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.