Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fan Fiction Erotica

Ok, here’s the deal. After reading the first article by Cumberland about fan fiction, I came away with this somewhat disturbed but overall positive picture of fan fiction. I thought it was an awesome way to allow women to remain anonymous while being able to express their sexual feelings. This type of writing also brings women of similar interests together to form communities and friendships. I love that fan fiction is another form of free speech for its authors and that people use their fandom and creativity to express themselves. Personally, I am a fan of romance novels so I have no problems reading love scenes and think it can actually add a lot to the emotional connection that builds for a reader between two characters. But after reading the Chaudhry article, I came away with fan fiction seeming more like soft pornography in writing.

A couple of comments that were made in this article struck me and got me thinking. The first was by Henry Jenkins who was talking about “slash” fiction (gay homosexual male FF) when he said “It’s what women want male sexuality to look like.” Maybe I am misunderstanding the statement but I am pretty certain that I don’t want to see my boyfriend being sexual with another male. The author continued by saying the central message of “slash” FF is “Women are turned on by the idea of two men having sex.” Really? Maybe I am an exception to the rule.

Another comment that was made in the glbtq article was that “slash” fiction “… Draws attention to the sexual tension that exists between men in homosocial (single-sex) environments...” I am not sure if I agree with the fact that males have sexual tension with each other. I would think it was just their testosterone trying to overpower and compete with one another, but I am not male so maybe they are right.

I put this out to all the girls in the class: Do u agree with these statements? Or is there another underlying reason women like to write “slash” fiction?

Grey's FF doesn't compare to the actual show!

So, I am a huge Grey’s Anatomy fan and I found a lot of fan fiction on it. I read a couple stories centered on the love story of Grey and McDreamy. I think the stories are cute. Some have happy endings, others do not. Some people actually write entire seasons worth of short little episodes.
One story I read was called “Hundred” and it is based in the third season when Meredith is dating Finn (the vet) and her and Derek aren’t talking. The story takes place in the common elevator of the hospital that is on every show. This time, the elevator gets stuck with just these two main characters in it and they are forced to talk to each other. After a little conflict, they end up expressing their love for one another. A cute part that was incorporated into it was when the author gave a brief about the other characters’ whereabouts. She wrote that Izzie became a pediatrician after she cut Denny’s L-VAD wire, George and Callie were living together, and Christina was her normal self but still dating Burke. I thought this was a cute addition even though the actual show took a completely different turn.
Personally, I prefer the actual show just because the writing leaves me wanting to see more and the scenes where Grey and McDreamy have intense conversations are better written than these fan fiction ones. Either way, it’s a cute way to express yourself and your love for the greatest show in history!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Discussion on Lawrence Lessig

Disney's creativity built upon the work of others... Well, what isn't? Knowledge has always been built upon knowledge; ideas aren't created in a vacuum. Author right to say key to success was brilliance of differences. Intellectual property hard to define and even harder to defend. Over-protection of intellectual property would stagnate the creation of new ideas, even if one would prefer to call it "mickey-mouse creativity" or whatever. Didn't much care for this chapter. Author wrote a lot and seemed to say very little.

"By limiting the rights musicians have, by partially pirating their creative work, the record producers, and the public, benefit." But without this allowance of a 'limited piracy' the spread of the musician's music would be severely disrupted, and how can that be considered a good thing for the artist?

And is the radio station really taking something for nothing? The recording artist, when covering a song, takes something from the composer (although of course the composer is compensated) in the hope that his performance will spread notoriety for his ability to perform. To me, that seems like a pretty fair price to pay considering this artist, for this song, needed simply to add some minor changes to a completely composed piece. I don't agree with the author when he says the radio stations get something for nothing; with two barriers to play a song, there would be no radio whatsoever, at least not a radio we'd actually care to listen to. It'd most likely be the same few songs repeated over and over again.

I think the legislation passed in regards to intellectual media has been successful in giving both sides gain for intellectual property. There must always be a producer and a distributor and an audience of any good or service. Cut one part of that chain out and everybody suffers. Hurray for intelligent legislation.


Fan Fiction

A long time ago the popular show "Family Guy" had an episode that consisted of three fan fiction scripts put together into one episode. I believe they were about superpowers, 3 wish genie, and something else I can not remember. This shows how often times the fans create ideas that are very similar to the writers that incorporate what they would like to see in the episode. In my search of fan fictions i found some pretty entertaining stuff. The stories I found the most interesting were not the ones that held true to the surrounding world, instead I particularly enjoyed the fiction that could never be put into place in the stories, movies, or tv shows. The stories where two fan fiction worlds collide can bring about some interesting, humorous, and compelling story lines that you would never have a chance of seeing on the actual shows. For example there was an interesting one where Batman Begins meets Superman Returns, or a story where Monk and House collide, or in a more sci-fi case, the meeting of Battlestar Galactica and any of the various Star Treck shows. These types of stories aren't knew and have been very successful in many cases. Alien vs Predator, Jason vs Freddy, South Park has done numerous episodes where it collides with either family guy or the simpsons. Since I find this particular type of fan fiction most interesting, if I were to create a fan fiction I would create one that combined two worlds such as Scrubs and ER the comedic and dramatic sides of a hospital. That or where the detectives of the Las Vegas CSI crime unit encounter the expertise of the reno sheriff's department. (reno 911)

'fan fiction' is like real fiction but made by fans...

Sorry for the obnoxious title.

I'm browsing and have come across a few interesting pieces of fan fiction. The very first thing I noticed is that tons and tons and tons of pieces have been created around the Harry Potter plot and theme. This is sensible, as our generation grew up during the Harry Potter phenomenon and our generation, people born between 1985 and 1992, constitute the greatest contingency of fan fiction writers.

The first piece of fan fiction was a canon with Harry the illegitimate son of Severus Snape. The piece wasn't exactly clever or anything, but I found it interesting as it was interspersed among thousands of other Harry Potter pieces that were all about romances between students from Hogwarts. I guess one can see the different tangents boy and girl Harry Potter fans take.

I moved away from the Harry Potter posting after this one. I became a little irritated with all the faux romances, and plus Harry Potter becomes damn annoying after a while.

Moving onto the Pirates of the Caribbean fan fiction writings...105 pieces of romance, 91 adventure. Does this suggest higher fan fiction creation by female teens?

The 'Pirates' piece I read and liked the most was a 'dabble', creatively titled 'Nothing'. Well. I find the dabble an interesting parameter to work around.

It's interesting to note the huge differences in length, style, and compositional prowess. Pieces range from the most basic, unintelligible, made-by-third-grader pieces all the way up to the top. I saw one piece that was over 13,000 words long, although I'm sure that's not the maximum length of a piece of fan fiction on I like this. The flexibility to create allows one to do basically anything they want. The fact that they already have a basic plot and scheme to work around, not to mention working under the assumption that people reading the piece of fan fiction intimately know the story, means that all the difficulties of true fiction writing, i.e. character creation, plot, and setting are all taken care of. To write a piece of fan fiction, one needs not a wealth of skills nor, even, an ability to write well.

Here's my piece of fan fiction about, what else, Harry Potter. I would like to create an alternate ending to one of the Hemingway novels I've just read but I feel the audience who might read this post would not understand the plot or characters. To keep it simple and applicable I'll write this instead, a 'dabble'.

Magic happens at Hogwarts. Ron knew this for sure as he rolled over and on top of the Ravenclaw girl he had met at the House-Mixer. The maroon curtains of the four-post bed in the soft candlelight were the exact color of the wine he had drunk, and like the wine seemed to envelop and cover and comfort and make smooth his actions. “Baby, I love you,” he lied softly into her ear. Her skin was soft and warm and smooth, her breath sweet and her mouth wet. He pondered simply as to what he might do with his wand.

These fan fiction sites bring to mind an article that I read within the past few months about JK Rowling and her dealings with fan fiction websites for her character Harry Potter. She generally welcomes the sites and annually rates them for quality. However, this article was highlighting that JK Rowling was suing a fan site that was going to publish their fan-fiction spin off into book form. She argues that while internet material is open and in the spirit of supporting her work with Harry Potter, the act of publishing material for profit is where she wants to legally draw the line. At any rate this article is a good read and is one author's perspective on fan material.

Fan Fiction--Fun Fiction

Of the many fan fiction works I have checked out these are a few of the most worthy of note top three…

Gilligan’s Island

The first piece of fan fiction that I encountered was a cartoon sketch of Gilligan and Maryanne from Gilligan’s island. Some of the comments on this drawing include “I’m so glad they are finally getting together!” and things of that nature. Its funny how this little drawing can inspire a whole other storyline in people’s minds stemming from the background they know of the original show.

Gilmore Girls

Next I moved on to a story written in several parts about the main characters of the television show Gilmore Girls. The story itself was written fairly well, I was entertained enough to keep reading, but it was a bit strange because although it was following the same storyline, I don’t feel like that this fans interpretation would actually ever be a story line. Is this because the style of writing was so different, or was it because the actions were sort of out of character??

Friends Cartoon

My favorite piece that I checked out was a video that was a sound clip from a Friends episode but it was put to superhero characters. Monica was Wonder Woman, Ross is Superman, Joey is Batman, Chandler is the Flash, Phoebe is Aquaman, and Rachel is Robin. It was really funny especially because I have seen the actual episode so many times in real life that the actions of the cartoon characters totally corresponded with what I knew to be the true video. Check it out….

