, ideas, pictures, stories…) that make up a digital person’s ‘i-genome’ can and do exist in sufficient numbers within other brains, resulting in other minds that could potentially roleplay that character. OK, but for every brain so organized, how many do not possess sufficient knowledge of the references that shape the basic outline of a character such as myself? Thousands? Millions? Tens of millions? How then, would I go about finding the rare minds optimised for the task of role-playing ‘Extropia DaSilva’?

Secondly, a digital person might have been around for years, and will have already built up a complex web of contacts and social interactions. Within such a web there would be important information, knowledge of which would be vital if anybody is to roleplay a character convincingly in front of other residents that call themselves friends. Only, the information was never archived.

Well, OK, maybe if a digital person is really determined to become a viral, s/he could use web-2.0 and social networking tools to resolve the second problem? You could maintain a blog consisting of a daily diary concerning who you met, a synopsis of all conversations and activities of each day. You could tweet moment-by-moment activities (‘dancing now… some male avvie called Arbon is waving…’) You could upload snapshots of every location you visit to Flickr. You could store copies of chat logs and IMs.

Yes, you could, but as far as I know, only the last option can be performed automatically. The rest would require a painstaking and concerted effort. You would probably have to spend so much time archiving your life, that you would have no time left over to live it. And the result would be a gargantuan collection of blog entries, chat logs, snapshots and tweets, which somebody else motivated to study for the part of that person would have to sift through, and work out which photo is associated with which tweet and which IM and which blog entry and what part of the chat log… That would be an even more Herculean task than uploading the metadata in the first place.

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