Post-immersionism

Gwyn Embarassed in RL Office - Original Photo by http://ClintJCL.wordpress.com/

Henrik Bennetsen, in his old masterpiece article Augmentation vs. Immersion, launched one of the biggest debates in the history of Second Life®’s psychology. The clarity of his ideas finally defined the two possible relationships a resident of Second Life might have towards the virtual world: either as a different space or as an extension of the real space.

Bennetsen cleverly explains that both visions are imaginary ideals on the opposite sides of the scale, and that, in reality, there aren’t any “pure augmentists” or “pure immersionists” in SL, but always a mix of both. As time goes by, immersionists will slowly give way to augmentationists, but they will never disappear completely. In my article here I claim that one reason for that is because some immersionists will become post-immersionists instead.

Escapism and the Magic Circle

Current-generation SL residents generally scorn self-proclaimed immersionists by considering them merely escapists, a term that actually fits well to many (most?) MMORPG players. In MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, for instance, few players are anything but role-playing a game for fun (granted, there might be exceptions, since even WoW has a huge social component that is alluring for many; just because you look like an Orc that doesn’t mean you can’t use WoW as a dating service!). A game is just a game with rules, and you act according to those rules. What happens “outside the game” has little relevance — after all, few games give you extra levels for establishing RL business or marrying your partner in RL (I might even be persuaded to say that no game does that!), but only by completing tasks or quests or whatever they might be called inside the game’s rules and environment.

A few illustrious thinkers call this the “Magic Circle” of games, where gamers deliberately step into the “magic circle” and leave their RL problems behind, in search for some fun and entertainment — under the rules of the game world. While online computer games are definitely the ultimate in possible escapism, they are by far not the only type; you just need to take a look at how perfectly normal and calm people become furious football fanatics during a match to see how there is a “magic circle” for non-computer games as well. Similarly, one can argue that watching TV or reading a very good novel has the same kind of “magic circle”.

Escapism is usually used as a pejorative word, in the sense that someone who deliberately tries to “ignore” what really exists around themselves in order to fulfil a need for having fun and entertainment — instead of having fun and entertainment without escapism, of course. Closed-minded individuals attribute escapism to either immature minds, or disturbed minds, or simply weak individuals who are unable to deal with their own troubles and seek a refuge in a “different place” (inside their minds) to escape from those troubles instead of dealing with them. They argue this is a mental condition that ought to require some sort of treatment (usually, fighting depression or lack of self-confidence). This is naturally one typical way of describing escapism, one that is popularised by the mainstream media and many authors of novels or plots for TV series. Immersionism is thus often described by them as collective escapism, where groups of individuals simply engage in escapism together — a sort of collective hallucination which exists by sharing the same set of rules and ideas about a world that doesn’t exist in the physical reality.

This is, of course, looking at things from the worst possible angle. In fact, most people engage in escapist activities without even thinking twice about it; and even fully “immersed” individuals, as the Wikipedia article on the Magic Circle points out, will “leak” to the outside world — for instance, by having your WoW character listed on eBay for sale.

Second Life (and social virtual worlds with the complexity of Second Life) make everything so much complicated because, well, not only it’s not a game, but there are no rules but the ones you define for yourself. The usual references to escapism are made about how one party (namely, the entertainment industry) defines an environment where escapism is possible, and the rest of the individuals just accept that environment as a valid one for their escapism. SL allows self-escapism, perhaps not unlike what an artist experiences when creating their own piece of art (or performing on a stage), and where the only “reality” is the one they create. A similar experience is described by computer programmers when developing software applications. It’s thus different from, say, watching a football game and forgetting all about your true self; it’s more like being so engaged in designing the rules of how football should be played that you forget everything else.

Studies about what happens to our mind when we’re logged in to SL are as yet scarce and not conclusive; we have mostly a lot of anedoctal evidence to present, but no statistical, scientifically formulated results. What seems apparent is that escapism in Second Life comes mostly from re-inventing your own self while immersed in a virtual world and this is definitely not universally widespread. It is also just one aspect of immersionism — immersion can occur without bringing any “urge” or “desire” to “re-invent yourself”. As we’ll see, the “urge” might not be there, but it nevertheless happens.

