Body (and head) shaming in Second Life, and the definition of self.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Second_Life_logo.svg

Becca observes that, as in real life, Body Shaming is a thing in Second Life. She then goes on to talk about mesh heads vs system heads, and the fact that how we look in Second Life defines us even more than in real life. 

Last week I joined a Facebook Group called “Second Life Friends” and there was a discussion on facelights, so I decided to post a link to an old blog article I wrote back in 2012 that is as still as relevant now as it was then.

During the resulting Facebook thread, I got body shamed by a poster over the fact that I do not as yet use a mesh head, and who poured scorn on me and my look, as if how I look made my opinion irrelevant.

Then, yesterday, I updated my post “Unencumbered by the trappings of Real Life” about whether there should still be a clear separation between Second Life and real life, or should Second Life be merely an extension or augmentation of our online presence.

I posted it to the same group, and it started off a lively debate. The debate deviated somewhat into the whole thing of mesh heads again. On the whole it was a civil and interesting debate, and my replies to it gave rise to this article.

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Unencumbered by the trappings of Real Life (revisited)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Second_Life_logo.svgBecca asks: “Should there be a clear separation between Second Life and real life, or should Second Life be merely an extension or augmentation of our online presence?”

Back in 2012 I wrote an article called “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life“. Some things are still as true then as they are now, whilst other things are a little out of date, so I have decided to revisit it and update it.

Some of the people I meet in Second Life want to know all about my real life, about how I look or where I live, or how old I am, or any number of other things. And I tell them that, quite apart from privacy, I simply don’t see things like that as having any relevance to my Second Life. And, further, I don’t particularly want them to volunteer anything about themselves either. I’m simply not interested in their “skinvelope” (or, as I have heard others refer to it, their “meatsack” or “meat rider”, which I confess aren’t phrases I’m particularly enamoured with) and want to get to know the real person, unencumbered by the trappings of real life. Some of these people have got quite defensive about my attitude and asked how I can know the real person when I say I don’t want to know the real life person. Some have even called me crazy. Well, allow me to explain what I mean.

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Unencumbered by the trappings of real life

An updated version of this article is now available here

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of opinion on Rigged Mesh, and the efforts of Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz, formerly Qarl Linden) to address the fundamental deficiencies of it with the Parametric Deformer project.

That’s been covered elsewhere in great detail and I don’t think I can add much to the debate directly on that although will provide some links at the end.

However, it has got me thinking about what Second Life means to me, what I view as important and how I interact with other people.

Some of the people I meet want to know all about my real life, about how I look or where I live, or how old I am, or any number of other things. And I tell them that, quite apart from privacy, I simply don’t see things like that as having any relevance to my Second Life. And, further, I don’t particularly want them to volunteer anything about themselves either. I’m simply not interested in their “skinvelope” (or, as I have heard others refer to it, their “meatsack” or “meat rider”, which I confess aren’t phrases I’m particularly enamoured with) and want to get to know the real person, unencumbered by the trappings of real life. Some of these people have got quite defensive about my attitude and asked how I can know the real person when I say I don’t want to know the real life person. Some have even called me crazy. Well, allow me to explain what I mean.

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Second Life increasingly a misnomer?

There has always been a blur between Second Life (SL) and real life (RL), with residents choosing how separate they want to keep the two.
However, it seems to me that Linden Lab (LL) are losing sight of what SL is meant to be. Or, if you prefer to rephrase that, they are moving SL in directions that are different from how they started out. And, increasingly, those changes are removing some of the choice residents have as to how separate the two remain.

For me, the clue is in the name “Second Life” – an alternative life, secondary and separate from your real one. But it seems that is becoming less and less the focus of SL, with residents being encouraged (and in some cases forced) to involve their RL more and more in their SL.

So when did this rot start to set in?

Some might say it started with Age Verification where you were required to provide some form of RL identification. This was probably the first time you were required to disclose your RL identity. Up until then, provided you didn’t have payment information on file and were using a free email address like Hotmail, Yahoo, etc., there was no link between your RL identity and your SL one.

Others might say it started when LL stopped the idea of a firstname & lastname and instead moved to having just a username and an optional Display Name. In many ways this weakened the separation between SL and RL – a username is just a login for a website or service. You were no longer creating an identity or character; you were just creating an account. Perhaps the distinction is subtle, but I think it is relevant and significant.

