Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Should the Virtual World be considered "real"?

Considering my first introductions to the virtual worlds of Second life and the idea of MUD's were in this class, I am overwhelmed at the wide range of issues related to these virtual worlds. As i said in my last blog entry, and as it seems most other students are, i am quite familiar with social profile sites but these where one creates a whole new identity are completely new.

The topics which are discussed in the Jenkins and Boyd articles are some which i have thought about on my own and the articles have simply supplemented a few new ideas. I see the ability to use the Internet as a communication tool a very important skill which will have great implications on the future of students like us. As i was discussing with my roommate, I am so glad that i have grown up in a time where the use of computers and later the Internet have been embedded in my general knowledge rather than having to go out and try to learn these things. I see a lot of the issues which i consider important regarding personal profiles such as onmyspace and facebook as smaller scale versions of those which arise when creating "virtual selves" (as i see them) in the world of SL and MUD's.

The "Rape in Cyberspace" article by Dibbel rose in me many questions regarding the legitimacy of the claim made in the title. This is the first time i was introduced to the idea of a MUD and the beginning of the article was very confusing to me because of the lack of explanation and assumption of knowledge on the topic. One of the first paragraphs introduces me to the virtual mansion where the incident, and world ofLambdaMoo , take place. It seems like it is a world which promises to be better than the real world which the users are living in. The problem is that you don't really live in it! It is so confusing to me how a person can find satisfaction by living vicariously through a virtual person in a virtual world.

Also in the Dibbel article, one user describes how she has been raped in the real world as well as various times in the virtual world. To me this is very confusing: why would you continue to put yourself in a situation where something that is so harmful keeps occurring? Sure, i can see where this is sounding a little "blame the victim"-ish but seriously if this person feels so deeply connected and dependent on this virtual world that she must keep returning to it even though it has repeatedly hurt her, i think there are much more serious issues at stake.

The issue of "toading" which came up in both the Dibbell article and the Rheingold as well is another topic which i find very interesting. Dibble describes when the idea of "toading" the Mr. Bungle first was introduced. It is my understanding that people thought this a very absurd and extreme action to take against a member ofLambdaMoo . It seems simple enough to me- if you violate the "community" (which Bungle obviously did) shouldn't it be obvious that they would be asked to leave (or turned into a toad)?

Rheingold has led me to conclude that MUDs allow for people to create virtual symbols of their self. Symbols are such a vital key in understanding our self and with the development of MUD and SL people are now able to create a symbol of self in a virtual and concrete way. The extreme of this is that people are now creating new identities for themselves. This makes me wonder do you really need or want to be in control of more than one identity?? I don't know about other people, but i have a hard enough time keeping my self straight, i cant imagine trying to figure out another version of me! Also, by creating these identities, the users of these virtual worlds are in effect creating the worlds themselves. This represents a desire for an ultimate control of the self and of the world which it is surrounded by. Users are able to "play" these "games" whenever they want and quit whenever they want.

Basically what i have come to understand through these articles and my respectively little use of SL is that people are participating in these programs in order to fulfill desires (of control, sexual nature, improving self) which cannot be achieved in the real world.

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