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

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  • Dale Innis

    Very interesting and thoughtful post! A couple of notes: I don’t think we have enough data to support the “generally” in “Current-generation SL residents generally scorn self-proclaimed immersionists by considering them merely escapist”. Most brand-new residents don’t even know what “immersionist” means, and I would imagine that more seasoned current-generation residents are spread along the imm-aug continuum just like older generations are. Certainly at least a few residents, of whatever generation, think the imms are silly, and say so in their weblogs or in chat or whatever, but I think it’s reasonably likely that these are the exception, not the rule. Most residents “get” the imm end of the continuum, although as you say most people are themselves somewhere nearer the middle.

    I also wouldn’t say that atomic selves differ from digital selves in that the latter are socially constructed, and the former are not. You will find lots of writers making the case that atomic selves are socially constructed also. Sure you *could* spend your whole atomic life alone on a mountaintop and still have some rudimentary “self”, but you could also spend your whole WoW life as a level 1 character just sitting behind a tree, and still have a rudimentary “self”. In both the atomic and digital worlds, a minimal “self” doesn’t require social interaction, but a full-blown normal one does.

    I like “post-immersionism”! I first encountered this sort of notion in the “Metaverse Roadmap Overview”, which indirectly inspired my story “Meaties”:

    http://daleinnis.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/meaties/

    whose main character certainly deserves to be labeled “Post-immersionist”. Even if he may be taking it a bit too far. 🙂

  • Ranma Tardis

    This is interesting though a bit “long winded”. I think it over analyzes the situation and makes things too complex. I have discovered that my virtual self is the same as my real self. I admit that my second life self has not grown old with the years and is not nearly as ugly as my real life self 😉
    I am still not sure what sort of real life business one can conduct in second life that can not be done in real life. What does Toyota gain by a island in second life? I am not going to buy a 25,000 dollar car by visiting a sim in second life or by a web site alone. I ended up buying a Honda Civic EXL.
    Like a lot of things in life Second Life is limited by positive identification. You can call the public line for Linden Labs and get a description of your contact and see a government identification. The problem with the internet is that anyone can be behind an avatar. In my government position I use my cac card and pin number. Sometimes I need to provide a fingerprint. I do not trust second life when it comes to real money. Who is the person behind a Avatar really?

  • Extropia DaSilva

    ‘I have discovered that my virtual self is the same as my real self.’

    Can you fly like superman in RL? Can you pop out of existence in one location, only to reappear somewhere else in RL? Can you cause geometric shapes to appear out of nowhere in RL? No you cannot, but I bet that you regularly do at least one of the above in SL. So that, as well as your admission that ‘my second life self has not grown old with the years and is not nearly as ugly as my real life self’, hardly lends weight to your assurance ‘you’ are the same in RL.

    ‘The problem with the internet is that anyone can be behind an avatar.’

    This is as much a promise as it is a problem. For people in RL who have created ‘digital people’ in online worlds, it offers the possibility of indefinite life. Why? Because a digital person’s existence need not be tied exclusively to one specific RL person, so that when that person dies the digital person no longer exists. No, ANY person who could roleplay the part would serve as a suitable information processor creating the patterns that others engaged in online worlds identifty as that person.

    ‘Who is the person behind a Avatar really?’

    An irrelevant question for digital people. All that matters is that the patterns of information describing that person’s distinguishing traits are propperly processed. WHO or WHAT is doing that processing is of no concern, since they are merely part of the system that allows digital people to exist. (Of course, this only applies to digital people. Not everyone in SL sees their avatar as such).

    ‘When on the telephone, we automatically adopt a certain number of rules and procedures, and even a different language. We start by saying “Hello?”’.

    Yes, now we do but the propper way to begin a telephone conversation was debated for decades. Alexander Graham Bell preferred ‘ahoy’. Other greetings included ‘are you there?’, ‘what is wanted?’ and ‘are you ready to talk’.

    The greeting ‘hello’ was chosen as much for its anonymity as for its freindliness. The fears you sometimes see expressed over the Internet and its ability to give strangers access to our private lives and our children are nothing new. Such fears were raised over raised over the telephone, with one newspaper going as far as saying that anyone able to phone anyone else was ‘to be feared by the sane and sensible person’.

    In 1882, the German post office ran a conference (to which only chief executive officers were invited), the topic of which was ‘how not to be afraid of the telephone’. The conference was never held, because the CEOs were insulted by the suggestion that they would ever use a telephone. That was a job for underlings!

    Which brings me to…

    ‘This form of positive escapism is obviously always highly regarded, and rarely the word “escapism” is used: we’re concentrated in performing a musical piece, we’re enthralled by listening to a performance, we’re absorbed by a good book or a good movie.’