In one of the articles we read the author calls the Internet a new resource for people to continue the rich history of storytelling culture but now it can be reached by the whole world. This is a great metaphor because it encapsulates the way the internet allows people to share stories and experiences important to them while also being allowed to add their own personal twist.

I think that a great idea for a piece of fan fiction would be to make a video similar to the Friends superhero one that I saw but based on The Office. I really love the cartoons on SNL and one produced in that way, with the background sound clips from the actual show would be funny to me. As was mentioned before about the Office, I think the appeal of the show is how anyone who has ever worked in an office can relate. The television show is an exaggeration of reality where the fanfiction I am proposing would be an even further exaggeration.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lets Talk Legalities

Lucy posted in an early blog about legalities and brought up the idea of information sharing, and its legality. The idea of making it illegal to share information is unfathomable and yet I live amongst it and am actively taking part in it right now as I attend this virtual discussion for a class and an education that, when all is said and done will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So what is it that we are telling people when information can only be given and shared with those who have money enough to afford it? We look down harshly on countries like China that are well known for their piracy but once you meet the people, the students that are using pirated software, downloading pirated movies and listening to illegally downloaded music you come to the realization that this is the only way for them to leave the city they live in or the school they are at because they have neither the means nor the money to do it any other way. And now we want to take this away from them? Why? So they can go back to only having what their government gives them? So we can keep them ignorant because they don’t have the means to fatten our already exploding pockets? Is keeping a country or people from accessing a world and information not offered to them by other pathways really worth the few dollars an individual would pay that would only see the corporate account with only a few cents trickling down to anyone who actually did the work?

The Office Fan Fiction

Wow I have to say I never really knew about fanfiction before this exercise.  I thought that I wouldn't really like it but the stories were actually kind of interesting.  I looked at scripts from the office because its pretty funny in real life and I wondered if fans could replicate that.  Generally, the stories stayed true to the character's behaviors, but offered interesting scenarios that haven't been played out on tv.  In one story, Pam was pregnant with Roy's child and surprisingly consoled by Ryan.  In another, Jim asks Pam to marry him.  This one did a nice job staying true to the characters and actually produced some funny lines that I could see being on the show.  In another, Darryl and Kelly Kapoor are having an affair while she was dating Ryan. It was actually pretty easy for me to visualize these events, and I was interested in the different directions that fans took.  Even those these pieces deviate from the show, I can see how fan fiction can be a fun creative release, and even an addiction for readers.   

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Declaration on Independence? Really?

This article was very interesting and introduced some issues that I hadn’t realized were important to some people. I’m not sure if I agree with this declaration of independence of the virtual world from the real world. But at the same time I’m not really sure how I feel about some of the different points which were raised. I’m somewhat confused because the virtual world is made of users in the real world, so how can independence be declared from those who must be present in order for the virtual world to even exist? I find it very hard to completely separate the real world from cyberspace since to me their coexistence has developed into an intertwining relationship that will be hard to detangle. Since I’m not incredibly involved in the virtual world I cannot relate to John Barlow’s feelings towards this issue, but maybe through my continued use of online resources through this class, I will become better acquainted with his concerns.

Fanfiction--Grey's anatomy

I love the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, and discovered some interesting fanfiction based off the original character. Obviously I didn’t read through everything but the small sample I did peruse didn’t include any of the somewhat provocative writing that I was ready for, after reading all of the other introductory articles concerning fanfiction.

Personally if I were to write a fanfiction I would consider writing it on Grey’s Anatomy, which would focus on Derek and Meredith’s relationship. Everyone that watches the show knows they’ve had a bumpy relationship for the entire show, and for once I would like to see them have a healthy and happy relationship that lasts for more than a few episodes! I think their relationship is a great frustration to most people who watch the show therefore I great number of people would probably be interested in this fanfiction. Although dragging out the uncertainty of their future together is probably a lot of what keeps people attracted to the show, it would be nice to see them do something productive with their relationship. Even though this obviously wouldn’t be the way that the real show would pan out it could be a productive aside offered to fans who may have been craving closure between the key characters. There have been so many times where the direction that the writers of Grey’s have taken the script has frustrated me, and the idea of fanfiction gives me the ability to publish my own input on how I think the storyline should be running. It’s definitely an interesting concept. The only problem I may see with this is that people could very easily get the true material mixed up with the fanfiction material. I know if I were to get really involved with fanfiction I might forget about what has really happened in a show or movie. But I guess that’s somewhat the point thought, or is it?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fan Fiction Diary

The first book I chose was a story that combined aspects of Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” and a series of books that are entitled “Fearless.” I chose this fan fiction because I had already read  the books by Stephanie Meyer, and so I was excited to read fan fiction with the same characters. I have to say I enjoyed reading this fan fiction entry even thought the story had a very similar sequence of events as Stephanie Meyer’s book. The author actually did a pretty good job of creating the same tension that exists between the main character Edward, and the new female character, Gaia, that is present in the real book, “Twilight.”

            The second Fan Fiction entry I read was entitled “Equinox” and it was another story that continued Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Although the first story I read was good, this one was much better. The author almost completely mimicked the feeling and characters in the original novel. There were no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, and the story kept you hooked. I think that fan fiction is a great exercise for writers. I think that most great artists at some point in their careers started out by trying to copy someone else’s work.

Next I read a piece entitled, “The Longest Engagement,” which borrowed the character’s and style from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” It was very well written. I think this must have been a very difficult piece to write because Jane Austen’s style is so unique. Yet, the author captures it quite well, and her use of vocabulary is very good. The story is basically about Elizabeth’s worries before her wedding with Mr. Darcy takes place. Conflict arises between Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Bennett. In the end everything is resolved and Elizabeth get’s Mr. Darcy’s mother’s ring for her wedding.

I next read a fan fiction based on “Harry Potter.” It was actually pretty hear wrenching and I found myself close to tears at the end. In it Hermione falls fro Draco Malfoy and he dies protecting her. I am so surprised at how good some of these stories are.

The last fan fiction I read was an X-men story with Rogue and Remy. It was short and sweet. Rogue is by herself in a corner, watching everyone touch everyone else. She feels sorry for herself because she can’t. Then Remy shows up, and tells her that despite the fact that she can’t touch him he still wants to be with her. It was more like a screenplay than a novel, which I guess is appropriate because it is based off of the movie. I liked how the author focused on imagery, of all the people touching in different ways.

I was really impressed with the fan fiction I read. I think I am going to keep reading :)

My attempt at Fan Fiction. I hope its as much fun to read as it was to write :)

Intro: I am going to attempt to write what I think will happen when Bella transforms into a Vampire based on Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Let me know what you think, I have never really tried anything like this before so don’t expect it to be very good. It might be a little hard to follow if you have not read the books, I highly recommend them.

            Bella’s whole body convulsed violently under the excruciating pain she was feeling. Everything burned, and her heart felt like it was dying. It was dying!

“Bella, are you alright! I am so sorry, what have I done, I can try and take it back, let me try and stop it!”

Bella struggled to respond through the pain, “No, its alright…I chose this… to be with you…I love you.” She tried to open her eyes and focus them on his. Her vision was blurry and her eyes were watering. Just then Carlisle entered the room.

“Ok Bella, this will help ease the pain somewhat.” He injected morphine into her and she immediately felt the pain ease enough so she could stop her body from convulsing.

“Edward, tell me a story. Anything to distract me from this.”

“A story, at a time like this?”

“Please” was all she could manage to say.

Edward’s mind reeled as he tried to come up with something that would distract her. He told her the only thing that came to mind.

“There once was a boy, he was very lonely and lost. He believed become a monster, physically as well as mentally. He lived with his adopted family, who helped him stop himself from hurting others. They showed him he could drink the blood of animals to satiate his hunger, and he could live a more normal life. Yet he still felt like his soul was lost. Until one day a beautiful girl came into his life”

“This sounds familiar,” Bella managed to say with a smile that turned into a grimace, “Go on.”

“When he saw her that first day in class, her blood sang for him. She was so beautiful he had to lean back in his seat and do long division in his head to try and stop from jumping on her.  When he got home that night he told Carlisle his adopted father he had to leave, and he tried for a while. He escaped to Alaska for a week with another family with his family’s same beliefs. Yet he could not stay away. He decided that he would try making friends with her, in hopes that it would satiate him enough, and he could go on living his life as normally as possible. When he arrived back at school he saw her walking in the parking lot with headphones on. At that moment a boy’s car began to skid. It was headed straight towards her! All he could think of was not her please not her.  He flew into her and let the car hit his back. It made a huge dent in the car, yet for a moment he thought no one saw, that it had been him and not the other car next to them that had made the dent, but when he looked into her eyes he knew that she had seen. ‘What are you?’ From then on he fell head over heels for her. He found that for some reason she came very close to death on many occasions and he always had to fish her out of dire situations. At one point he left her because he thought it would make her life better, but when he mistakenly thought she was dead, she came to find him and prevent him from ending his own life. He began to understand that she wanted to be with him more than anything in the world, and despite his efforts she would. In the end she decided to give up her life for him”

Bella saw the pain in his eyes at this last comment, she exhaled and said, “I am not giving up my life for you, I am getting a life with you. I love you and want to be with you forever.” Just then the morphine began to kick in more and she fell into unconsciousness.

