We Are The World, We Are One – – A Tribute to Olivia Wise

A couple of weeks ago Torontonians, and much of the world was broken hearted by the death of Olivia Wise. Olivia was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011 and recently lost her battle to cancer because of an inoperable brain tumor. I want to dedicate my blog post today to her and her courage. Olivia’s fight, continued charisma, and joy of life quickly became an inspiration to me and will never be forgotten. She helped to show me the fragility of life and the importance of living  life to the fullest and as a tribute to her memory I say “Carpe Diem”.

The relevance of Olivia Wise’s story lies in that in such a short time, this 16 year old girl was able to create and establish and important legacy for herself. While she was in and out of consciousness Olivia’s family decided to preserve her angelic voice by having her record a rendition of Katy Perry’s hit song “Roar”. This video brings shivers to the soul for you can feel the purity and kindness of Olivia Wise.

Olivia’s video almost instantly became viral, and not only that she was able to reach Katy Perry herself who posted a kind response but she also gained the attention of many international news stations, thus bringing her story to a global scale.

Olivia Wise was able to truly show the power of technology and the influence of the Global Village. Her now established legacy is meant to help find a cure for brain cancer, in attempt to help others.

This aspect of the global village can be directly compared to Second Life. Humans, all around the world are able to log in with their avatars and truly bring to the attention of others their thoughts, feelings, music, and etcetera. The scale of togetherness that the world is currently sitting on is astonishing and I can guarantee that this technological ideal will spark huge advancements in the world. Humans from other countries are no longer separated and can finally begin to learn from one another no matter where they are in the world.

I have truly been able to contemplate, learn, and gain from my time in Second Life and it has opened my eyes to so many new possibilities and already established world advancements. To Second Life and technology, I say “thank you”.

                                                                            – Rest In Peace Olivia Wise- 


Knowledge is Power: Power is Weapons

“ Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal” – Albert Einstein

The advancement and development of new technology is a very unique process that is complex and difficult to understand. Technology can benefit the human society in so many vastly important ways – but then again what are the dangers? The quote that lays at the top of this blog post is a very unique one that to me, truly highlights both the importance and dangers of technological advancement.

A criminal with an axe is resting on a line of moral correctness. He must decide what do with that axe because to him/her the idea of right or wrong is hazy.

This description is analogous to the technological process – those involved with the establishment of technology must decide on the dangers of the technology that they are instituting into our mortal world. Can reefers easily use said technology to do harm? It becomes a fine line.

I would like to bring up the example of Aaron Swartz,  a man who was a reefer, but declared a ROBIN HOOD of the technological community. He decided to open information to the world, by hacking into JSTOR and showing how easy it was to share the contents. Although he was punished for this, I want to decide whether or not Mr. Swartz’s actions were for the benefit of the community or not. Was it wrong of him to ‘steal’ information that was the property of someone else? Aaron wanted to share with the world, and the intent was selfless. Although he did prove that technology is dangerous because the access to that information was intended to be private and he was able to share it with billions of people world wide.

That same information just as easily could have been classified bank statements, signatures, personal information, and  phone numbers that he could have had the need to share as well.

Where can the line truly be drawn? The answer is that it cannot.

Aaron fits the character that Einstein described in his quote: Aaron’s axe was his ability to share access to information that was not meant to be put into the public eye.

We must be wary (yet appreciative) of technological advancements and it is important to never stop asking questions.

When it comes to virtual societies like Second Life we must remember that we have put trust into Linden Labs with our real life identities —  so how much trust and faith should we really have in them?

There is yet to be a scandal so huge that people’s real life identities (if meant to be kept private) are put into jeopardy but it is still a possibility. So I ask you this… what are our solutions?

AND THINK ABOUT THIS! Why Do YOU think  Aaron Swartz (RIP) faced more time in prison than killers?

Me? You? or Many?

Recently, my friend has been talking with a guy who she really likes. Much of the conversation happens over text messaging and she continuously asks me for help on what to say to him. It has made me realize that some of the words that are exchanged between the two of them are not her, but instead me. Does this mean that he is falling for me? This idea has sparked me to question the authenticity of virtual conversation and communication. How much of what we love about someone via virtual reality is that person, since we can never be certain who is doing the typing? Is there a positive impact on my friend since I am helping her communicate to her new beaux? I am giving her confidence to continue on her own but at the same time I fear that I am manipulating her to be more like me. When people are forced to interact in person there is no time for edits and no time for friends to tell you what to say.  