    Again, this is only true NOW. Just like the telephone, one can find negative criticisms and fears raised about both ‘movies’ and ‘music’. For instance, about 80 years ago a French Novelist called Georges Duhamel described cinema as, ‘a pasttime of illiterate, wretched creatures who are stupified by their daily jobs, a machine of mindlessness and disolution’. And then there was Claude Debussy who wrote (I do not know when), ‘should we not fear this domestication of sound, this magic that anyone can bring from a disk at will? Will it not bring to waste the mysterious force of an art which one might have thought indestructable?’

    ‘I also wouldn’t say that atomic selves differ from digital selves in that the latter are socially constructed, and the former are not. You will find lots of writers making the case that atomic selves are socially constructed also.’

    Yes Dale. I believe this was the main principle of ‘post modernism’, ‘poststrucuralism’ and ‘deconstructionism’, according to which objectivity is impossible, meaning is self-contradictary and reality is socially constructed.

  • Extropia DaSilva

    ‘The concept of “existence” is a complex one. There is no doubt that — barring a few ‘bots — we all exist independently of Second Life, or of being logged in or not. This follows from the fact that our physical selves are not constrained to exist only when interacting with others, but that it exists in spite of those interactions. So we cannot say that when Second Life goes down, we cease to exist.

    However, we can make that assumption for the digital self. It seems clear that when Second Life is down, the digital selves cannot interact with each other, and thus, by definition, they cease to exist.’

    Ah, well digital people can take advantage of a phenomena known as ‘permanent person presence’. This refers to the belief that somebody you know who is not currently in your visual or audio field has not ceased to exist. Rather, they are ‘somewhere’ doing ‘something’. It is this belief that compells so many of us to state that our loved ones’ ‘self’ somehow survives death and that our dearly departed are ‘somewhere’ doing ‘something’. It also means my friends believe I must be ‘somewhere’ doing ‘something’ even when my primary has finished roleplaying me.

    But, if my friends believe that, then in a way I DO continue to exist after ‘I’ log off. This is because the pattern known as ‘I’ is as much a social construct as it is a personal one. This notion was brilliantly captured in an abstract painting called ‘I at the Centre’ by David Oleson. Doug Hofstadter’s description of it is hard to beat:

    ‘Here one sees a metaphorical individual at the centre, whose shape (the letter ‘I’) is a consequence of the shapes of its neighbours. Their shapes, likewise, are consequences of their neighbours, and so on. As one drifts out from the periphery of the design, the shapes gradually become more and more different from each other. What a wonderful visual metaphore for how we are all determined by people to whom we are close, especially to whom we are closest!’

    Gwyn also correctly pointed out that the web of social contacts surrounding each avatar need not consist only of inworld activity but may also include blogs and forum posts and emails and Googlechat. All of that contributes to one’s ‘ubuntu web’, aka the social network out of which the digital person’s existence truly emerges.

    As for, ‘our physical selves are not constrained to exist only when interacting with others, but that it exists in spite of those interactions’, that is only true in the short to medium term. If you go back to a certain time before any one person was born, you will find a rather intimate interaction between two people subsequently to be known as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ which was pretty crucial. And it is well known that a person kept in solitary confinement for long enough will be adversely affected by lack of engagement with others, and loose a part of their mind and sense of reality as a result.

  • @Extie, yes, well, humans are a gregarious species, so the self is definitely a social construction, or at least a big part of it. The authors of the quoted paper are a bit more careful when talking about the physical self, since it’s obvious that you can live all your life as a hermit and most of them don’t “lose their minds” but still have a sense of self 😉 Nevertheless, hermits are an exception to the usually gregarious nature of human beings.

    On the other hand, there is no digital self without online interaction.

    @Ranma, your “discovery” of your virtual self being exactly the same as your physical self is one that only you can make; for everybody else, they’re different. That’s why the authors of the article define the digital self not as something you define, but what others define. I also claim the same thing as you, of course, but my claims are futile — my digital self is on other people’s minds, not in mine. And this is the crucial difference between both. It goes beyond visual appearance (which, anyway, is always different just because a pixel-based environment depicts images differently than a atom-based environment).