            The next few days were a blur or pain, confusion, and morphine. Finally after three days her heart stopped. She awoke cold but happy, and unlike what everyone had been telling her she felt no hunger for human blood. Carlisle was surprised, and insisted on doing a full check up, and that’s when they found out. She was pregnant!

            This baffled Carlisle to no end. How could the baby be sharing blood and vampire poison without transforming. It still had a heart beat. Bella honestly did not care. She was blissfully happy.  She could be with Edward all the time, and she never had to sleep again. They were going to be together forever. 

Some responses my other one on Declaration... is in a comment

Free Culture: Lawrence Lessig

            I love the idea of a free culture. I firmly believe that allowing people to copy and modify others works inspires competition and therefore creativity. As was said in this article without Grimm’s fairy tales there would be no Disney movies, yet the real beauty of the Disney movies is that they mimicked and changed these old tales. I think borrowing from other’s is inevitable and generally beneficial to art and culture. What do you guys think?


Pirates: Lawrence Lessig

            It is pretty interesting that Radio, Record Companies, TV networks etc… were all built on a type of pirating. Napster is a great example of this. Without Napster creating its free software to trade music without paying the artists, the online stores like iTunes would probably not have been created. In a sense apple pirated the idea of iTunes from Napster. It seems like piracy leads to creativity. What does everyone else think?


Nine youtube props

Within the first ‘idea’ I don’t really understand the concept here discusses here of powerful entities masking their power in order to participate in a networking culture. When it comes to the second idea I agree that youtube is definitely comes with a sense of more pluralistic communication and participation. Everyone feeds off of each other’s ideas and responses in order to create their own way of participating within the youtube culture. It’s not only a way to communicate ideas about different opinions or even broadcast talents and other homemade video clips, but also acts as a means to rebroadcast video clips from TV. Since you can find pretty much anything on youtube, people can regularly rely on this site to provide them with material they’re seeking. He makes a very good point about how almost everyone has some sort of video recording device with them at all times, since phones these days have video programmed into them. Due to this there has been significant growth in the videos that have been distributed throughout the internet. With regards to his eight idea, although the internet and it’s participatory culture are becoming a big part of our lives, I don’t think it is necessary for someone to be able to master using youtube, or have to post videos on youtube in order to be successful and meaningful participants in our culture. He’s putting too much emphasis on this aspect of our lives, when it should really compliment our participation rather than define it. It is true that a digital gap exists throughout the world; however, I think we can put our resources into more meaningful resources to expose people to, rather than give them the ability to access youtube, or have the ability to contribute to youtube. It is very true that youtube doesn’t portray a very diverse culture; however for the purposes that many use it for, such as finding music videos or clips from different tv shows, I’m not sure diversity is really needed for this aspect. I am aware that you can use youtube for other resources where diversity could greatly contribute to a person’s experience; therefore it may be reasonable to seek out ways of increasing the diversity in these areas. Overall youtube is getting a lot of press because of its growing popularity, and due to this, changes may be seen in its overall content in years to come.

Howard Rheingold (a little late)

The questions first posed within this article align precisely with how I feel about these virtual worlds. What is the appeal and hype surrounding them and how could someone possible spend so much wasted time in front of the computer? This type of technology does allow people to dissolve boundaries and create new identities, one which may not align to who the person really is, but more along the lines of who they wish they were, or even some complete fantasy person or being that would never exist in the real world. I could see the appeal of this ability; however, since playing in these virtual worlds with these virtual characters will never result in actually becoming them, many people may be wasting time and energy working to become someone that they’re not. Also, making friends in these virtual worlds rarely, if ever results in an ‘authentic’ friendship outside of the virtual world. I can relate to his quote “It’s dizzying at first, like learning a new kind of communication gymnastics.” My first experience on second life was me being clueless wandering around the opening scene having no idea what I was supposed to do. When I got to the SCU Island I still really had no idea what to do.

When he started talking about the different challenges and games that exist in the MUDs I got a little confused. I guess I don’t fully understand all aspects of second life or the different worlds that exist within its ‘walls’. He brings up a very interesting point about how those who very actively involved with ‘MUDing’ may be ‘actively seeking society rather than shunning it’. They may not be shunning society; however they are somewhat shunning their direct surroundings. They’re more interested in connecting with people across the internet rather than develop relationships with those whom they have direct contact with. The addiction he discusses is very real and probably my biggest concern when it comes to these online communities. Just like video games and TV, it is very easy to get addicted to this constant entertainment.

First time in Second Life—let the awkward interactions begin

Carolyn and I decided to take the leap into Second Life together this afternoon. We used my avatar and started out our journey in Paris. After arriving no one was around so we looked wandered around for a few minutes and chose a different location. Neither of us really had any idea what we should be doing while in second life. We just wandered around hoping we could find people we could talk to. While we were in Paris we got an invite to go the some ‘free sex empire’ and having no idea what this meant we accepted and were immediately teleported to some room where pretty much everyone was walking around naked. I somewhat expected something like this to be in second life, and this was one of the reasons that I have had no previous interest in joining any type of online community like this. I feel like so many people use online communities for ways to make up for a lack of a real life outside of the internet. If people did have satisfying lives then why would they feel the need to be online 5+ hours a day.
No one really talked to us while we were in the sex empire. We tried making conversation with some guy staring at the wall but he ignored us. Carolyn and I are not familiar with the etiquette in second life when it comes to walking up to strangers and talking to them, so we were pretty hesitant at first. It was after seeing multiple avatars having ‘sex’ in front of us and having to hear some of the raunchy conversations they were having with one another, that we decided to leave.
After realizing the sex empire was not where we really want to spend our time while in second life, we siphoned through the list of areas where we could teleport to. We chose another big city where we thought people might be wandering around, Seattle. However Seattle wasn’t any better than Paris. It took us a few minutes to find someone to talk to, and even then they didn’t talk to us after we said hi. While standing in one of the buildings this little dog, which I guess was someone’s avatar, whispered hello to us then proceeded to go to sleep. I didn’t realize you could whisper in second life. Carolyn and I had a hard mastering our gestures and how to manage our conversations. I thought you could have private conversations with people but we weren’t really sure how to do this. It looks like we’ll have to spend a lot more time fidgeting with all of the possibilities there are on second life before we can really understand how to interact with other people.
Since, once again, no one was really responding to any of our attempts at having a conversation, we teleported to a new area called ‘sexy beach’. It at least sounded like it could be entertaining, and maybe there would be more people that we could talk to. We were interested in getting information about how long people had been on second life and what they did during their time spent as their avatar, since we were failing miserably at making any progress with our avatars. When we arrived at Sexy Beach, no one was really around, so we wandered over to what looked like a bar on the beach. MrBob Merryman was the only person around when we arrived at the bar. He was the first person that actually responded to our comments and questions whereas everyone else had pretty much ignored us up until then. He told us he’s been playing on second life for 6 months and he usually hangs out at the bar where we were standing. Following is a clip of the first part of our conversation:
MrBob Merryman: Hello Kimberly
You: where is everyone
MrBob Merryman: not here
MrBob Merryman: IDK
You: so does it get crowded at night
MrBob Merryman: some times its packed other times just a few of us
You: whens a good time to come?
MrBob Merryman: usually in a bout an hour and then arounf 10sl time
MrBob Merryman: 8sl time
You: so how long have you been playing on second life?
MrBob Merryman: 1/2 year
You: wow. this is my first time
MrBob Merryman: youll mate friends and find a favoriye place
You: so is this where you hang out mostly?
MrBob Merryman: mostly

In class Julianne had told us to alter our appearances to see how people would react so we decided to used the de-clothe option and took off our avatar’s shirt. Since we both had absolutely no imagination at the time and we had just spent a very long five minutes in that crazy Sex empire taking the avatars clothes off sounded like a good idea at the time. MrBob just took it in stride. We did tell him we were new though so that could have covered for our interesting behavior. I know if the situation had been reversed and MrBob had taken any article of clothing off Carolyn and I probably would’ve been a bit put off and left the conversation. We were actually kind of disappointed that we didn’t get more of a reaction out of him.

