Sunday, October 17, 2010

Second Life Infection

When beginning Second Life, I believed my experience would be filled with solitary experimentation and a reflection on that experience stimulated by media theory. But, an unexpected personal dimension has risen. I asked my girlfriend from Toronto, who I have been in contact with through video chat on an every-other-day basis to join SL so that we could spend time together in the virtual world. I sent her stills of my avatar over email. It was clear though, through my stills that: A. my character was not modeled after myself, and B. that my time in second life what predominantly solitary.

My girlfriend, who is a shy, and rather solitary fiction writer, joined SL, modeled her avatar after herself and immediately made friends by accepting an avatar’s invitation at Orientation Island to become a vampire. After a couple days, between text messages and video chat it became clear that she spending a lot of time in world, and her time on SL was predominantly social: attending dance parties, nude beaches, and underworld-fashioned mansion parties. Next, to my surprise she posted photos of herself having SL sex with a tight-bodied nude- blond onto her facebook wall. This incident has brought up many complexities for me concerning to what degree SL is a ‘real’ experience. Many of my friends have suggested that SL is not ‘real’ when I talk about my girlfriend’s public exhibition of her SL sex encounter. Is reality dependant on physical presence of both people in the experience?

Philip Auslander brings up Steve Wurtzler’s criticality of history’s binary position to events being either live or recorded in ‘Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture’: “As socially and historically produced, the categories of the live and the recorded are defined in a mutually exclusive relationship, in that the notion of the live is premised on the absence of the recording and the defining fact of the recorded is the absence of the live” (Wurtzler). Wurtzler challenges this traditional view by discussing live TV or live radio as a situation where, as Auslander reiterates, “performance and audience are spatially separate but temporally co-present”; or like a lip-synched concert, where “performance and audience are spatially co-present but elements of the performance are pre-recorded.”

What’s interesting about Second life is that the experience is similar to live television recording, where, the performance is spatially separate from the audience but they share temporarily. Though unlike television, the axis of communication is not one performer to many audiences, (to use Clay Shirky’s wording) but rather one to one. Making it a personal interaction yet confusing the traditional performer and spectator roles. One becomes a performer and a dual or split audience: performing for the other avatar while watching the other avatar perform as well as watching ones own avatar perform.

No comments:

Post a Comment