Others might say that it was the introduction of Viewer 2.0 and the different way in which it presented profiles, no longer calling the tabs “2nd Life” and “1st Life” but “Avatar” and “More Info”.
Or perhaps Viewer 2.0’s emphasis on voice chat, with text-based interaction being de-emphasised and harder to find in the User Interface.

But, for me, what really highlights the fundamental shift in attitude are the profiles at http://my.secondlife.com

One of the sections of your profile is called “Social Identities” where you are able to link with your Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Plurk, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Now I happen to know that Facebook and LinkedIn are adamant that you must use your real name and real identity to have an account with them. Yes, many SL residents do have a Facebook account for their Avatar but you are on borrowed time there – when Facebook get round to noticing they *will* delete that account.
So Linden Lab are encouraging you to link your SL account with RL services that only have relevance to your RL.

Of course, you could argue that just because LL allow you to do this it doesn’t mean you have to – and you would obviously be right. But I think it highlights a push by LL to make Second Life just another social media / social networking tool; a glorified 3D chatroom and messaging facility for the casual user, with the immersion and roleplay that many of us enjoy being of secondary importance. There is even talk of a reduced functionality internet browser-based Viewer to make SL “more accessible” to more people. And if that doesn’t sound foreboding to you, then it probably should do.

So one has to beg the question at what point Linden Lab should rename “Second Life” to “Augmented Life”?

 


Update:

Here are some links to the issue of Facebook deleting accounts of SL avatars

http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Forums-Blogs-Answers-and/Facebook-deleting-Secondlife-Avatars/td-p/887663
http://community.secondlife.com/t5/General-Discussion-Forum/Deletion-Of-Hundreds-Of-Second-Life-Facebook-Accounts-Being/td-p/884697
http://virtualoutworlding.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/your-avatar-identity-in-facebook-issues.html

Display Names – what could go wrong?

There’s a lot of buzz about the new Display Names feature that will allow you to appear to change your avatar’s name.

I’ve heard a lot of people remark that this sounds wonderful, because they’ll be able to call themselves “Sensible Name” rather than  “SomeStupidNameBigBoobies69 Sillyname” (which was funny right up until the point they realised they couldn’t change it).

Well, yes. But unfortunately they’ll also be able to call themselves “Jackie Graves”, “Stiletto Moody” or “Truth Hawks”. But not “Torley Linden”.

Why not “Torley Linden”? Because the Lindens recognise that could lead to confusion. That’s right, they are not going to put any safeguard in to prevent impersonation, Phishing, character assassination, smear campaigns or trashing someone’s reputation unless it’s one of them.

This just seems totally insane to me. If there is no issue with impersonation, as the Lindens want us to believe, then why stop people using the name “Linden” in a Display Name? Or, if is more obviously the case, there *is* an issue then why are they not taking steps to protect *our* identities as well as their own?

The response Linden Lab are making is that these are only Display Names and people can drill down into the profile to see the username. That’s all well and good, but in the Real World we know that email-based Phishing attacks are successful. Do ordinary users look at email headers to see what the actual email account is when the display name is “PayPal” or “Amazon” or <insert the name of your bank here>
Of course they don’t. Nor do they check the actual URL on a link that looks like http://www.paypal.com but which actually points to http://www.somedodgyphishingsite.com
So why on earth do the Lindens think users will be any different in Second Life? They’ll just file an Abuse Report against the person that they *think* is griefing them. Or buy dodgy counterfeit or malicious objects from someone they *think* is a legitimate seller.

There are several JIRA entries open on this subject, and as usual a lot of well thought out and well-explained comments and suggestions made by SL residents on them that will almost certainly be ignored by LL and ridden roughshod over.
http://jira.secondlife.com/browse/SVC-6194
http://jira.secondlife.com/browse/VWR-21053
(you may need to log in with your SL username and password to view those. It’s part of the Second Life website so safe to do so)

Likewise, there are a load of intelligent comments, suggestions and concerns in the feedback on the recent Second Life blog announcement on Display Names:
http://blogs.secondlife.com/community/features/blog/2010/08/31/display-names-project-viewer-now-available…

Personally I think the down sides of Display Names in their current form massively outnumber the up sides. However, I am depressively resigned to the fact that all reasonable debate will be ignored by the Lindens and they will press on regardless.