Posts Tagged ‘Second Life’

Final Posting for the Romantic Picnic Project.

January 17, 2008

I started the Romantic Picnic project to learn more about what works and what does not work in a virtual world like Second Life. I started out with an idea of making a SIM where someone could have a romantic picnic. This was based on:

  1. I had attended several classes where items used on picnics were being created.
  2. Several SIMs had areas for picnics.
  3. Picnics were seen as romantic and there was a population in Second Life looking for romance.

So with the help of the SIM 2.0 group I received a small parcel of land. I created walls around the SIM for privacy. A waterfall was added as the main focus. The SIM was near the edge of the Island so I added plants along the walls leading to the ocean. At the edge of the ocean I placed a picnic blanket with poses for a couple and added a fire pit at the edge of the beach. It was a simple design with several of the key items being purchased instead of being created from scratch. What is funny is that I never received any negative comments about the final design. I have gone there at different times only to have to leave my own SIM because others were using it and I did not want to interrupt their privacy. I had successfully created a place for couples to have a romantic picnic.

That part went as I expected. However, I learned very little from it. Where learning took place was in the Discussion groups that I either attended in Second Life or hosted at my SIM. Here is what I learned.

  1. Appearance matters as much in Second Life as it does in real life. I have found that in my professional life people commonly judge me by the clothing I wear and how I carry myself. Coming to work in cloths that look like you slept in them can tend to make people think less of you. Well, in Second Life the same holds true. I traveled in Second Life as a Furry. I had a human body with a cartoon animal head and a stripped tail. What I found from talking to people was that when I hosted a discussion people would see the furry newbie and leave. Because of my appearance people judged my discussion as having little value. I know this because several people who showed up and left told me why when I followed up and asked them later.
  2. Layout of the SIM matters. The design of my SIM was fine for a couple having a romantic picnic. It used a small space and provided privacy without being within a building. However, for holding discussions it did not meet expectations. Asking people to sit on the ground near a fire pit failed. It was another reason people did showed up and left discussions. If you attend discussions in Second Life you will generally find that special places are built that provide structured places to sit and maybe some type of display board or presentation screen. Asking people to sit at random around a fire did not live up to their expectations. Again this was confirmed by following up with people who left.
  3. Second Life is a chunky soap. What I mean by this is that people have many reasons for being there and many things that they do there. Getting attention can be very hard. You can post a discussion easy enough. However, getting people to show up is quit another thing. If you wish to host discussions it helps to attend other discussions and establish yourself as someone who is worth listening to. This is not always an easy task. Sometimes it is hard to get a word in. And you have to choose your words carefully in many instances when there are competing ideas. It is not uncommon for discussions to turn into debates and moderators to fight to maintain control of the discussion. As you build your reputation by attending discussions you also build your links to communities. The successful discussions have regulars and repeat attendees. They create their own community of people interested in the subjects that they offer for discussion. The concept of creating a community can’t be overstressed. This is the heart of Second Life.
  4. As I talked with people and walked the world of Second Life looking like a cartoon raccoon in clothing, I found people seeking solitude. Second Life offered the opportunity to create virtual areas of outstanding natural beauty. There are great beaches, tropical jungles, etc. I explored many of these seeking places for romantic picnics. I found romantic picnics happening with couples. I also found a lot of individuals who went to these places to be alone. People were coming to these places to unwind, meditate, deal with the stress of work, etc. Doing a little research I discovered that some people have a need for a certain amount of solitude. What I never expected was that it could be obtained in a computer screen. In my research I found where video games have be used to reduce stress by distracting one from the real world. I also found a lot of examples of images and pictures being used to help relieve stress. Due to the immersive nature of 3-D it makes sense that one can go beyond just mentally imaging a happy place. They can go there as an avatar. The avatar becomes an extension of them.
  5. I had the preconceived idea that a romantic place had to be private. Second Life quickly changed that idea. Some of the most romantic places to a lot of people where dance clubs. It was a combination of romantic music, dancing, and being seen. For some people being able to show themselves off was an important part of their concept of romance. When I started I never considered the value of being the center of attention. Thinking back I should have known better. I still remember sending my wife flowers at work when we were dating just because I knew it would make her the center of attention at work for that day and win me more points then if I just sent some flowers to her home.

