"Is one life enough?" was the question we opened with, at the start of this semester. A question that can't quite be openly answered, a question that has no right answer, and a question that could perhaps still be up for debate generations beyond our own. After watching a documentary on Second Life (Life 2.0) I started wonder about identity, perceptions, and living a second life. I myself have never been a technology, social media, or on-line enthusiast and rather shy away from on-line interaction with people. Perhaps this is just in my make-up. I rather being out doors, on a motorbike or just generally finding new adventure's in the mountains (quite literally as I live in the Wicklow mountains). I enjoy the company of my friends and family and have never felt the need to be anything other than I am. Honestly, communicating with someone that I have never met in person makes me uncomfortable. To be true, this Second Life, Virtual Environments, module centred around technology, has left me completely out of my comfort zone and something I would of never have considered before. But what if this was not how I felt? What if I found it hard to communicate with individuals in RL, or just rathered being on-line than out side? What if I felt the need to create an alter ego? Would one life simply not be enough? Or would real life become the second life? I engrossed my self in the documentary Life 2.0, asking my self all these questions and wondering what separates Second Life users needs from my own. After watching I decided once again to explore the world of Second Life, this time teleporting to anywhere and everywhere from fairy lands, to shopping centres, city's to country's, swimming in the sea to riding a bicycle on land. Yet, still I did not get the appeal and the entire time I roamed and talked to people, I felt their must be something I was missing. There must be more to this that draws people in and allows them to become consumed. As I could not find my answer in Second Life I decided to do a bit of on-line research.
'TED Talks' hosted a presentation on Second Life in 2008 (www.ted.com/talks) where Philip Rosedale talks about the virtual community he founded and the hidden involvement it has had on human creativity. Explaining how, as a child, he was extremely creative and how later in life he became interested in computer programming. He discusses when the internet came along he just wanted to create a world that would, in some way, recreate the laws of physics and the rules on how things came together. His idea was about "being able to make things." He also discusses the appeal of discovering space, like the child's dream of exploring space and becoming something new. In Rosedale's eyes, virtual spaces allow this to happen. Allowing us to recreate ourselves "in the disembodied world of electronic communication, identity floats free of the stable anchor that the body provides in the real world"(1) it contains anything and everything. Within Second Life there is the possibility to be anyone without the RL restrictions; "there is no body to anchor identity. One can have as many electronic persona as one has time and energy to create."(2). For those who do not feel comfortable being just themselves there are endless possibility;
" A single person can create multiple electronic identities, their only link their common progenitor, a link which is invisible in the virtual world. A man can create a female identity; a high-school student can claim to be an expert in virology"(3).
This is an appeal within Second Life perhaps because, their is no stigma on appearance, age, gender or culture stereotypes. Similar to this, Howard Rheingold in his article A Slice of Life in My Virtual Community explains, because of his job, how he was alone for the majority of the day and had little opportunities to expand his circle. However, although psychically isolated he feels less alone because of his virtual community explaining "I have participated in a wide-ranging, intellectually stimulating, professionally rewarding, sometimes painful, and often intensely emotional ongoing interchange with dozens of new friends, hundreds of colleagues, thousands of acquaintances."(4). For Rheingold, virtual spaces has opened a doorway for him to communicate and interact with others. Another appeal of Second Life is creating, consuming and exploring information which is explicitly and inherently social within virtual environments.
There is not one thing to pin point why Second Life and virtual environments appeal to certain people and not to others. What seem to be prevalent in all sources of information I found was that for certain individuals, it was a way of interacting, creating, learning and experience with other people. Whether they found it easier because of their schedule, their personality or finding people similar to themselves, it was their way of communicating and finding friends and a community that suited them. I have not gained the ultimate answer to whether or not one life is enough. I think no amount research could ever answer it definitively, but what I have learned is, one life is enough for me. For others, the same cannot be said and that is completely and utterly OK! If we were all the same, life would be a very boring and lonely place.
(1), (2), (3), Donath, Judith S. "Identity and deception in the virtual community."Communities in cyberspace 1996 (1999): 29-59.
(4) Rheingold, Howard. "A slice of my life in my virtual community." High noon on the electronic frontier: Conceptual issues in cyberspace (1996): 413-36.
Taylor, Tina L. "Living digitally: Embodiment in virtual worlds." In The social life of avatars, pp. 40-62. Springer London, 2002.
Life 2.0 documentary