Go to Tor.com to listen to the podcast and read about our discussion of avatars with fashionista Harper Beresford and business consultant Rissa Maidstone:
Harper Beresford (left) and Rissa Maidstone
In the virtual world of Second Life, you can be anyone you want to be. A middle-aged fat man can be a saucy, sexy young woman. A woman can be a vampire or sentient cat. But these all turn out to be other facets of our own identities. In the words of Buckaroo Banzai: Wherever you go, there you are.
In Second Life, users—they’re called “Residents” in Second Life jargon—take a new name when they register, and an alternate identity to go with it, as a robot, furry, vampire, or sexy human of the opposite sex. One of the few ironclad rules of the service is that one Resident is forbidden from outing another’s real-life identity without their permission. Even the name describes an alternate existence: Second Life.
But longtime Residents know that identity is a sticky thing. Second Life and real-life identities have a tendency to merge over time, real personalities come through.
Kim Smith, who’s been in Second Life for about three years, is uncomfortable with the commonplace language of referring to events outside of Second Life as the “real world.” “By saying ‘real world,’ it makes everything here a fake, and it’s not. It’s an extension of self, it’s an enterprise application, it’s recreation for some people. It’s as real as the physical world,” she said.
Read the rest and listen to the entire podcast: Our Avatars, Ourselves