    As for the interest of real business in Second Life, the list is way too long for a simple comment 🙂 and I’d certainly suggest the many sites dedicated to that — Kzero’s is a pretty good start. Just remember that 15 years ago nobody would believe that people would buy clothes or vegetables via the Web, because “watching a picture” is not the same as feeling the texture of a dress or smelling the freshness of vegetables. Today, online shopping is widespread, and companies have no problem in making sales via the Web. Then again, brand awareness and community-building are two good starting points for companies to be in Second Life, specially the later: companies like Harley-Davidson or even Apple mostly sell through building a strongly-knitted group of individuals who are solid evangelists of their products and naturally come together to discuss it. This is called the “Culting of Brands” by author Douglas Atkin, who never mentions Second Life in his book, but what he explains definitely is a perfect guideline for companies to “do business” in Second Life.

    You also mention the issues about validation, identification, and Government’s typical obsession about making sure that a person is what they claim to be. This is mostly a 20th century obsession, where old-fashioned concepts like ‘honour’ have faded into the background. Remember, fraudsters and scammers also have ID cards, and when transacting with anyone, even in the flesh, no amount of IDs or fingerprints or DNA samples will tell me if I can trust the person sitting in the meeting room. Likewise, just because I’m willing to show my ID card or passport to my lover, it doesn’t make me automatically a decent, honest, faithful partner that they can trust to raise children and give them a good education. Replacing “validation of identity” by values like honesty, honour, faithfulness, loyalty, is sadly an illusion created by the post-WWII society which has mostly abolished those values. A person does not become “more honest” just because they are able to provide an ID card. And there are other issues, too. I remember once trying to sell a company to someone with a very solid business reputation whom I had the pleasure to have met for over a decade; and I was given a check from him for a huge amount of money (millions of dollars) to buy that company. I certainly met that person several times over the years in the flesh, had copies of their ID cards, and a way to validate the legally-binding signature on the check. 24 hours later I was talking to his family at the waiting room of a mental institution, where he had just been sedated after a huge mental breakdown and a collapse due to stress. So… what good was that signature on the check? What good were all the “proofs” I had of having made a successful, honest business transaction? I did not see inside that person’s mind to see how it worked, and, ultimately, that’s what counts (if I had sued — which I hadn’t — any lawyer would easily claim that the person was not mentally stable to sign checks and the court would obviously rule against me).

    On the Internet, millions of transactions for billions of dollars happen every day without people meeting in the flesh. They occur on Amazon or eBay or on several other places, from people selling software, web hosting, or clothes, groceries, or even cars and houses. Millions of transactions! And you hardly ever meet those people or see their ID cards. On the other hand, in almost all these cases, things like reliability, credibility, and intimacy — the core of business trust — still occur, and often to a degree that is impossible in the non-digital world. Just because you don’t trust people to do business over the Internet, millions nevertheless do it every day.

    @Dale, I agree that “new residents” tend to ignore those labels, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist 😉 In fact, it’s absolutely unsurprising that when they finally hear about them they find the concept preposterous. That’s fine: nobody, I think, is claiming that everybody who becomes a SL resident has to become a philosopher, too 🙂 Perhaps the difference between the early generation of SL residents and the current one is that there was a higher number of amateur thinkers in the past who thought about what virtual worlds would do to transform society and mindsets (hopefully, “improving human condition” that way, as LL says in their mission…). These days? Oh sure — that has become the object of serious research in universities, and it’s there where you’ll see people discussing these and similar subjects. Not by watching newbies popping in on the Welcome Areas 🙂 SL, overall, has become professional in all areas, the number of amateurs still around doing things is slowly fading away 🙂

    Ah, and lovely short story, I had missed it, and you’re right, that’s pretty much a good vision of the future :))))

  • Ranma Tardis

    I have never given the subject a lot of thought.
    Of course my digital self is different in appearance to my real life self. A real life picture of myself yesterday is not the same picture as today. The important things, my speech, mannerisms, etc are being sent from me to this program or better yet set of programs on multiple servers. My second life self does not really do anything it only appears to be doing something. Nothing is made and these places exist only in our minds. Computers even today are just a set of on/off switches. There is no mystery about them only the personification we give them.
    My sl avatar can not exist without me or someone else logging into the account. (bots do not count being a computer program)I exist without the help of a second life avatar. To me second life has no mystery and is no more than a web page with chat channels. I interact with real people through this communication device. I see second life as a phase in the development of communications. When the Linden Labs shuts off its computers for the final time there will be nothing left of our second lives but our memories.
    As for Immersion we are not there yet. When we can transfer our thoughts and memories directly into a different object/ a living object it will be true. Reading material, I suggest the works of Peter F Hamilton. I like the concept of edenism *huge grin!*
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/peter-f-hamilton/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edenist
    If you do not like my writing please try not to be so sensitive. These are my thoughts on the subject and am no authority on these subjects. I am just a single person and “crushing” my writing does not erase them.