So the romantic picnic experiment is now over. I have traded my furry avatar for what passed as popular in Second Life. My avatar IB WISE now looks like many of the other human avatars that I have seen attending discussions. Where I go from here I do not know. I believe that 3-D will be an important part of the future of the Internet in years to come. So I will continue to travel the world of Second Life learning as I travel.

For those of you who took the time to read my blogs, I would like to thank you. If you are ever in Second Life look for IB WISE.

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Pitfalls of romantic relationships in a virtual world.

November 27, 2007

Pitfalls of romantic relationships in a virtual world.

 

I have been attending discussions held in the virtual world Second Life for a while now. A couple of weeks ago I attended one that centered on a couple that had been together a year. In the real world that is not a big thing but in Second Life where most romantic relationships last only a couple of months, it attracted a lot of attention. As I sat through yet another discussion of relationships in a virtual world, I heard many of the same things I have heard at countless other discussions. A major pitfall of online relationships is that it allows people for the most part, to stay in a fantasy. One can allow their ego and id to run wild. You can try to recreate that time in your life when you were free from major responsibilities and experiencing the excitement of romance. Those golden late teen and early twenty years. Or you can become your perfect alter ego. With the ideal body and looks you can never have in real life. You can create that emotional high that results in the production of neurotransmitters known for pleasure which are released for natural pain control, and are chemically similar to heroin and pain medication. One can literally experience a romantic high.

 

Unfortunately, seeking this romantic high may prevent the development of deep friendships, mutual trust, meaningful communication, etc. These are all parts of a relationship that lead to lasting relationships. In a virtual world you can experience, share and experience, and/or communicate. To me, people seeking the romantic high seem to share similar traits with people seeking virtual sex. Both are seeking experiences that will result in a HIGH for them personally. When the experience no longer results in a HIGH then they move off to find a new experience that will result in a HIGH. They are not really looking for true relationships with all the aspects that would go along with a relationship. They are only seeking personnel satisfaction.

 

In a real relationship, virtual or real life, one will notice idiosyncrasies about the other person in the relationship, that the person is messy, or has a bad habit that they do not like. Such idiosyncrasies only interfere with the desired experience. This may explain why I am now noticing people who either actively are seeking a certain type of experience in Second Life. I can now purchase an experience that matches my fantasy. Or I can fill the role in someone else’s fantasy for a fee. I do not have to have a real relationship. If I have the money I can buy the relationship I desire. What was only available to the wealthy in real life, buying your fantasy relationship, is now affordable to middle class Americans. What long term results this will have on society I do not know. Virtual worlds are really just beginning and only a small percentage of the Internet community participates in them. However, being 47 years old and watching the development of whole new technologies, I can see that the immersive world’s produced by 3-D technology such as Second Life offer the possibilities for impacting America culture in a totally new way.

 

If you have opinions please comment.

Thoughts from a discussion on Romance in Second Life

November 27, 2007

My wife attended a discussion on romantic relationships in Second Life a week or so ago. I have been spending time with family and have just gotten around writing about it. First I should clarify that my wife and I are both in our 40’s and this was the first time she has ever attended any type of discussion in Second Life. To her Second Life is just some type of role playing game that people, myself included, take too seriously. Fortunately for me she is willing to help me on my “Romantic Picnic Project”. Although I did have to bribe her with breakfast at her favorite restaurant.

 

So back to the discussion, my take on my wife’s impression was that the women were really looking for a more immersive romance novel. Many of them have true relationships in Second Life that are not romantic. The relationships seem to be more like ones may make on a brief meeting such as a business trip or vacation and continue through letters and/or email.

 

The romance part seemed to be more role playing. Building a fantasy such as recapturing that first teenage romance. Taking that trashy romance novel that you have reread ten times and trying to create your favorite parts in Second Life. I have been in Second Life enough to understand this. My wife was surprised by how drawn in women were emotionally with what to her was just role playing. It was hard for my wife to appreciate the emotional energy that was put into the romance and then the breakup. I tried to explain the emotional high that the romance in Second Life can create along with the crash that comes when it ends. Having not been in a Second Life myself I had to use examples of others I have talked to. This probably explains the strange look my wife gave me along with “OK”. It is hard to explain to someone who has not spent time in Second Life that for some people it really is a Second Life.