After talking for a few minutes we noticed the yellow balls hovering above each of the seats at the bar. After fiddling with the tools for a little bit we were able to sit down at the bar while still talking to MrBob. Two other people showed up during our conversation who seemed to know MrBob. Like he had told us earlier, you find different friends and places like you like to hang out at that’s where you can go while in second life. This was proven true when the three avatars starting talking with eachother like they had known one another for awhile. They were also discussing things which were way over Carolyn’s and my head like property management in second life and how someone was banned from sexy beach. It was really hard to follow the conversation because those three were talking amongst one another but still talking to me every other posts about things that were irrelevant to the other conversation:
You: do you guys come here often?
MrBob Merryman: no its been pretty dead here
Xandria Nightfire: we are all over the place kim
mick Parnall: we thinking of buying this place mr,have ya heard
MrBob Merryman: no i didnt here that is it for sale ?
You: This is my first time in second life and I'm not really sure what to do or where to go
mick Parnall: wang gave us link to sl site
mick Parnall: doesnt say for sale here tho
Xandria Nightfire: you can do all kinds of stuff in sl kim
MrBob Merryman: Mick check tha banded list
mick Parnall: hahaha,he banned her too
mick Parnall: from his place
Xandria Nightfire: they banned wang?
mick Parnall: wonder whats gone off
MrBob Merryman: he was walking around here yesterday
mick Parnall: i noticed today he banned her
MrBob Merryman: thats funny
Xandria Nightfire: wonder what happened
mick Parnall: hmmm
mick Parnall: maybe its a thing when ya take over tho
mick Parnall: wang banned elvis from here
MrBob Merryman: Wang was giving out landmark cards
That’s just a small sample of the conversation where Carolyn and I really had no idea what was going on. It also doesn’t help that they use a lot of abbreviations that I’m never really sure what they mean, which really makes the conversations hard to follow. But they were pretty helpful when we had any questions about what they were talking about, we just felt bad interrupting their conversation so much. In the middle of their conversation, all of a sudden the second guy at the bar starting ‘spanking’ the girl at the bar, which was a little weird so Carolyn and I decided to leave.
We teleported to LA and walked around Venice beach. At first we didn’t really see anyone around. We tried to ride a few motorcycles on the street but the computer would always tell us it was owned by someone else and only the owner could ride it. Where was the fun in that? After thinking this whole second life thing was even more a waste of time because we could never really seem to find anyone we could talk to, we spotted some guy riding around on his skateboard. So we called him over and finally we had a positive response. He came right on over and we were able to actually have a nice conversation with him about what second life is to him. He also gave us a few pointers about what to do and where we could go. It wasn’t until after this conversation that Carolyn and I really felt we were successful in meeting someone in second life that was genuinely interested in talking. I’m still not open to the idea of going into second life when I’m bored, but I may be able to somewhat understand the appeal that some people see that pulls them into the virtual world.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Declaration of Independence

After reading the cyberspace's declaration of independence, I couldn't help but think how idealized it sounded (much like our own declaration of independence). And then I noticed that it was, afterall, written in 1996, when the internet and idea of cyberspace was just developing. The author stated that this space is completely separate from the real world, as it is not made of the same material, and therefore is not subject to the real world governance. He said that, if the need arised, a governance would form in cyberspace in order to solve its problems. I thought back to the rape in cyberspace and the other cyberspace crimes one hears about everyday and wonder if cyberspace has the capability to govern itself. The author also said cyberspace provides the space for people to go and not be judged by their race, economic status, gender, etc. Yet we all noticed the "ideal" body types and "beautiful" features most people choose when creating an avatar in Second Life, and one needs money in the first place to even have access to cyberspace. Do you guys think cyberspace can/should govern itself? Do you think that cyberspace is truly a separate entity from the Real World?

Fan Fiction: Bond, James Bond... needs help!

I must admit, I enjoyed reading a few of those fan fiction samples. Though the writing may not be the most advanced, I found myself completely - and nerd-ily - engaged in the stories of Zorro and Harry Potter. If I were to write a piece of fan fiction, it would be about James Bond. Growing up with an older brother, I too grew up intimately knowing James Bond, from Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan and his adventures, and continue to be a fan. However, being somewhat of a feminist, I would write about the time the woman saves James, when she's not "womanized," but rather does the "man-izing" (?). Instead of playing the figure of a femme fatale, she would be essential to his plan to save the world. Indeed, this time SHE would save the world, and HE would be her assistant. I obviously haven't fully developed this idea, but the notion of fan fiction provides a fun, entertaining avenue for a fan to feel more involved in the story and characters' lives.
Why would people care about my fan fiction relating to James Bond? Well, perhaps I am biased, but James Bond has been an integral figure in popular culture for decades. However, the stories always follow a similar storyline and involve similar characters - the sexy, buxom and evil woman, the evil antagonist who wants to destroy the world and gain lots of money, and James in all of his suave sexyness, womanizing but still always charming both the audience and his companions. These similarities are comforting in some respects, as the viewer expects and anticipates them. However, in our time of social change and different perspectives emerging and becoming more accepted, if not popular, a "spoof" or skewed story from a more feminist perspective would be entertaining. This new angle, which may very well be realistic in some settings, spices things up a bit for everyone.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Maschinima Proposal

My thoughts are of developing a society of anarchy within Second Life. Based off the principles which I see implemented in Second Life thus far, it seems likely that it could happen. Rather than considering it a society that is anarchtic, consider rather a community that promotes absolute freedom. A community that does not develop rules. In such an environment we will see the lavish outbursts of insanity by those individuals seeking to find the boundaries. There will be rape, murder, carnage, and ugly displays that accompany absolute freedom. As a result of this chaos, justice will seek to emerge. It will emerge in the form of a revolutionary figure to the chaos which has been created, a Wyatt Earp figure of sorts. 

The movie starts by displaying activity on a few of the various islands. People are walking around and talking to each other, in a dance room, people are dancing, listening to music and talking to each other. The economic aspect is shown with people gaining money by camping and selling real estate online, perhaps this is displayed by capturing footage of an atm transaction taking place. On help island people, footage is shown of more and more people dropping into Second Life. You start to see the clubs crowding up, and people getting more and more aggressive. A newspaper headline reads that Second Life needs to have strict management because people are being cyber raped, prostitution is occurring in real life, mafia, and terrorist plots are being carried out all via Second Life, but throughout all this, Second Life administrators refuse to show any heavy hand to its users. 

Second Life has reached critical mass, a news paper headline reads, Chaos Ensues. If you thought kids getting beat up after school for comments on myspace was bad, girls have become so enraged that a girl in Missouri was killed after school one day because she stole another girls cyber boyfriend online. This becomes the main source of influence or the straw that broke the camels back. Mavericks begin to emerge as a result of this chaos. This comes in the form of creating codes that shut down people that are causing trouble in Second Life.  A shot of a man becoming aggressive with a girl is seen in the corner of a club, a maverick comes over and destroys the guys avatar and doesn't allow him to use the Avatar any longer, or the accumulated Lindens he's created for being online. 

Response to FanFiction

With over 350,000 submissions of FanFiction, Harry Potter is not surprisingly the first FanFiction I read. I went on to, where thousands of books, TV shows, movies and comics were being continued in every direction by fans. At first I thought the concept was kind of weird, because too many people were creating new stories and ideas for any comprehensive continuation of any one story. But then I started to read the Harry Potter FanFiction. As a dedicated fan myself, although much of the fiction was poorly written and uncomplicated, it was really intriguing to see where different people would take the story. One was based on Draco Malfoy being drunk, while another was Harry going to a school other than Hogwarts for a year. Your imagination starts to run at full speed with so much material. I know people are sad when a single book or series ends, so fan fiction seems like the perfect solution for this disappointment. From the Babysitters Club to Tom Clancy, both far-fetched and predictable continuations are made concrete by fans.
If I were to write one myself, I think I wouldn't bother writing specific stories. I think I would go ten or twenty years into the future after the actual ending and maybe write a chapter outlining important events or changes in each character, including what was going on with them at that moment. Kind of similar to J.K. Rowlings epilogue of Harry Potter, which I thought was a really smart idea so that no one could attempt to completely make up their own continuation.

Adventures in Second Life

As I have stated previously, I was in a technology class this past Fall so I was already slightly familiar with Second Life. However, I never really explored Second Life on my own; I simply followed the structure of the class, going to the islands that my professor advised us to go to. So this assignment gave me the opportunity to go to the places that I wanted to, and to see what was out there in this virtual world.

My initial plan was to go to various islands, but I would not change my appearance. Instead, I made my character, Britt Larkham, dress in a fairly provocative way, and I wanted to go to places that would stereotypically accept or reject my appearance in real life. For example, I thought about going to a dance club, where normally my appearance would be accepted. Then, perhaps, I would go to a government island, where my provocative appearance would stand out like a sore thumb in real life.

So, I started my adventures with Sexy Island. On this island, there are nude beaches, dance clubs, places to lie in the sun, cocktail lounges, you name it. When I landed on the island, I had my character fly around the perimeter to get a feel for what was on the island, before interacting with all of the people there. The first place I went to was a dance club. There were a ton of people dancing all over the place and my local chat was out of control. I finally took a step back and just observed all of the people. I decided to make Britt dance, thinking this is what would make me fit in better. Sure enough, as soon as I started dancing, people began talking to me, asking me if I was having fun, and how often I go to the island to dance. A lot of the people either looked like strippers or were animal characters, but nonetheless, my appearance was acceptable. I stepped outside the dance club and found a strip club near by. As expected, girls were dancing on poles and lying on the ground thrusting their bodies, while men dressed in suits (how clever) were surrounding them sipping on cocktails. I thought Id join in on the fun, so I climbed up on a stage, grabbed a pole and began dancing. I was definitely the least popular dancer, considering I actually had decent clothing on, but I did attract some attention from men. I got off the pole and decided to chat with one of the guys who was standing near my stage. Right away, he began to flirt with me and was clearly a regular at the strip club. I think it pissed him off when I told him that I was just exploring Second Life and that I just wanted to have a little fun, that I was not actually a stripper.