  • <– LOVES Peter F Hamilton, one of my favourite space opera authors ever, and I’d love to see Peter come to SL and talk to us about his fascinating ideas — Edenism is definitely one of those 😉

  • Extropia DaSilva

    ‘If you do not like my writing please try not to be so sensitive. These are my thoughts on the subject and am no authority on these subjects. I am just a single person and “crushing” my writing does not erase them.’

    Rest assured that there is no need to crush your ideas, since everything you have said is very much compatible with what is possible using the technology of SL. It most certainly can be used as a means of communication between others and what you perceive to be indistinguishable from your ‘real’ self. Equally, SL lends itself to roleplaying and the creation of fictional characters. Do we are argue over whether or not the novel is a more propper use of written language than the autobiography? No, we recognise both as legitimate uses of the technology. We should do the same for your POV and mine.

  • Ranma Tardis

    I have no problem with role playing. I use to play Paronia and Traveller as a college student with just pen paper and dice.
    The technology is still not ready for true Immersion. I have found the Linden Labs program to be quirky, ram intensive, likely to drop conductivity without notice and the staff to becoming increasing RUDE and INDIFFERENT to their customers. Lately I have become more and more indifferent to it. I have started the process of cashing out all that can be sold for cash. Think this is the real reason I left the Confederation of Democratic Sims. I just do not wish to put more money toward bad. Oh I am being rude again and avoided my answer to you. I found your answer to be very interesting and am still giving it and the article some thought. It is a lot to digest at once!
    Gwen do you think, we can get Peter F Hamilton to come online? I LOVED his stories since they were done with a British point of view. It has given me some insight about my British cousins *grins*
    When I grow up I want to be an Edenist! *super special wide grin!!*

  • Extropia DaSilva

    ‘As for Immersion we are not there yet. When we can transfer our thoughts and memories directly into a different object/ a living object it will be true.’

    It is certainly true that SL does not offer the kind of immersion one would expect of VR as it is presented in movies like ‘The Matrix’ and books like ‘Neuromancer’. However, several experiments from cognitive neuroscience and psychology suggest that what we have now may be more immersive than you might suppose.

    1: THE BASKETBALL GAME AND THE GORILLA.

    This experiment demonstrates ‘Inattentional Blindness’. People are shown a video of two teams, each throwing a baskbetball among themselves. The observers are asked to count how many times the ball is passed by one team, while ignoring passes made by the other.

    After the video ends, people are asked ‘did you see the gorilla?’. About half say ‘no’. Amazingly, these people fail to notice a guy in an ape costume, walking right across the scene and even stopping to thump his chest! So absorbed were they in the counting task, they did not see the gorilla even though they were looking directly at it.

    So, what about SL/RL? Sure, SL only exists inside the frame of your monitor. But, if your attention is focused on what is happening within the monitor, surely it must be the case that the ‘real world’ out on the periphery of your vision essentially stops existing, thanks to inattentional blindness.

    2: THE MONKEY AND THE RAKE.

    Monkeys (and presumably, humans) have a region of the brain called the parietal cortex. This controls actions of reaching and grasping, and neurons in this region become active when anything comes near the hand.

    If you give a monkey a rake, it does not take long before the region activates whenever something comes close to the end of the rake. As far as the parietal lobe is concerned, the rake has become an extension of the monkey’s arm.

    As you control your avatar and move it around inworld, it may well be the case that it too becomes incorporated into your body map, essentially making it a part of your body.

    3: READ ‘OLD’, BE ‘OLD’.

    In this experiment from social psychology, people are supposedly tested on their ability to turn random words into sentences. In reality, most of the words relate to stereotypes of elderly people and the experiment’s purpose is to show how people’s behaviour changes when primed with such stereotypes. Sure enough, students primed with the ‘elderly’ words walk away behaving like elderly people, walking more slowly and stuff like that. They don’t even know they are doing it.

    So, what happens if you spend a long time roleplaying a character, responding to people’s reactions to that character, rather than yourself? Is it not likely that you will become primed to act out the personae of that character, and maybe not even realise you are doing so?

