Thursday, 12 February 2015

Exploring New Environments

This week in ‘Virtual environments’  we were assigned to meet our groups and explore three new places. Before meeting my group I decided to have a look around myself and see what ‘Second Life’ had to offer in terms of diversity. I have to say, there was quite some range of different things to see from dragon lands, games to help dwarves, to adult nudist beaches. But things to actually do I felt were limited as I found that most places you go to you either need money or to talk to people to get anything out of it. I can say that this could just be me, growing up in a household filled with male dominated games, I tend to be drawn towards games that there is either a car to race or some something to shoot or fight. Perhaps I need to adjust to ‘Second Lifes’  laid back and explore approach. Something that doesn't come naturally to me obviously.

What I did find very interesting was watching people interact and use their avatars in ‘Second Life’. I have to admit I saw some wild things which definitely showed how limitless the virtual environment of  ‘Second Life’ is and how it separates from reality because of the lack of rules and regulations. Avatars are virtually aloud roam and do what they want where they want, I guess every world has strange corners in it and strange people too. But what I find worrying about it is, from what I have experienced, people tend to hide away from themselves and immerse themselves into their avatars, saying what they want no matter how crude or rude it may be. For instance when I first arrived in ‘Second Life’ I was nearly immediately approached by a male avatar asking for me to ‘kiss him’ and following my avatar around shouting out ‘sexy’ and I won't even talk about the male avatar that told me he would ‘F*** me in the A**” (don't worry he immediately got blocked) not something that would tend to happen in reality or be socially  accepted (they would get a punch to the face). But in ‘Second Life’ its all game. And yes you find the nice polite people too but I have started to ask the question whether sites like ‘Second Life’ are only increasing in people’s lack of confidence in reality and hiding behind an avatar that is able to say and do whatever they want is their way out of accepting who they really are, is it a form of isolating themselves from reality?  Realistically people are able to use multiple different personalities, profiles and identities “Users have the freedom to embody any type of body and to be in any type of environment”(1).   “when you interact with people, both online and offline, they’ll build up an image of who you are over time”(2), but online you can be anyone. Because of how new and quickly these sites are progressing it is hard to say how they will affect the youth in the future and whether or not they will have a psychological effect upon the people that become engrossed in them.  

There is obviously many benefits to sites like this too and meeting up with my group was a clear example of the this. I was one of the two from Ireland as the rest of the group were from America and it showed how quickly ‘Second Life’ could put you into contact with people halfway across the world. An amazing development and achievement for technology and not even could we just converse but also explore and learn together. This form of interaction can allow us to brand ourselves off line as well as online “It's an important way to set yourself apart from the loud voices crowding online culture.”(3) . Also create a wider variety of contacts, not just to be friends, but could help develop your career and grow your network. However,this form of interaction will only develop and get better through the years so we must be aware of the dangers of this social media and online interactions being informed about what you're using and understanding that not everything is what it seems, enjoy it but be safe while doing it.

Location’s We Visited

Brazil Rio

Our group first decide to teleport our avatars to Brazil Rio. I was particularly interested in finding out how different countries, cities and cultures were portrayed. It was an interesting place and there were many people interacting in portuguese, it was fascinating to see that many people from Brazil chose to stay in the virtual home environment. It seems that even when we have most of the world at our feet, it seems the majority choice home. The main thing that I observed while walking around Brazil Rio was the large amount of advertising that was displayed everywhere. It was filled with branding, endorsements and posters trying to sell you their products. Many of these products were to do with your avatar's appearance it seems no matter how hard we try, body image is still a huge part of social standards, on or off line. It was disappointing to see little amounts of cultural representation as it felt as though you could have been anywhere.

The Maze 


I particularly was keen on exploring the games within ‘Second Life’ as I started to get a little bored with the endless walking, running or flying around places and wanted to see what it had to offer in regards to doing rather than just observing. So the idea of a maze seemed like a fun thing to do to and would be a good way for the group to experience different elements ‘Second Life’ has to offer. When our avatars arrived there there was instructions on how to complete the task, which involved holding a golden stick, and finding ten golden eggs within the maze and find your way to the top to win a prize. The concept of the game seemed simple and seemed to have a puzzle dimension to it. However, it was fun for about five minutes until you realised that their was no pattern or way to track where you had already been. The design elements were interesting in the sense that the walls moved but the patterns that the designer had used where to strong and got overbearing after a while. I think it was an interesting concept and could definitely work to be an entertaining game but needed some work on the dynamics of the game.  

The Castle

The castle was one of my favourite places to visit so far in ‘Second Life’. There was not a lot of people there to interact with but the design aspect of the castle was phenomenal. It really struck me how much time and dedication people put in to building ‘Second Life’. The castle had a huge amount of detail in it from large columns to stain glass windows in the church. It really was worth a visit to fly around and appreciated the design of it. I also think it was a good place for the group to visit as it showed how ‘Second life’ could be a good way of teaching people about history in an interactive and interesting way.

I think each place that was  visited allowed for the group to explore and experience the very different elements that ‘Second Life’ can offer. It developed a greater understanding of why and what people use ‘Second Life’ for.

Ending Here,


  1. Ahn, Sun Joo (Grace), Jeremy N. Bailenson, and Dooyeon Park. 2014. 'Short- And Long-Term Effects Of Embodied Experiences In Immersive Virtual Environments On Environmental Locus Of Control And Behavior'. Computers In Human Behavior 39: 235-245. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.07.025.
  2. Muse, The. 2012. 'The First Step To Building Your Personal Brand'. Forbes.
  3. Mashable,. 2014. 'The Lazy Person's Guide To Personal Branding'.

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