Since our conversation dwindled, I decided to see if there was anything else that would be interesting on the island. Then I saw it: “Nude Beach -->” I knew this could get interesting. Surprisingly, there weren’t too many people there besides the occasional naked couples caressing each other on the beach with lips and hearts surrounding them (literally). As I approached a dock that had beach chairs and umbrellas at the end of it, I noticed the stark naked male in the water near me. So, naturally, I took a picture. He continued to stand there, with his hands on his hips for the remainder of my stay. As I stepped up on the dock, a male character in swim trunks approached me. We began chatting, and I asked him how he enjoyed Second Life and how long he had been a resident. He had only been a resident for a month but admitted that he was addicted to it. Apparently my 20 questions were a little too boring because all of sudden, he said, “I really like that shirt :),” happy face and all. I told him thanks, and that I liked his swim trunks, which was awkward but I really didn’t know what to say back to him. He proceeded to tell me that he was from Australia, and found it fascinating that I was from California. We discussed the time difference and how we thought it was cool that no matter what time it was in either of our real life homes, we could control the sun on Second Life. Then, I had to break it to him that I needed to continue exploring other islands but that I enjoyed chatting with him. I thought this would be the last that I would see of him, but then he asked to be my friend, which I accepted. It’s funny to think that people may actually find love in Second Life, even on a nude beach on Sexy Island.

As I was trying to decide which island I would go to next, I realized I wanted to change my initial plans for exploring. I thought it would even more interesting if I went to islands that represented aspects of my real life. I wanted to see if there would be a change in if I was accepted or rejected in places that I identify with on a daily basis in real life. I chose three aspects of my real life identity that also had islands on Second Life: and island for Republicans, an island for Catholics, and Florence, the city I will be studying abroad in this coming fall.

Of the three islands, the one that was the most fascinating was the first island that I visited, Republican Party of Second Life. This island was fantastic. There were signs with the Elephant emblem hanging all over, there was the Washington Monument surrounding by international flags, and there was a building that resembled the Supreme Court Building.
It was here that I met two girls, who I will refrain from naming. One was dressed conservatively, and appeared to be a “normal” woman as you would see in real life. The other had a feline body, but wore appropriate clothing that was not too revealing. Although my character was a little more scandalous, it didn’t seem to bother the two females. I immediately asked the girls if they were Republican, a seemingly obvious question, but they actually told me that they were both Libertarians and/or Socialists. I told them that I was a Republican and that I thought it was really neat that an island was dedicated to the political party. The feline character admitted that it was her first time identifying with a political party on Second Life, which was interesting because we had just met. We found out that we were the same age, and that the coming election would be our first Presidential Election. The three of us proceeded to discuss the war, the candidates, abortion, and taxes. This was really interesting for me, because I am always surrounded my Liberals and feel like my opinions are never listened to. In this virtual world, of all places, I could finally discuss my opinions, receive support for them, and learn what other young Republicans had to say about similar issues. The two characters were also very interested when I told them I was exploring for a class. I told them what our class consisted of, and how Second Life was a huge aspect of the class because of our continuous discussion of participation as a form of communication. I left the two characters to continue on with their discussions while I moved on to my next adventure.

The second island that I visited was called Basilica Cardinal. There were only a few islands that revolved around the Catholic Church but this one seemed the most interesting. When I arrived, it was raining, something I had never seen on Second Life. I landed in front of two large oak doors, and when I walked in, I realized I was inside of a church. The church was enormous, but it was unlike any real life church. It floated in the clouds, rather than on an island surrounded by water, and the floors had cutouts that one could fall through, although you could just fly back up. I walked around the church and saw several rows of pews facing a gold altar. People were kneeling at the pews in prayer, lighting prayer candles on the side aisles, and there were even spots where people could pray the rosary. While I was there, I picked up a free rosary at a stand in the back of the church. To the side of the main part of the church, there were places to buy religious artwork and jewelry, and even priest and nun vestments. I thought this was not only funny, but actually really fascinating. The Church gets a lot of criticism for its lack of female priests, but in this virtual life, a female was able to wear priestly vestments. On the opposite side, there were rooms for confession, complete with kneelers, a screen to sit behind, and a place for the priest to sit. It was really weird to see all the elements of real life church in the realms of virtual world. There weren’t many people at the church, so I decided to move on.

The last place that I visited was Florence, my home for four months beginning in September. I have been to Florence before so I wanted to see how realistic the island was compared to the actual city. It was absolutely incredible. The streets were cobblestone, small shops lined the streets, and even the architecture resembled Florence. There was even the statue of David, with the Florentine and Italian flag flying behind it. I walked the streets and went in the shops, and even stopped to mop the floors in one of the shops. Again, there were not a lot of people there, but I enjoyed exploring on my own. I walked across one of the bridges and when I stopped to observe the view, I noticed that the Ponte Vecchio was the next bridge over from me. I walked across the Ponte Vecchio and found a private beach below it. I sat in one of the chairs just to look around, and it got me really excited for my future in the real life Florence. After walking around a little bit more, I decided to end my exploration. Going over all the places I had been, I found that it was comforting to find places and things that I identify with in real life, available in Second Life. In this way, Second Life is valuable because you can go to places where you will be accepted, and can share your thoughts and opinions with people who you know identify with the same things. I think I may explore a little more on my own to see what fabulous islands I will find next!

First Second Life Adventure

Bree, Scott, and I decided to explore second life together. We met at the Santa Clara Island and decided to go to Club Loco and socialize. As it turns out, Club Loco is a stripper bar for men and women. I was surprised to learn that people can strip on Second Life and earn tips in the online currency. One of the strippers had earned well over 500 dollars. It’s quite amusing that people attend virtual stripper clubs to socialize and dance. Other avatars were dancing and joking around with one another. It was clear that most of them knew each other through previous encounters online. There were people in charge of the club, greeters at the door, people making sure no one got on stage with the dancers, and there was even a DJ.
I found it amazing that a club was run online much like one would be run in reality. What disappointed me though was that I was only able to find people to socialize with at these strip clubs. I traveled to cities in Italy and Greece, and the only places that had large groups of people were at clubs. This leads me to believe that people’s desires in real life are to go clubbing all the time. I certainly need more time exploring the world of Second Life, but so far the only place that has allowed me to interact with other avatars has been at strip clubs.
While my experiences at these strip clubs has been amusing, hopefully I’ll be able to expand my horizons in future endeavors.

Reuter's Newswire and the Issues it Raises

Now that I feel more comfortable moving around Second Life I decided to take a second look at the reuter's newswire to see if the articles I read a few weeks ago make more sense now. Reading about the new CEO of Linden Labs in the articles "Linden Lab picks online marketing executive as CEO" and "New Linden CEO could be named within weeks", made me realize just how involved people are in these industries. The man they named as CEO, Mark Kingdon, seems very well-respected in the business community and influential. My first reaction was to be skeptical, not really believing that a person can make any kind of living from virtual products.. and yet he is an example that you can, and that these industries are so complex that they need highly qualified individuals to run them. I also figured out the Linden currency. Apparently $1 USD is equal to about 267 L$, which makes the saleswoman's attempt to sell me 600 L$ boots much more reasonable. Along this same train of thought I found it incredibly interesting after reading the two articles about how Rosedale has to testify in front of Congress that the Linden has become such a controversial issue. I could see how it could be seen as threatening for a "society" to decide to use its own currency, but I fail to believe that the Linden is anything more complex than an interesting way for people to get your money.

Another interesting article I read, "At VW08, kids are the focus", discussed a cultural lag that has scared businesses from investing in Second Life. By this, he meant that even though people know about avatars, not a whole lot of people are jumping on the band wagon. This article also pointed out how a lot of what is happening in Second Life is focusing on kids below 18, which is just strange considering you have to be older than that to even join. They say that people enjoy playing games and interacting as somebody would at that age, yet to me it seems like a scam that I just can't quite figure out. What I did discover is that Nickelodean is trying to fill the void left by Second Life's age requirement by creating their own virtual world. The article "Nickelodeon explores virtual worlds including ‘SpongeBob’" stated that the children's channel made its announcement at the Virtual Worlds Conference that it believes it will outrace the competition by creating its own virtual playplace. Im, of course, skeptical about children spending time acting like children in front of a computer screen, but another side of me thinks that it would actually probably be really fun, and probably much less violet than most video games.

Second Life - Justified Perversion

It's not often that you see something as widespread as is the world of second life that is also extremely telling on how humans would create a world in their own image. It would be full of stores, strip clubs, escorts, dance clubs and yet still rely on the backbone of financial greed and motivation. After spending a couple hours exploring the world and altering my appearance, I have just one thing to say: Thank god for governments.

My starting point (after getting off the island) would be relatively innocent, over at Santa Clara Island (which, incidentally, cost the school over 30 grand). Turn on streaming media and I hear a relatively interesting lecture about the brain and the various functions each part of it has. Walk around and I see a scattering of people, mostly new and unexperienced (and pretty skeptical, too) to this virtual world. I decided immediately to alter my appearance from the "Guy next door" to a scantily clad female, with the sole purpose of getting some attention (for research purposes, of course). I then opened up the search pane and began my journey into this expansive world.