 

The subject of stalking came up in the discussion also. My wife was surprised about this aspect of Second Life. Some of the young women have had men try to stalk them in Real Life. Being 47, over weight and balding my wife is not worried about me being stalked. However, she was a little surprised with how easy it was to use email and the Internet to identify who you really are.  In Second Life there is a high level of anonymity. This leads to behavior in Second Life that one may never do in Real Life. The anonymity is only lost when you willingly give information to someone. Like sending them pictures, etc. If the example of the stalkers is true then it would seem to me that some men are also creating fantasies that they are then trying to take into the Real World. Second Life is a world where you can be perfect. Unfortunately, this perfection can not be transferred to the Real World. In the real world we may be over weight, unattractive, etc. The Real World has warts no matter how much we may wish they did not exist.

 

Second Life is a world where our alter egos can run free. The fantasy of romance can thrive, and we can achieve that which we can’t in the Real World. Or those who don’t have a wife who reminds them that it is just a role playing game 🙂

Is Romance in a virtual world real?

October 29, 2007

Romance in the virtual world, is it really that different than in the real world? I started this project to look at Transreality which is about goods and/or services that have aspects in the real world and the digital world. What I am finding is that romance itself has become transreal. Romance can now exist in both the real world and the new virtual worlds. I guess I should not be surprised because relationships have existed throughout history so long as both parties could communicate in some manner. The Internet has been all about communication. So it has become another means of allowing a romance. What’s new to all of this is the 3-D virtual worlds and the use of Avatars. To understand why, you really have to go back in time to a period before the first PC. To a time when the first Role Playing games came out, such as Dungeons and Dragons. What people found back then was that for some people the roles they played in the game became their alter egos. Some people became depressed and emotionally impacted when their character died in the game. Now jump to 2007 and current avatars used in 3-D virtual worlds and the book titled “Alter Ego, Avatars and their creators”. In the book Robbie Cooper, Julian Dibbell, and Tracy Spaight let people who use avatars in different virtual worlds explain a little about their avatars. As you read through the book you see how avatars can become an extension of the people who use them in a 3-D virtual world.

 

So what do avatars have to do with romance? Avatars and the whole 3-D virtual environment allow a much deeper emotional involvement then were ever possible before, using the Internet. You have personnel space in a 3-D world. You can choose to share it or prevent others from invading it. Many of our behaviors in real life are reflected when we use an avatar because the avatar becomes an extension of ourselves. In the virtual world call Second Life this has become very clear. As I traveled through Second Life this week I attended a discussion on relationships in Second Life. The discussion verified a lot of what I had already observed. For those people seeking relationships, many of the guys seem to be looking for sex; many of the women seem to be seeking romance. This can be verified by the fact that you can find clubs where a guy can hire a female escort. Yet you find few clubs setup for a female to hire a male escort. People’s behavior in real life tends to carry over in their virtual life. Unfortunately, this is not really appreciated by the people who “play” the game of romance in the virtual world.

Second Life allows someone to create just that, a second life away from their real life. People meet new people. They make friends and even fall in love. What is interesting is that people have no trouble accepting that the friendships they make in Second Life are real friendships. They may never meet someone in real life but many of the friendships are as important as ones they may have in real life. Now here the interesting part, at the same time they believe that romance in Second Life can be treated as game. They meet someone, share a number of romantic experiences, in some cases they may even hold a virtual wedding. They tell themselves it is just for fun or it is just a game. In the end one of the two ends the relationship for one reason or another. It is when things end and they experience all the emotional pain that they really appreciate just how “Real” their emotional involvement was.

Over the last month or so I have been talking to people about this. I have heard people tell me about talking to their real life partners about their relationships in Second Life. Some have even gotten their partners blessing on their virtual weddings. After all, it is not real, it is just a game, what harm can it do. The trouble is that these romantic relationships in Second Life tend to be short for a number of reasons. I have heard several stories of the people who had the blessing of their partner for a virtual wedding, needing to be comforted emotionally by that same partner when the virtual relationship ended. They were surprised by how real the emotional pain of the breakup was.

At the same time there is another group of people that follow the “What happens in Second Life, stays in Second Life” philosophy. These are the ones who have real life partners who are unaware of their activities in the virtual world.

If you seek virtual sex, or find a romantic partner in a virtual world such as Second Life, are you really cheating on you real life partner? After all Second Life is just a game not real life. Do you really lessen your real life relationship by marrying someone in a virtual wedding that your partner does not know about? These are interesting moral questions for which I only have answers for myself. But as the popularity of virtual worlds and use of avatars grows these are questions that more and more real life couples will have to deal with. For it takes time and emotional energy to maintain any type of romantic relationship.

