What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.
From Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare
As I was thinking earlier today about a post in Phasing Grace on Second Life culture, it occurred to me that the same sort of semiotic questions I had in the quest to identify and name a distinct virtual Second Life culture also applied to personal identity.
In the mundane view of reality, a name is merely a word we use to label the particular entity that is specified. But the deeper truth is that a name plays a role in defining and maintaining our perception of the named object. At an even more profound level, a name actually brings the named into perceptual existence by separating a particular set of attributes from the universe into a discrete object or being.
One of the things I value the most about virtual life, is its power to shed light on otherwise obscure or invisible aspects of physical life. In this case, avatar "brand names" that also have a publicly disclosed human identity bring to light the almost mystical connection between the name (signifier) and our mental concept (signified).
For instance, although I know that on one level Dusan Writer= Doug Thompson, those two names still call up different metal models. Think of all of the well-known virtual identities you know with openly connected physical identities. Then go back and forth between speaking the avatar name and the human name and see what comes to mind and how it feels.For now, I am begging the question of what is "real" and only focusing on the action of names within our consciousness. Pretty wild!