For starters I chose a "freebie" zone, also known as a relatively new zone meant to gain popularity by bringing in new players and offering free incentives (such as clothes, tattoo's, pimp canes, ect.) so that they'll eventually step up and buy real items, which in turn make the owners of these zones profit. I bought a new outfit, a necklace tattoo, and a pimp cane (for my female avatar). Needless to say, I was going for the unconventional approach.

I then walked around a bit, noticed that the area wasn't as packed as I would hope, and moved on to another location. This time, I went to the search tab and clicked "Popular Places". This immediately gave me an indication of what was the most popular in Second Life, mainly Dance Clubs, Welfare zones, and more Freebie zones. I chose the dance club, as I figured this would be a great place to meet new people and get some better ideas of how people lived in second life.

I was right. The club was packed, and by packed I mean roughly 150 people gathered together in a small dance space, the Pyramid located on Dance Island. I first spoke with the script-creator of the Dance Floor itself, a woman by the name of Velyora. She explained to me how certain Xenin-based scripts can be used to manipulate and create objects in the environment, going on to explain how, since its inception, Second Life has been evolved purely by the people within it, instead of by their creators. Finally I danced for a bit and noticed the completely bold attempts by people to get my attention. I had expected it, yet it was still surprising to see how much even a virtual appearance change could make on how people reacted to you.

Velyora, who had been kindly answering my questions about second life, was actually a Security Personnel in the club, so I asked her how often rules or regulations had to be enforced within her niche of SL. She explained that they boundaries aer always being tested, and that people will always try to experiment with how far they can get without being rebuked. She even went on to explain how things have been getting worse over time as SL gets more and more of a raunchy reputation. She justified it by explaining how, since there are literally millions of dollars going into second life, there is bound to be those that would seek to use ulterior means to get financially wealthy off of it, including sex and related means.

I thanked Velyora and decided to leave the club and explore some of the landmarks I had heard about. I started over at Paris, and was pleasantly surprised to see people mingling all over the place. It seemed interesting to note the international scope of SL, which is actually larger than the presence here in the united states. As we had heard in class, people in SL actually use their avatars to communicate moreso in international countries than here in the U.S., and this was no exception.

My first SL experience

To say the least, my first Second Life experience was strange. The first place I went to was Dance Island because I knew from the last class that there were always a lot of people there. The image I chose for my avatar was one that looked somewhat like me. I had long blonde hair and wore a strapless yet modest black dress with heels and accessories. The people at this dance club were much different though. There were people dressed as Goths, hoochie mamas, mythical creatures, and clubbers. At first, I did not really know how to dance but I got this application sent to me that allowed me to animate my avatar, so of course I used it and I chose the “center of the universe” dance style. Once I did that, my avatar broke into a crazy dance with a lot of twirling and arm movements. As I moved her across the floor I tried to start conversations with people by saying “Hey -insert name-”, but nobody said anything back to me. The people who dominated the conversation were speaking English mixed in with a different language so I did not know how to communicate effectively. It seemed to me that these people were long-time friends on SL and that I was not going to see much action in this place. Some of the things they said included a lot of symbols and actions. For example, one girl kept saying “*giggle*” or “***giggling insanely***”. It got really annoying and after about 10 minutes of going around the room dancing and trying to start up a conversation I got sick of it and decided to go to another place.
The next place I tried was Frenchtown, which I chose my looking at the map and seeing where to most green dots were located. Unfortunately, when I got here I couldn’t find many people and the few I did find did not want to talk to me. So, I left.
I was off to the Spartan Empire in Rome next. Although there weren’t many people here I walked up to two normally dressed guys who were involved in a conversation and said hello. To my surprise, they actually replied to me and then continued talking to each other in a different language. Then I said “English?” and they said something in their language about English that did not seem very nice. I am sure they were cussing me out in their foreign tongue because I am American and want them to speak English to me. What a horrible thing to ask for. After my struggles again in Rome I decided to go somewhere a little more familiar- Santa Clara Island.
Once I got here, I stood in front of the library, took a look at the mini-map and saw only one other green dot. I thought this would be an awesome opportunity to start up a chat. When I first saw the other member of the island he flew away from me but I followed him (stalker status). Anyways, once I caught up with him I greeted him and he replied back to me. This was looking like a good start. I asked him if he was a SCU student and he said he was a janitor. If this was true it does how abundantly popular SL is throughout all ages of the community. We continued to chat a little when I told him I was new to SL. Luckily, he gave me some suggestions on what to do in SL like sailing yachts and flying around. He also gave me a note card of some really cool places to visit like Yankee’s Stadium and other recreational sports places. I told him I really appreciated it. Then he asked me if I was doing SL for a class and of course I said yes. Then he asked if it was for Professor Bousquet and I thought it was probably another classmate of mine. Finally, I found out that he was actually the guy who gave us the lecture on machinima and helped introduce us to SL during the first and second classes. Creepy! Since I knew he was a seasoned player on SL I asked him how you are supposed to get people to talk to you and he advised me to have something interesting to say. I told him about the language barrier issue and he said that is a tough thing to beat. Sometime in the conversation he told me that SCU had just purchased their own island in hopes to get people to join and be more involved. I guess this new island can be a new form of Facebook because it will allow you to meet new people in your area. If this did happen I would expect people to be a lot more subdued in their avatar choices because of the risk of their identity getting out and maybe being embarrassed. When he had to leave he offered me to be his friend. I accepted but I had no idea what this meant. I also have no clue on how to access these note cards or other things I am sent by people. I guess I will find out later.
As a whole, my first experience was not very successful but I did better as the time went on. I was very hesitant going into the media lab in the new library because most everyone was doing group projects or individual assignments. I did not want people to think I was a slacker who just went on Second Life to chat with random people in the middle of the day. The best part was when I finally started to talking to the guy at Santa Clara Island, I was looking around the rest of the lab making sure I wasn’t chatting with someone sitting right next to me. And speaking of the guy right next to me, he asked me what was up with the whole Second Life thing so I had to explain to him about the virtual world and how I was just doing it for a class. Throughout the time I was on SL I saw him peek over to my screen to see what I was doing. For this reason I wish I could have SL on my personal computer but I do not have enough memory to support the application and it runs super slow.
Anyways, back to my experiences. The second class we had a seminar talking about how virtual online communities like SL, Myspace, and Facebook can help build communication skills for the future but today I realized that this idea is very far fetched and unrealistic for me personally. The only thing I started to feel while on SL was frustrated that no one was willing to talk to me. I became more interested in the types of dances my avatar could do than trying to talk to random people who wanted nothing to do with me. I think SL has the opposite effect of what the first Jenkins article said about it creating valuable tools for our future. If I continued to do SL after this class I am sure I would gain something from it but from the looks of it now it would just lead me to feel even more anti-social and inept to communicate with strangers.
I know we were supposed to alter our appearance the first time we went on to see if people treated us any different but I was having a hard enough getting people to communicate with me at all that I did not have time to think about what I looked like. I was more focused on trying to find something interesting to say that would catch someone’s attention so they would talk to me. A couple of times people who reply to my greeting but that was it. I need to work on my ability in continuing the conversation but I do not know what to talk about. Do I ask them about where they live or what they do? Or are those types of questions inappropriate for this virtual world? Am I supposed to live a different life on this thing or can I be the same person I am everyday and if I stay the same person what’s the point in having a fictional avatar that is involved in a virtual world? I thought the SL world was supposed to be for people who wanted to live a different life but just like I discussed in my previous blog concerning people building avatars similar to them. If this is so, isn’t it more appropriate that I create an avatar that looks and acts nothing like myself? When I was creating my avatar I think it was just natural for me to design her around myself. I do not feel the need to live a different life. My life is hectic enough as it is. I don’t have the time or energy to live two separate lives. Maybe Second Life isn’t for me.

From Escorts to Party Hostesses...

I have never spent anytime on a virtual reality game, and honestly don't even play any video games either, so my first night “out on the town” on Second Life was very new. I was a little nervous but more excited to explore and pick the brains of these gamers because ever since we have been reading articles and having class discussions about these virtual realities I have been very curious about the people who go on them. When MoMo and I went around Monday night, we spent a little while just trying to find places that people were actually at. I found that this was the most difficult part about the game because I was really anxious to observe different avatars in the game.

Noticing there were a few people at this location, we visited Paris 1900, and upon entering we were given a note card that had the rules of the island that you had to agree to follow. These included no sexual conduct, iterated that no means no, and also that any form of violence or showing a weapon was prohibited as well as any political demonstrations. I thought this was very interesting because it seemed to be laws for the community and definitely showed how seriously the person who created this island takes SL and how much they feel this is closer to real life than virtual. While on the island I was all of sudden partially under ground and couldn’t move. When I tried to chat with other’s and ask for help no one responded. I thought at first that it was just the system and maybe it was running slowly but when I teleported out of the island everything was fine, so I was thinking that someone had made a trap or put some type of spell on me which was weird.

