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Class 4: Who are you?

February 25, 2016

The class discussed the notion of online identity this week. We started by sharing experiences of trying to meet new people in SL. This proved interesting in many ways. Approaching complete strangers was simultaneously easier and harder than doing so in real life! Harder because participants were new to it and found it took courage and determination to introduce yourselves and begin a conversation. Easier because you were aware that all residents of SL had made a conscious decision to be here and therefore were signifying their willingness to engage with others. The comparison was made with joining a club or going to an entertainment venue where everyone acknowledges that they are in attendance for social interaction.

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Meeting new people in Second Life is both hard and easy!

There were some surprises at the direction conversations occasionally took. Participants discovered a slightly darker side of  the online world that offered ‘adult entertainment’. Just as in the real world, it is possible to encounter unsavoury characters and it is important to be aware of this side of online environments. However, unlike the real world it is easier to escape from an unpleasant experience by teleporting elsewhere or simply logging off.

Many of you suggested that SL offered the opportunity to present yourself in a new way – to experiment with the presence you offered online. Many residents present as animals or imaginary characters such as vampires or zombies. Even more ambiguous is the knowledge that we don’t really know who we are engaging with in an online environment. The cues we rely on in the real world are not available online. John suggested that this ambiguity also permeates notions of the ‘truth’. He gave the example of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog that received international attention when the supposedly lesbian author was revealed as an American male postgraduate student in 2011. The author claimed he was creating a voice for issues he felt strongly about but the public reaction to being hoaxed was less forgiving. John also mentioned last year’s controversy surrounding the white civil rights leader who passed herself off as black for years. One of the surprises in the Rachel Dolezal case is the amount of support she received after the truth was revealed. If people can be race-fluid or gender-fluid in real life it is unsurprising that they can present convincingly in SL.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Visit: a music or dance club in SL while it is active with other residents and soak up the ambience of online entertainment.
  2. Write the fouth post: to your blog describing your experience of social interaction in SL.  
  3. Read: The Lazy Person’s Guide to Personal Branding by Yohana Desta at Mashable  or Personal Branding Basics by Chris Brogan, expert in online community, social media, and related technologies  or The first Step to Building Your Personal Brand

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