Why? Why? Tell them that it’s [virtual] human nature.

Do the stigmas of real life identity and society have to hold true in virtual life? Are racism and gender identity just as impactful in virtual worlds as they are in real worlds? I’m beginning to think that these concepts do hold true in both virtual reality and real life, because no matter how much an avatar is encoded and created by science and technology, avatars are being controlled by humans who cannot step out of there inherent behavioural habits. Can it be safe to say that avatars are indeed human? Probably not. After exploring Second Life and other virtual interfaces on my own for a few weeks now, I have come to realize that virtual avatars are extensions of who we are or feel like being at any given time.  In fact, it seems as though avatars are a tangible way of expressing the various characters of a single human. It is a release for our complex personas, all of which can act on an individual basis and even interact with each other. It’s sort of like a proto split- personality phenomenon, where you are in control of exactly which personality you want to ‘live’. Now the more important questions are: how are we meant treat avatars?  How do we know who we are interacting with, when we do not know anything about the person who controls them? It’s a strange phenomenon. Each human ‘player’ existing through virtual reality gets the opportunity to play god. You are given the power to choose exactly what you want to be, when exactly you want to be, and how exactly you want to be. The concept is ingenious because instead of choosing the fates of everyone, you get to choose the fates for yourself. No one is dictating your virtual life, no one is telling you which gender you should be, which race, what clothes you should wear.  No one is telling you these things, but you. The feeling is empowering. BUT STIGMA DOES EXIST. Social hierarchies, patriarchies, and norms remain in play in the virtual world. As Lisa Nakamura’s article points out, race makes a difference in Second Life and it is very rare to see people of colour within the interface. In fact, “when players choose blackness, whiteness, or brownness they curtail the social spaces within which they can move” (Nakamura, 2008). This notion does limit the power of the residents of Second Life, especially if they are of colour and secretly want to model their avatar after their true form. I wonder if a person of colour will purposefully make himself or herself lighter just to avoid the hassle of dealing with cultural stereotypes associated with selecting to be dark. Why should a beautiful part of a real life human have to be concealed in order to appease the masses? Why would they choose to conceal this part of themselves just to ‘fit in’? Why must cruelty follow human nature into a ‘new’ world? In my eyes, Second Life and virtual realities should be a new chance at a better and more accommodating society. But will this ever be possible if the humans controlling the avatars are so different, not to mention opinionated? Only the future will know. But in the mean time if anyone asks why? We can tell them that it’s human nature.

 

Source: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA183858841&v=2.1&u=lond95336&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=1debf5eb3822406dd818009c266a6beb

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