I have to say, I struggle to see what might currently motivate somebody other than the person who created me to roleplay ‘Extropia DaSilva’. It is not like I am famous or anything. But, what about those residents who are famous? If I wanted this essay to be read by many more people and referenced on many more blogs than is typical for something I wrote, a surefire way to achieve that aim would be to credit Gwyneth Llewelyn as the author. It is perhaps true that simply putting her name in place of my own would not be sufficient to make people believe she wrote it, because some people may recognise my style of writing. If I really wanted it to pass as an essay ‘written by Gwyn’, I would likely have to mimic her phraselogical quirks and literary style. Having read a great many of her essays and having spent many hours chatting with Gwyn, I do have some idea of her way of expressing herself, so I probably could write an essay in the style of Gwyn.
Of course, no matter how accurately I reproduced her style of writing, there is one person who would know straight away that Gwyn did not really write it. That person is GP. It might convince anybody else, but since GP would not have any recollection of having written it, s/he would know it was not a genuine Llewelyn essay, just as my primary knows LivelyExtie could not possibly be me. But, then what? Would GP expose the essay as a forgery, or keep quiet about the fact? Either way, we can say the essay would be accepted as something Gwyn actually wrote unless:
- Gwyn herself indicates otherwise or,
- The majority of people believe otherwise.
This reasoning also applies to an avatar with a familiar name. Extropia DaSilva IS Extropia DaSilva, provided two conditions are met. One: *I* do not indicate otherwise (i.e. the person pupetteering that Extie denies being ‘the’ Extie whatever that means, or somebody else claiming to be Extropia DaSilva convinces others that another avvie baring that name is a fake). Two: The majority of people do not believe some avatar’s claim to be Extropia DaSilva. The question is, why would people assume somebody called Extropia DaSilva was NOT ‘me’? Presumably because ‘I’ was acting in ways inconsistent with what people would expect.
In my essay, ‘Virals And Definitives in SL’, I argued that a character created and roleplayed by someone might ‘outlive’ that person, provided somebody else was willing and able to puppetteer that avatar convincingly. I assumed this would be very difficult to do today, and LivelyExtie shows why. The person roleplaying me in SL could not access Google’s chatroom, and the person presumably roleplaying me in Lively could not access SL. To be precise, both COULD have accounts in SL AND Lively, but one person would have an avatar called ‘Extropia DaSilva’ in SL but not Lively (although the name could be very similar), and the other person would have an avatar with my exact name in Lively, but not in SL. ‘I’ had never so much as logged in to Lively, but it is possible that whoever puppeteered LivelyExtie logged-in to SL and observed my behaviour. Therefore, if someone had come to SL from Lively where they met ‘me’ for the first time, they may well have asked questions about ‘my’ past that were utterly unfamiliar to me. They might then begin to wonder if I was actually the person they thought I was. On the other hand, someone from SL who was vaguely familiar with my SL personae might be convinced that LivelyExtie was the same person, if the roleplayer was acting in ways not too dissimilar from SLExtie, but I assumed it would take an exhaustive knowledge of my SL history, almost as detailed as my primary’s knowledge of me, for anybody else to roleplay me convincingly in front of close friends. I suggested that, in the future, a person roleplaying a particular character might automatically upload vast amounts of information about their character’s daily life, and that subsequent roleplayers might be able to trawl that database using highly efficient search engines that can quickly deliver information needed to fill in ‘memory blanks’.
However, somebody called Arcadia Codesmith replied to the ‘Virals And Definitives’ essay, arguing “I think you’re overestimating the difficulty involved. To portray a character convincingly… you just have to have the ability to inhabit the role well enough to fullfil the expectations of your audience. That’s not as hard as it appears, and it’s made easier by the nature of thought and memory… We forget important things and remember trivia. We drift away from friends and make new friends from strangers. Even our core values mutate and adapt over time. It’s true that other people observe patterns in our behaviour and expect us to conform to them, but most of those patterns are superficial, obvious, and can be easily counterfeited… and we break and remould our patterns all the time”.
Something that lends weight to Arcadia’s argument is that, once I am logged-in to SL, nobody ever interrogates me in order to be sure I really am THE Extropia DaSilva. Nor, for that matter, do I subject my friends and acquaintances to any such test. Occasionally, I ask a friend about some past event, and they tell me they do not remember it. I put that down to the fallability of memory; I do not leap to the conclusion that my friend has been replaced with a forgery. I should point out that you are generally not allowed to pass your account on to someone else (it is not, however, totally forbidden) and Linden Lab strongly advises against anyone divulging their password. That may be why everybody just assumes whoever they meet again in SL must be pupetteered by the same RL person. But, I have a feeling this assumption would hold, even when we encounter familiar names outside of SL. An essay or a reply by ‘Prokofy Neva’; an avatar with the name ‘Extropia DaSilva’. So long as the essay was reasonably close to Prokofy’s style, and so long as that avatar was acting in ways reasonably close to how people would expect ‘me’ to act, I doubt if anybody (other than the primary of Prok or Extie. I repeat, OTHER than the primary of Prok or Extie) would suspect it was anybody else.