Sunday, August 19, 2007

Second Life Meta-Me

The experience of identity is often heavily influenced by physicality (race, gender, height, nose size, etc.). Virtual worlds such as Second Life offer freedom from physicality via unlimited self re-presentation opportunities.

So far, merely the surface of human creativity has been scratched as the majority of avatars are tall, fit, young and attractive which underlines both physical world inferiority sentiments and an unproductive focus on superficial aesthetics.

Virtual worlds could be used to visually represent another more abstract layer beyond physical appearance, the more important and meaningful parts of individuals such as values, actions, ideas and creativity. This could be facilitated by bringing existing Internet-based information into virtual worlds. Visual representations could be executed with shapes, size, coloring, accentuations, vibrations, etc., for example, the bigger the glow around the avatar, the higher the social capital. People might even want to represent themselves in the physical world based on some of these ideas.

Reality filters
Not only could there be a deeper granularity of self-representation but also filters for viewing others. Filters could be based on preference, literally blocking those with unattractive value systems, efficiency, seeing only those other avatars who also wanted to interact regarding certain topics like education, business, sex, singularity, science, etc., or other attributes.

Below are some suggestions for new ways of avatorial representation:

1. Profile-based avatars
Avatars are a visual expression of their profile tags, for example an extropian transhumanist singularitarian might look different from a vegan sustainable development social worker from a politically conservative attorney, but maybe not. Interest indicators could be amalgamated or cycled through in kaleidoscope fashion. The assumption is that social interaction could be enhanced with overt interest-signaling.

2. Reputation-based avatars
Avatars are an expression of how others see them, a visual representation of how they have been rated by others, in-world or as a consolidation of Internet reputation mechanisms such as eBay, Amazon, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc.

3. Idea-based avatars
Avatars are visual representations of the degree and quality of the person's ideas. This may not be able to be rendered until the underlying information is more explicitly captured, either self-evaluated or as another level of reputation. Amazon asks "Was this review helpful?" and a creativity evaluator could inquire "Were innovative and good ideas described here?"

4. Value system-based avatars
Avatars are a visual representation of a person's values. Value systems can be elicited in a variety of ways including as specified directly in a profile, determined from a set of questions, deducted from a log of Internet-based activities or abstracted from physical world activities such as purchasing, recycling, volunteering, exercising, etc. A means of obejective data collection would be important, barcodes/rfid would work in the case of purchases. Would this be tyranny or freedom? Certainly it would be optional and some people would choose to increase their social capital by broadcasting high-congruity lifestyles.

5. Presence-based avatars
RSS presence feeds are streamed into Second Life and aggregated into a visual representation of facebook, jaiku, pownce, twitter, wakoopa, blogging, emailing, texting, social music listening (pandora,, etc.) and other lifecasting activities. How close a representation of self would people perceive this to be? The essence of individuality is increasingly available on the Internet.

6. Real life Sims Online avatars
Extending the Sims Online game, in-world avatars could follow the same percentages of time spent on activities that humans do in the physical world, working, exercising, relaxing, socializing, eating, sleeping, etc. An invaluable tool for extrospection, the sim could be sped up to show the natural end states of one's current activities, and altered to see different outcomes (e.g.; a 1% increase in exercise leads to greater longevity).


Anonymous said...

I have actually gotten sick of SL and have begun hanging out at, a much better site in my opinion.

LaBlogga said...

Hello anonymous, thanks for mentioning citypixel, although newer, the functionality is not as robust as in Second Life. I think we'll see many more alternative virtual worlds developing over time; hopefully eventually integrating into one open environment.