Since my last posting regarding "between 2 worlds", I came across an article in TIME magazine called "Second Life's Real World Problems" - see the article for yourself: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1651500,00.html
and i thought it would be a fitting sequence to write about Second Life, having just written about living between two worlds, even if the two subjects are completely different.
If you don't know Second Life, it is an online virutal world where people create computer characters (called avatars) who can open businesses, travel the "world", drink, party, have sex, and shop for shoes in this enormous, highly interactive virtual world. Admittedly, having never personally signed up for it, I've been following articles on Second Life for a while now, and finally have decided to reflect on it. What promted such reflection was this TIME article. A major development recently has been that real businesses in the real world are opening virtual businesses in Second Life and selling virtual products (like Nike shoes for your avatar) but for real money. Apparently its becoming quite a big deal and lots of real money is being exchagned, a veritable virtual economy.
When i first read about Second Life, my first inclination was not suprise, but rather, 'well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.' And of course shortly thereafter stories appeared about folks who spend more time on Second Life than they do at their jobs in real life, which they probably have consequently lost. Initially my concern was, and to some extent still is, the Matrix factor. In all seriousness, we are only one step away from plugging our brains in to interface with this technology, rather than use our hands. And every sci-fi movie ever made on the subject seems to think that jacking in is a bad idea. Nonetheless, my point is not to throw rocks at Second Life, but rather to see it and the many other products, novelties, and technologies out there like it, in terms of what is revealed about human nature in them.
People are hard wired for relationships. We seek them out no matter what. 'Any relationship is better than no relationship' is the mentality, conscious or subconsious, that often leads to co-dependent abusive situations. In "Cast Away", tom hank's character forms a relationship with a volleyball while trapped on his deserted island. When relationships in the real world become to difficult or painful or just not there, we still seek them out online. What struck me in the above article, is that people are now getting significantly malcontent online.
This is quoted from the article: "some devotees are so upset by increasing commercialization that a group called the Second Life Liberation Army last year gunned down virtual shoppers at American Apparel. So-called griefing, or on-site harassment, is on the rise. Says Gartner research chief Steve Prentice: "Second Life is moving into a phase of disillusionment." Wow, even VR can't escape it.Now we have avatar shooting rampages happening - the world, it seems, is an ugly place, and you can't hide from that fact, even in a virtual world.
So where does all this lead me? Being a bit of a Potter-phile, I re-read the whole series before Deathly Hallows was released, and there is a remarkable line by Dumbledore in Book1. He says to Harry, who has been spending a lot of time looking into a magical mirror (which has been showing him images of his long dead parents), that the mirror gives us neither knowledge nor truth, and that "It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live in the real world." Perhaps an ironic truth to be told by a wizard in a world famous fantasy novel series, but the point is taken. There is no substitute for real relationships, however appealing and fun, and even deeply connective virtual ones may be. Even if this is all true, it is still only diagnostic. How do people deal with the ugliness of the world and the problems of relating to other people?