Monday, October 29, 2007

imagination and realness

Something I returned to thinking about more carefully this week that had been brought up in my section before is the effect of falseness and sincerity in online networking sites. danah boyd focuses on the ways teens use Myspace to interact with those they already know, and looks at falseness such as a fake name or location as a measure of protection rather than imagination. In Second Life, however, falseness is assumed – it is impossible to really look like yourself, and in most cases it is impossible even to retain your real life name, even if you wanted to. This does not strike me as being for protection, though maybe it is in some ways – there is that clause in the agreement that you will not share information about other people’s personal real life identity with others. But in general it seems to me that this is more for performance and imagination – Second Life, in my brief usage of it, seems more like an RPG than a social networking site, more like reading a book or watching a movie (albeit an interactive one) than having a conversation. Even in Snow Crash, people seemed to gather with those they already knew and to generally be known as their real world selves – unlike in Second Life, where anonymity seems more or less guaranteed if you desire it. I wonder if this might account for different demographics – I kind of assume that Second Life is geared towards adults while MySpace is for teens, though I don’t know this. It would be interesting to see how Second Life dynamics differ – in a way, there’s a lot more you can do in Second Life than MySpace (I think?), and so maybe they have inherently different purposes? Although I think Lena’s discussion with the Second Life mentor (now I wish I’d had one) shows that similar social codes about popularity still apply, this imagined world seems at least to have very different connections to offline communities than other social networking sites.

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