I, Avatar: Constructions of Self and Place in Second Life

Abstract:

Second Life is a unique three-dimensional virtual world that has been constructed by users through modeling tools, a scripting language, and a functioning economy with a virtual real estate market. The developers of Second Life see their user-constructed world as the first step toward fulfilling the vision of Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse. Second Life is a space where anyone can create and build avatars and dreamlike places that fulfill their desires–a "real" world that transcends the bounds of flesh and the actual, tangible world.

This article explores historic and current discourses on the construction of real and virtual spaces and selves, and considers the cultural and scientific construct of "virtual reality." It also describes the dream of transcendence derived from limitations of bodies and the "actual world." It places Second Life into the context of the evolution of computer-enabled virtual worlds and analyzes some of the economic, legal, psychological and philosophical implications of user-constructed virtual bodies and spaces within a virtual world supported by ownership, property and tangible "real world" economic value.

User-created virtual worlds enable users to build virtual lives, with virtual bodies, virtual objects and virtual homes, that can have real, tangible value and meaning. Second Life blurs and fragments boundaries and senses of self and place; it also functions as a virtual microcosm for cultural, economic and identity recombination. In these new frontiers, avatars and the spaces they build will continue to challenge our concept of reality and humanity. Read the BBC’s coverage of the issue at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4583924.stm.

Full Article (PDF):application/pdf iconDonald-E-Jones-I-Avatar.pdf

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