Thursday, April 24, 2008

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.

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