I then ventured off to Amsterdam and started chatting with three female escorts. At first I didn't know who or what they were but I obviously looked out of place because I was not dressed like an escort nor was I a man looking for one. I mostly spoke to Gaelle Barzane, who has been an escort for a while. She told me that Amsterdam used to be the hot spot but now all of the escorts go to the Red Light District. She basically explained to me that escorts were just as they are in RL, you get paid to have sex with guys. She said the competition was high and you had to search for guys that are willing but you can make a lot of second life money doing it. She then recommended to go to nude beaches because a lot of people go there. It was really interesting to hear her speak about this job as if it were her real life job. She said that she spends more hours on SL than in RL which I thought was really interesting. When I tried to talk to the guy that was there probably looking to purchase an escort he wouldn't answer any of my questions as if he was embarrassed to be confronted by a non-escort while in this type of an environment. Gaelle told me that if I didn't want to be around escort environments then to stay away from Amsterdam and obviously the Red Light District, she recommended going to nude beaches because there was usually a lot of people there.

Then I went to France Microcosme because it was the only France location that actually had quite a few people there. But when I got there I was a little disappointed because all the people there were just dancing. It was the weirdest thing, they were dancing in these circles and when I went up to try to talk to them none of them would answer me. Also, I think you had to pay to dance with them or something because above their dancing circles there were prices per 30 minutes. By this time I was getting a little frustrated with the game because I couldn't seem to find places where there are people who really want to have a conversation about the game or where there is something interesting going on.

Then MoMo and I decided to head to Sand Dollar Beach next because we noticed a few people there. We met Saphyre Allen and Danica Voom who are sisters. They were both very friendly and welcomed us to the game, since we were obvious “noobies”. They said that there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend on SL. Saphyre has a job as a hostess for parties that are at the Sand Dollar Beach Resort. She added us to the group so we will get the invitation to the next party which is Friday. When I asked her about the party she said it was a lingerie party and was pretty much like any RL party. She was very helpful, as have most of the people I have talked to so far. She and her sister seem to love it on SL and Danica even said that a week away from SL felt like a year! She also began to talk about how RL can suck sometimes and that she feels like she has more control when in SL. They then gave us a “giggles” animation that made my character look like she is laughing and also a new hair due that I just had to right click on and say wear instead of creating it myself. They then began to share a ton of things like new shoes, clothes, and then gave us landmarks to different islands that all have free stuff that you can have to help change your avatar. It was a little overwhelming while it was happening because I kept getting popup window after window needing acceptance for each item they gave. Both Saphyre and Danica added us as friends and Saphyre said that if I had questions about any part of the game just to IM her. I couldn't believe how nice they both were and definitely appreciated meeting them because they shared a lot of different things with us. Danica then left the game because she said that her kids were waking up, which kinda through me off because it hit home how you just have no idea how old anyone is that you are talking to, what they do, or even whether they really are male or female. When I asked them both what they did other than play on SL, they both laughed and just answered that when it was absolutely necessary to go to work or due chores. SL is obviously a huge, and maybe even the first priority in their lives.

MoMo and I then visited some of the places that had free stuff and it was insane how much stuff you can get. You can get cars, toys, expressions, any type of clothes you can think of, there are themed stuff such as hippie stuff or goth stuff. They have eyes, tattoos, hair dues, and even different body shapes. We spent a good amount of time there collecting new things and trying them on and changing our appearance. They even had magazines and toys, and I honestly did not understand why they would need or have these things on SL. It just showed me how much they have made, or were trying to make, SL as close to RL as possible. There were furniture and anything you would need to set up a house and basically an entire life.

This whole experience of the night was definitely a good first impression of SL. It was exactly how I had imagined it from the articles we have been reading in class about these online virtual worlds. Everything seemed so real, but then not. In my eyes I wasn't taking anything I was doing, wearing, anywhere I was visiting, seriously. Even when I met Saphyre and Danica I was merely asking questions and making conversation to learn about their participation on SL, as well as with Gaelle when talking to her about being an escort. It was really shocking to me how seriously everyone I met take their lives on SL, and in Saphyre and Danica's case, how much they prefer their SL to their real life which really worried me. I think using SL as an outlet is ok, but when it starts to take precedence over your real life, there is definitely something wrong. I am not sure how many people that play on SL think the way that Saphyre and Danica do but if it is the norm to have people feel that they would rather be on SL than living in RL, we most definitely have a problem. I am excited to continue to meet new people on SL merely to see how many people spend more time on SL than in RL, and to just see how seriously they take their avatars life compared to their own in RL.

To Be Accepted... Even an Avatar Can Dream

What I found during my virtual quest through Second Life was that in a world where anything goes, nothing really matters. Molly and I decided to begin our adventure disguised as two hot, intriguing, scantily clad avatars. Or at least I though I was hot and intriguing… let's just say that when I actually figured out how to turn my camera angle around to actually see myself head-on I realized why my only interactions with other avatars was with their backs. Once I fixed my hideous malformities Molly and I began the exhausting process of getting our avatars to dance... once I figured out how to animate her and got her rolling with a move called the "glitterbug" I was ready to begin the mingling. The only thing was I couldnt figure out how to direct my conversation at any one person so I was pretty sure that as a guy who dubbed himself Goldie began to flirt with me that the entire dance floor knew what was going on. This is interesting because it allows everybody within the appropriate distance to be an observer, so I decided to do just that. What I found was alot of noise about club promoting and things you could buy, but every once in awile Id catch onto a conversation between two people that seemed interesting. The most interesting one I heard was between a person named Athena and a guy named Samuel. Samuel began by asking Athena where she'd been and commenting on how he hadnt seen her around for the past couple weeks and Athena actually told him that she'd been in New York on vacation and was back in Amsterdam. I was amazed by two things: 1. That these two seemed to know each other "so" well and 2. That they were able to seriously take part in this convo that was so obviously steeped in bullshit. But then again, what do I know? Maybe Athena really is a globe trotter who kicks off her shoes every Wednesday night to go dancing in a virtual nightclub. Thats really the beauty of it all, you know that it is within every person's power to make up whatever stories they wish about who they are, and yet you still play along. Id say that for me in almost every case of being asked where I was from and who I was I lied. The reason being that I didnt want to be creeped on mainly but also because if you could be from anywhere, why not be from anywhere?

The issue of the real life you versus the virtual you seemed to come up quite often during our experience. One of the first things other avatars asked was "Where are you from?" This, to me, seemed incredibly ironic not only because of the aforementioned bullshitting paradox but also because it seemed to me that in a world that prides itself on its members being able to create their own identities and being whomever they wanted to be, they seemed awfully caught up in what was going on in the real world. Now maybe I had mistaken the purpose of this question. Maybe, as an avatar, you are supposed to pick the one place you're from and own it. Maybe it has nothing to do with your real life location at all. But on the other hand, maybe its true that we identify with people based on certain similarities. So it is easier for me to interact and have things to talk about with a cat lover from Palm Desert than it would be for a practicing magician in Chicago (although Im sure I could find ample things to discuss with that kind of individual). I think that these connections bring a level of comfort, as if you've found "your people"; people that you know how to deal with and what to talk about. However, Molly and I witnessed a hysterical abuse of this connection when we met a man who claimed he was from Tulsa when I falsely admitted that about myself and then ten minutes later claimed to be from Houston when Molly said that was where she was from. The abuse of this connection is obviously suspicious but also not very well thought out on his part given that Molly and I had obviously been stumbling around the dance floor together trying to figure this world out (I even had to figure a way to get her out of a bed that she had mysteriously attached to herself).

(I had a picture to insert here but it refuses to upload... so lets just paint a picture of a particularly hot, storm-like chick surrounded by attractive and groovy avatars)

Once we had established that we could successfully interact with other avatars and move our bodies around on the dance floor we decided to begin our social experiments. Our first experiment focused on body types. We had begun our adventure as sexy vixens and been treated pretty well with people very willing to help us and chat with us. I decided to put on an extra 200 pounds, threw a mousy brown mop on my head, and changed into the most hideous clothes I could find in my decidedly bare wardrobe. Molly decided to whip out her alternate persona as a small curvy Asian woman-child and off we went. At first it didn't seem like we were treated any differently, in that people mainly ignored us, but then we began noticing a couple interesting trends. For one, people had the unnerving tendency to vanish the moment we struck up conversation with them. Then, once we were able to strike up conversation and they didn't go poof in a cloud of smoke we found that they hardly ever asked us where we were from in the real world, or really any questions pertaining to that life at all. Maybe people dont have that much in common with Amazon women and pygmy Asians, but you would think the people who are looking to make avatars that interesting would probably also have something interesting to say. Or at least thats what we told ourselves. During my fat phase I decided to teleport to an island whose name was written completely in Italian and whose main purpose, it seemed, was to sell rich avatars expensive virtual Italian leather. I walked the streets in my faux outfit feeling very out of place and so decided to see if I could hit on one of the attractive Italian men roaming the street corners. Maybe there was one out there who had a thing for big boned women. I went up to a guy standing next to a Merc and asked, with oh, so much wit and humor, "this your ride?" Of course he said no and literally turned away. So I rounded the corner, effectively lost the extra two hundred pounds, threw on something sheek and sexy, and tried it again. To my great disappointment he still maintained that he was not the owner of the vehicle. Maybe having my name dancing above my head clued him into the fact that I was the same Sarai Metall that had just crossed his path. Maybe it really wasn’t his car. Either of the way I had grown bored. But at least this time he hadn’t turned his back on me…

(If my picture was able to upload you would have seen me throwin' my weight around the dance floor with no men in sight)

Our final experiment was to change our diction when chatting with the other avatars. We thought that by doing this we might see a difference in how people treated us. We began by using that which we all know and love, full sentences and perfect grammar. People were very warm and receptive to us and seemed interested to help us around the island, which this time was very chic and seemed to be operating off of some James Bond fantasy. We changed our clothes to fit the d├ęcor and in no time at all we were one of the regulars. We began schmoozing at the bar and chatting amiably with all the men who seemed to balance precariously on the line between guido and Christian Bale from American Psycho. Once we felt at home we decided to mix it up a bit and slip into our not so native inner city slang…well, our version of it. We, or course, had to move to a different part of the island to accomplish this, as Im sure our new “friends” would have caught on to our scheming. This time when chatting people seemed to be just as receptive to our “word up” and “wat u dooin” as they were to our previously carefully composed sentences. We found in both cases that however we chose to talk, the person we were talking to would usually choose to talk in the same way. People seemed more interested in getting to know who we were when we sounded smarter yet it seemed they were more than ready to slip into internet lingo when given the chance.

