Monday, October 5, 2009

Pseudonymity, Disclosure and Activity

Here are a few more sketches from my VizThink session last week. I started out trying to develop my thoughts on the ventriloquism/virtual identity relationship. I ended up focusing more on pseudonymity and the development of emotional closeness.

The first chart imagines a relationship that begins pseudonymously in a virtual world and eventually extends to the physical. My first insight in creating the chart was that the disclosure of RL identity often happens over time.

pseudonymity to matrimony

After finishing the first chart, I realized that although it tracked identity disclosure, it missed the development of emotional closeness. Although the imagined relationship in the chart below ends up with a RL marriage, I believe that one can experience very deep emotional relationships without sharing any personally identifying information.

emotion over time

Finally, this last graphic looks at the emotional and informational aspects of personal disclosure and shared activity.  My main take-away was that very similar external actions can have significantly different emotional potency, depending upon the level of disclosure and intimacy.

disclosure activity quadrants

These graphics are just artifacts from my own working process and aren't meant to be definitive. I welcome your thoughts.


Lalo Telling said...

Granted, they're not meant to be definitive -- for instance, a few more steps could be added to the second graph, perhaps tracking the development of the virtual relationship in parallel with the organic one...

But: conceptually dead-on.

(Need I add that in some cases, the "intimate encounters" occur much earlier in the timeline?)

iliveisl said...

absolutely fascinating! i can be anecdotal in telling you that two rl couples are now living together (one set married) as a result of meeting and living on my estate

one was an Atlanta-Portland cross country move, the other within Texas

the only bad thing for these couples? once they met irl, they no longer continued sl. they were wonderful residents =)

Botgirl Questi said...

lalo: It would be cool to put some sort of template up and have people chart their own virtual relationship history with different people.

iliveisl: It's sure fascinating to me! I've found that drawing simple charts exposes dimensions of complex topics like this that are often missed in text-based discussions.

Professor Loire said...

This is really interesting, Botg. I like seeing the visual representation of your thought process. I wonder what aspect of pseudonymity controls the flow of information, how that might be different, in a virtual world, if actual world identity were known, and what that might mean.

As someone whose real world info is intertwined with the virtual, but who has some friends whose actual world identities I don't know, I certainly agree with your statement, "I believe that one can experience very deep emotional relationships without sharing any personally identifying information." It all begs the question of what makes up a person with whom one has a friendship, and maybe it is that voice, that self that comes through the ether, regardless of whether there is identifying information or not. Some kind of essence? Or the construct of self a person chooses to present, through what computer-media communication researcher Joseph Walther calls "hyper-personal communication?" The voice emanating from the ventriloquist's dummy, from behind the mask?

Max said...

This is, as ILiveISL said, absolutely fascinating. From someone who likes to look at the ways virtual worlds transcend the play sphere, this is addicting and thought provoking stuff.

Dale Innis said...

That third one w/ the pretty colors is confusing; I'm not sure what it means?

Emotional closeness can certainly develop without RL disclosure. I'd say the two are in some sense separate, even. The linkage is, I think, that as emotional closeness develops people will tend to do more RL disclosure, because there is more trust and because it's fun revealing stuff about yourself to people that you're close to.

So I'd tend to put it the other way: not that RL disclosure allows or leads to emotional closeness, but that emotional closeness can enable RL disclosure...

Botgirl Questi said...

Prof. Loire: I was trying to separate personally identifying information (what can lead to know your RL name, ec.), personal anecdotes and emotional information. I know they can be connected, but just trying to sort out in my own mind some of the classifications.

I think this works even without thinking of the virtual identity as anything more than a pseudonymous way to interact.

Max: Thanks!

Dale: The third one was trying to look at information exchange (disclosure) and shared activity. The top half was reflecting the idea that you can share information with or without emotional content. So, you can mention you teach which is disclosing RL information, and/or say you love teaching which also gets into emotional disclosure.

The bottom half was just a nod to the idea that the same event can have very different emotional resonance. This one's not that developed, just noodling.

Botgirl Questi said...

dale: I agree with you about the emotional closeness leading to RL disclosure. I wasn't trying to show causality, just a way to visually relate the closeness, events and time.

Dale Innis said...

Ah, makes sense, ty! I am always looking for axes an' things. :)

(Axes, that is, not axes. haha)