This concept applies to the use of Second Life and other virtual interfaces as well. When we are communicating with people online we have no idea who they are in real life. But what is even more interesting is that those who we are interacting with might not be just one person. A group of friends could have created an avatar together and appear in SL as one. If one were to develop real feelings for this avatar than they could be completely unaware that the avatar might be more than one person in real life. The person would have no clue that they actually engaged in a polygamous relationship. The controversy of multi-user avatars is a very interesting concept. If monogamous relationships are a key value in one’s life, then would a muti-user avatar affect this? The anonymity ensures that the virtual haven is safe for everyone and people can stick to the morals based on what is “presented” in the virtual world, but it is still interesting to think about. For instance, Julian Dibell’s “A Rape in Cyberspace” emphasizes the character of Dr. Bumble. Dr. Bumble is the alleged criminal who was convicted of assaulting users in the virtual interface LamdaMOO. Dibell emphasizes that “the Bungle account had been the more or less communal property of an entire NYU dorm floor, that the young man at the keyboard on the evening of the rape had acted not alone but surrounded by fellow students calling out suggestions and encouragement”(Dibell, 1998). When one communicates as a solo party, morally questionable and transgressive behaviour become a question of psychology, but when there are many people aiding to the conversation of a single avatar then what can be attributed to the questionably immoral choices of a multi user character like Dr. Bumble? 



“It’s Alive!” – Feeling the Pulsation of a Virtual Heartbeat

It seems to me, that with new technological advancements, people have continued to live their lives through the perspective of technology. We are newly conditioned to mask our natural senses with the senses given to us by technological devices.  Filters are masquerading as the authentic beauty of nature. Dinner conversations are being replaced by distant conversation via text messaging. Faint words from Siri whisper in your ear. People meet online for social interaction, access endless amounts of information through mere clicks of buttons, and are essentially suffocating themselves with the sheer amount of technology that they are using on a daily basis. Real life is essentially taking on the appearance of virtual life; the two worlds are amalgamating as one.

One’s smart phone device can arguably be deemed as important to ‘new age’ humans as their own hearts. In fact, I argue that people’s overwhelming desire to surround themselves with technology is characteristically more equivalent to the life-altering effects of a beating heart than one might expect.  We have become accustomed to having our technology dictate our daily lives, essentially keeping us up-to-date and “online” in our real worlds. Without the constant “beep” of our mobile devices, how would we ever keep track of our lives? People are becoming so reliant on their phones that when lost or broken, it almost makes the user feel lost or broken too.

This attachment to technology and “smart” devices can be compared to the idea of avatar attachment in Second Life (SL). Once you program your phone/ computer the way YOU want to use it, then it is almost as if it becomes you. This identity relation can simultaneously be compared to creating your own avatar in SL. No matter how encoded the character is, or how pixilated/ faux it may look on a particular day, the feelings and emotions that you connect with your avatar are real. In the same way someone would feel lost if his or her phone suddenly became obsolete, if one’s avatar was put in harms way (i.e. emotional/ physical abuse) then it would have an real life impact on how they would feel. As Jessica Wolfendale addresses in her article, an avatar, “unlike an imaginary friend or fictional character, […] is the paticipant’s persona in the virtual world. An avatar is far more than an imaginary object; it is a form of self-expression and online identity” (Wolfendale, 116). What makes it okay for someone to openly harm an avatar? This question leads to the notion that reefers are given a safe haven to express themselves through arguably ill-moral behaviour. Recently, in Second Life I was banned from the interface because I was accused of stealing linden dollars. A reefer, had lied to the headquarters of Linden Labs telling them that I had performed such an immoral act. In reality, the reefer who had accused me was the one who was acting immoral. At this point, I had already established a connection to my avatar, I had already put countless hours of time and effort into making her perfect for me, and because of someone’s need to be transgressive, I was banned for life. This case reminds me of the witches’ trials of Salem Massachusetts. Why was I not given a trial that would state I was innocent until proven guilty? Why did my avatar and my account with Linden Labs not have any user rights? To some, the virtual world is a mere game and they don’t see why something like this would make one upset. But as Wolfendale states in her article, “unlike attachment to an external imaginary object, […], attachment to an avatar is attachment to a self-chosen and self-created object; an object that you control, that you act through and that you use to interact with others” (Wolfendale, 116). Thus, an avatar can truly be connected to you. It can be considered as important as a beating heart and if you listen closely you will hear the virtual heart beating at you through the computer screen.



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