Overall our experiments led us to believe that the amount of discrimination is much more minimal in Second Life than it is in the real world. My hypothesis is that because the common inclination would be to make your avatar as attractive as possible, when people come across a particularly ugly or unintelligent avatar they recognize that it is your choice to be that way, and therefore not enough grounds to ridicule or snub you. Granted it is hard to completely shy away from our stereotypical perceptions of people, it seems much easier to accept funny looking avatars in the virtual world than to accept funny looking people in the real world.

Reuters Second Life

Before even reading any articles, I was struck by the graphs on the right hand side of the page detailing the amount of real, American Dollars spend in second life within the past 24 hour period. The fact that 1.3-1.4 million dollars is spent daily in this virtual community is astounding. Beyond just the money spend, the stock-exchange parts of this newsletter was insane to me. It truly is a full functioning virtual world.

One of the first stories that I read was that "SL posts strong economic growth on dwindling enrollments." This article detailed that while less users are signing on and joining the community, current members are spending more time and money there. That fact alone scared me a little. It brought up the idea that Second Life and virtual communities can be addicting. Beyond that, it seemed rather insane to me that people were spending so much money in Second Life. The article spoke to the amount of money being spent by quoting the gdp of second life: "Zdanowski said Second Life achieved a gross domestic product of US$300 million by the end of March, a larger total economy than real-world nations such as Dominica or Micronesia." I thought this was astounding and seemed wrong in the grand scheme of things. That a computer community online could make more money than a country where real people live and need to survive seemed like the value system is out of whack.

The next article that I read was on stealing in second life. This article entitled "Virtual retailers decry Second Life crime wave" was interesting because it seems like the lines of property are sufficiently blurred in virtual reality. It is hard enough to keep people from downloading from real people (aka music, dvds , etc) but it is even harder to prevent avatars from stealing from other faceless avatars. I thought it was weird that people made their entire fortunes as second life characters. That seemed insane to me. The fact of the matter is, there are no real ways to police the actions of these "pirates." If you have a police force in second life, then the freedom of the expression that is supposed to exist there is much limited. This is the problem with the article "A Rape in Cyberspace." The problem is how to punish characters online, because however attached to the avatar you are, they are characters, not real people.

The next article that I read was about Linden Lab's increase of land supply, which in turn caused land prices in second life to drop. I felt that the investors had no right to be mad. They are investing in virtual real estate which is subject to change at any moment, oh and hey, its not real. Frankly it makes sense to add more land if there are more users. Although my bias is sure to shine through here, the buyers should get that they are buying something that is not real and therefore is not constrained to the land prices and available land of the real world. I just don't have much sympathy, they knew what they were buying.

Although not a real article, I did read Ava Star's whats happening in second life and the bit about Jon Stewart and his segment regarding second life. I like that second life is able to make fun of itself by acknowledging Jon Stewart's humor.

The final article that I read on the Reuter's Newswire was about the opening of Sim's online where the restraints on gambling and adult-child sex would not be as enforced as on Second Life. My personal thoughts are that if people really want to have another space to do that sort of thing, then they can enjoy Sims online. I think second life is open enough and forward enough when it comes to putting things out there.

Overall, I found it interesting to read this Newswire. It truly cements in the fact that this is a community and that people really truly are vested in this virtual world. Although it perhaps is not my forte, I can appreciate the fact that others truly want to see it succeed and be made into a full functioning community.

Second Life World Traveler

This has been my first experience exploring the world of Second Life. For the first half hour or so I had a really hard time figuring out where to go to actually find people. I would look at the map and teleport to the islands where there seemed to be a lot of people based on the green dot but when I arrived there, I was all alone. One of the first places that I went was a place called Miami Island. I meet some avatars who were from France, they were all speaking to each other in French and I felt very awkward, as if I was interrupting a private conversation. I tried to start some discussion on our on by it didn’t work to well. From there I teleported to a place called Platinum world which is an island that sells “skins” and body types. These are the types of islands, from what I could understand, that had some of the most users online. Again it was hard to find anyone to talk to or start a conversation. During this time, my avatar was short and pretty thick with a large chin and short blond hair. While I was on one of the deserted islands, I modified my appearance. Instead of having a traditionally unattractive face, I have changed to the typical idea of pretty, that is a small nose, perfect proportions with all my feature, and a longer and leaner body type (with much more provocative clothing as well.)

Again I attempted to find some places to meet new people but just by searching through looking at a map, I didn’t have any success, so I searched on Google places to visit in second life. The first recommended place I visited was called Miso’s Hillside Tap. Although it seemed like it was a “cool place” there was again no one there! After this, Mackai, and her avatar meet up with me. We found some places to go to by using the search function at the top of the screen rather than the map search, which I had been using. With our avatars decked out back in their sexy bodies and clothes, we made our way over to a dance party island. This is the first place that I had visited where there was a significant amount of people. We made our way out to the dance floor and quickly discovered how to get our groove on. We were quickly surrounded by lots of other people and started to have conversations with some of them. For me, it was strange trying to start up a conversation, not being used to talking to people in Second Life. One thing that struck me a strange is how people in second life want to get to know how you live in your real life. One of the most common conversation starters was asking where you are from. On various accounts I lied and said that I was from Tulsa, Denver, and Tampa Bay. At one point, Mackai and I were talking to one guy avatar (about ten minutes apart from each other) and after we each said where we were from, he answered the same place, or somewhere near. This leads me to question, when it is so easy and tempting to lie about one’s real life, why even bother asking someone in second life about their first life? Is it just natural to wonder who we are really talking with, something which represents that inherent concern for protecting ourselves and being aware of our surroundings??

After our first experience in the club, we decided to change our appearances, for me, again. I modified my avatar to have “Asian” skin, to be short and to have dreadlocks with large hips and shoulders. I also modified my face to have those traditionally beautiful features, but exaggerated. Mackai modified by changing from the X-Men Storm like character to a fat and large woman. Then, we teleported to another dance island to test out our new looks. This time although there were also a lot of people there, there were significantly less people coming up to talk to us. We decided to be a little more aggressive and approach people and talk to them. This worked for a few people, but there were also quite a few who suddenly disappeared during our conversation.

After we had our fun at the dance club, we searched for another place to go. Again using the search feature, we moved to a formal dance island. Here, everyone’s avatar was dressed up in formal gowns and dress attire. We were still looking as we did in the last dance club, dressed pretty inappropriate especially considering the extra flab we had added… In this location I again felt pretty uncomfortable. Not only did our appearance seem out of place, but also Mackai and I made a point to talk to people using only very slang and ghetto diction. In some cases, I could feel that people were turned off by our informal way of speaking and were quick to leave as the people in the dance club were. This was the case especially when it came to people who said they were from a country outside of America. On the other hand, I did notice that a few people I talked to started to adopt some of my linguistic nuances. In these cases, even though I still felt out of place (the general use of second life) I felt a little more comfortable. I wasn’t being who I was, but from what I could understand, neither was the person who I was talking to.

This instance helped me, in a small way, to understand part of the appeal of being someone else. The ability to frequently and completely alter your appearance made me wonder about what role this appearance plays to begin with. It seems like such a superficial thing, however it seems to play such an important role. What makes people choose to look the way they do? Also I wonder if people in second life are actually changing their appearances’ often or if they become attached to one type of look, do they identify with their avatars appearance because that seems to be the best way to express yourself in Second Life. Also I was surprised at how many places there were where you could buy body parts, skin, perfect hair, genitals, and body shapes. It is hard to tell if the pressure to look good is stronger in the real world (where one must work or pay to have the ideal body) or in the virtual world where essentially everyone can have it. It seems like one of the appealing factors of second life is the essential freedom to do whatever you want, but I see just another society with its traditions, taboos, and expectations
Overall my experience in second life frustrated me and did not really help me to understand the appeal. I guess that a lot of my hesitation is from being new to the program, but while using second life, I at no time had any real desire to get to know anyone. This seems so strange and unnatural to me. I frequently felt as if I was interrupting personal conversations and when I was approached, I was always wondering what the person’s intentions were (although do I doubt all were bad.) It also took me so long to find a place where there were people to talk to, that when I finally did find a place is was irritated and less eager to talk to people. Although second life is entertaining for a while, and I can understand how people spend hours on it, I don’t think that it is anything that I could ever see myself becoming addicted to.