 

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Is it easier to find romance in the land of beautiful people?

October 24, 2007

Is it easier to find romance in the land of beautiful people?

 

What if you could be your idea of perfection? Would all the phobias and hang-up you have about yourself go away? In a 3D world such as Second Life you can be almost anything you want to be. You can create an Avatar that can be your idea of perfection. That was a point that came up last Saturday during the discussion about Romantic Picnics. It would seem that people, who decide to represent themselves with a human avatar, tend to only select attractive avatars. You see very few ugly human avatars in Second Life. In fact you tend to find people spending money to have the most attractive avatars possible. One can dress in a variety clothing to make different fashion statements to the 3D world. Many people have a collection of bodies as well as clothing. They trade avatar bodies more than most people change clothes. So again, what impact does this have on the self esteem and image people in Second Life have about themselves? Are they more at ease because they are now one of the beautiful people? Are they attracted to others in Second Life because of the appearance of another’s avatar? Do they put aside their own phobias and hang-ups about themselves in real life? For once you have become one of the popular branded avatars you have become one of the beautiful people. I have stated before that people enter relationships not because of how they feel about the other person, but because of how the other person makes us feel about ourselves. Can representing ourselves to others using beautiful bodies make us feel better about ourselves. If so does this make romance easier to achieve in a virtual 3D world?

 

Let me know what you think, comment on this.

About this Blog

October 10, 2007

This blog is part of work I am doing in Second Life.  This is an experiment in Transreality (See alexanderkeenan.wordpress.com for blogs on my idea of Transreality). The theme of this project is the Romantic picnic. This topic was taken because:

1.      Romance and Picnics are popular in Second Life. Some of the first things people learn to make are many times picnic items such as blankets, baskets, beach chairs, etc. So it fits in with the Second Life culture.

2.      I have found many photos and videos with the romantic picnic theme on the Internet. What make these interesting is that people want to share their experiences. In many cases the video and photo along with a few words of text are the only way they can share what was a very positive moment in their life. It makes them feel good to share these positive feelings with others.

3.      Picnics are about food, and that is an area that everyone has opinions on. There is a great deal of recipes available on picnic food. The Internet is full of people promoting beverages, and food items for romantic picnic.

4.      Picnics are about Location, Location, and Location. Many times the location sets the stage for the romantic picnic. There are two groups of people providing information on locations for romantic picnics. The first are people sharing their real life experiences. The second is the tourist industry with each location competing for the romantic couple’s attention.

5.      A romantic picnic requires props and items to make the romantic picnic happen. They can be baskets, chairs, chillers for your wine, etc. There are thousands of items for sale on the Internet that work with the romantic picnic. Many of these items can also be produced in the virtual world of Second Life.

So what is romance?
For some people the romance novel comes to mind. Per Elaine Grimes, “a romance novel is the romantic story of how a relationship develops between one man and one woman that ends happily in spit of significant problems.” This give a romantic picnic the function of removing one from the cares and stress of those “significant problems” so the relationship can grow.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, short version, romance is pretty much a lie, a fantasy, a dressed-up fib, a story, a ‘wild and wanton’ exaggeration. Another way of looking at this can be for a short period of time we can live outside our everyday world and exist in a private fantasy world of our own making. On a romantic picnic the one you are with becomes your focus of attention. If you read some blogs on real experiences you will find that on the best of romantic picnic a person was made to feel like they were the most important person in the world, if only for a few hours.
Finally, I have read in several places that a person does not stay in a relationship because of how they feel about the other person; they stay because of how the other person makes them feel about themselves.

With that being said I will define the “Romantic Picnic” as an event that temporarily removes two people from the cares and worries of the day to day world. The focus should be on the other person not oneself. And it should enforce a more positive self image after the picnic is over. Think of it as a hot bed of coals compared to the quick flash fire. The hot coals provide warm and comfort long after the flames have died. Defining this experience in Real World and Virtual world will hopefully be the result of this experiment.

Let me know what you think, comments and feedback would be most helpful.

In Second Life I am “IB WISE” and my project is located at:
“SINNIQ SIM 01 (110, 8, 23)”
This is a work in process. I will be posting information at this blog as this work progresses.