    4: THE SKIN YOU ARE IN.

    In this one, people were randomly assigned one of two types of avatar. One type was an attractive avvie, and the other was an ugly avvie. It was noticed that, when engaging in social situations, people who had attractive avvies behaved with more confidence than the ‘uglies’. For instance, the uglies tended to stand further away from people they were chatting to, compared to the ‘beauties’. This was true, regardless of how shy or confident the ‘real life’ person happened to be.

    I should point out that participants were wearing VR helmets and so fully immersed (in a visual sense, at least) in the computer-generated environment. But they were only given 5 minutes in which to familiarise themselves with their new appearance. Most of us do not use VR headgear when logged in to Sl, of course, but we might spend years interacting with other people while (perhaps) embodying an avvie unlike our physical appearance. I dare say we naturally conform to whatever levels of confidence or shyness are appropriate, given our avatar’s physical looks.

    While logged into SL, it is probably the case that all four happen simultaneously. You have inattentional blindness of the ‘real world’ on the periphery of your vision while focusing attention on the world within your monitor, your avatar becomes incorporated into your body map, essentially making it part of your self, you are reading people’s responses to your appearance and behaviour, and so being primed to take on certain stereotypes and you have spent enough time embodying your avvie to slip quickly and comfortably into a mindset appropriate for your virtual presence.

    All in all, I think these facts of psychology and brain science strongly suggest that ‘immersion’ does happen, even without jacking in ala The Matrix:)

  • It’s good to see the light on the end of the tunnel. Finally that silly imm/aug story will end. Bennetsen’s article brought more harm than good, but that’s the way things usually go.

  • Dale Innis

    @Extropia: “Yes Dale. I believe this was the main principle of ‘post modernism’, ‘poststrucuralism’ and ‘deconstructionism’, according to which objectivity is impossible, meaning is self-contradictary and reality is socially constructed.” Well, yeah, but that’s taking it a bit too far! It’s possible to think of the atomic self as socially constructed without thinking all that other self-sabotaging stuff. One can be Mead without being Derrida. 🙂

    @Gwyn: “On the other hand, there is no digital self without online interaction.” That’s exactly what I’m questioning. I think you can have just as much of a solitary digital self, just sitting behind that rock in Coldridge Valley as a level 1 Gnome Rogue and doing nothing, as you can a solitary atomic self. I don’t see a difference in kind here at all.

    Also, “I agree that “new residents” tend to ignore those labels, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist In fact, it’s absolutely unsurprising that when they finally hear about them they find the concept preposterous.” Again, I don’t think we actually know that “they find the concept preposterous” to any greater degree than previous generations. We may sort of have a gut feeling that way; on the other hand there are *lots* of current-generation residents over at the imm end of the spectrum, and our gut feeling could well be wrong about the general trend. I don’t think we want to start assuming that the current generation of residents is all bunch up down at the aug end; I don’t think that’s true.

    (Note that I’m only talking about the parts of your posting that I disagree with. Overall I think it’s useful and insightful. And I’m glad you liked the story. 🙂 )

    (Oh, and I seem to be posting here successfully now! Before when the comments were never appearing I was authenticating via http://daleinniss.wordpress.com/ and OpenID; maybe there’s something wrong with that channel…)

  • Angel Sunset

    A really good, in-depth ( with Extropia’s complements, and the surrounding discussion) look at identity in SL in particular, and virtual environments as a whole.

    I have always defined my character in virtual worlds by creating an avatar, as far as possible, that fits an ideal of how I will react to the world. This does not stop my RL personality from intruding, but helps me to Be who I Am in the virtuial environment. In that sense, I agree that I do not have to interact to Be in a virtual world, at least not with the residents. I DO have to engage myself as (not WITH) the avatar, in order not to trivialise the world experience.

    The division I see, which is as valid for me in RL as in SL or other worlds, is a) who I present myself as, as a visible living Body, and b) what I do as this visible living Body.

    For me the difference between my RL existence and the SL or virtual existence, is just the medium. I am still ME in both – but the Me I am is the manifestation of my Being as approriate to the world I am in.

    I guess I am a pure escapist – in RL I escape into the physical world (out of my Real Universe, the mind), in SL I escape into the LL world (out of my Real Universe, the mind).

  • Cheyenne Palisades

    Great post, Gwyn!

    I’m convinced I sometimes see the “real world” pixellate. I suspect it too is virtual.

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