Friday, May 28, 2010

Is Second LIfe a Second-Best Surrogate to Fill Voids in Human LIfe?

In a comment on my last blog post, Peter Stindberg wrote "...the void that SL filled now gets filled by other things." I found it curious that he chose the word "void" and asked him to share more about what he meant by the term. A few days later, he expanded the idea in a long post titled "Of Voids", describing how an unexpected upturn in his RL caused "the significance of SL to drop overnight". He wrote,
I had the need for a respectful, appreciative environment. I did not get it in my RL, but found it in SL. So I became addicted to SL. Now I work for a company that WANTS me, that CHOSE me out of countless applicants, that NEEDS my skills, that WANTS my creativity, that gives me freedom, recognition and trust - and by this fills the void that SL used to fill. From "Of Voids" by Peter Stindberg
The use of "void" still grated on me for some reason, so I decided to explore it with Visual Thesaurus, a web-based tool that maps word relationships.


The main thing that struck me in the resulting image was that many of the words related to "void" are commonly used to demean virtual identity, relationships and activities...  It's not real. It's a false identity. It doesn't really exist. The aha moment was the realization that when people perceive a void in their human lives, the same ideas are often applied to themselves (at least subconsciously).

What is the relationship to one's wholeness as a person and factors such as:
  • interaction with the external environment
  • the perceptions of other people
  • relationships
  • accomplishments
Do these factors merely create a psychological narrative that make up a story we believe about self-worth and wholeness? Or is there some objectively real empty void in our "self" that must be filled through activity in the virtual or physical worlds? Is Second Life simply a second-best surrogate people use to fill what they perceive to be voids in their human lives? Or do virtual worlds offer equivalent or even enhanced opportunities for self-realization?

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know my answers. What are your's'?


LaPiscean Liberty said...
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Michele Hyacinth said...

Great thought-provoking posts, Botgirl. I've been musing, trying to articulate my reply to the very complex questions you raise. For me, it comes down to developing a clear awareness of myself and paying attention to the journey. The "why" we rezzed and keep rezzing in SL is something all of us can answer, with each answer different and/or variations of theme. It might be to fill a need. It might be a path to self-discovery...something we're all travelling on in any world if awareness is important to us. But perhaps that path is more user-friendly in SL than the atomic world. The motivation or urge could be as much to really learn and build upon our really deepen the awareness of the self as individual and of the self in community. To challenge self-talk, to challenge group-talk, to challenge internally held belief and individual(or to always be right no matter what, laughing, if that's a particularly hard and fast value). The reasons for rezzing are any number with perhaps one amplified more than another, depending on what's happening for each person. SL is a wonderful place to discover and shape worlds, art, beliefs, community, ideals, values, dreams, hopes, needs, awareness, the process of creation...any myriad of things. Despite the drama inworld, SL provides the opportunity to be not as mired in a mentality of judgement as the atomic world often is. For me, that's certainly why the movement in SL to replicate atomic world sensibilities, behaviors, and values is upsetting. If virtual identity has a shelf life then what you could be suggesting is that it's really the shelf life of opportunity and potential, but in this way it's of the most personal kind. The atomic world isn't as conducive for a beginner's explore, discover, create, build from a place with few constraints or judgements. Instead the atomic world seems to shun the beginner's mind, delivering instead categories, labels, tasks, acceptable lifestyles...and yes an endless sea of malls. As much as we've built up so many rules in the atomic world (with many of them necessary for order), it's amazing how many personal and professional development workshops encourage us to break all the rules, to innovate, to do something new and meaningful, to love what you do and are, to live life from dreams and not problems. In the atomic world we run into all the reasons why we can't do that, even while at the same time we are told that we *should* do that. SL provides the opportunity to explore these things, with a large dose of chaos thrown in. But now that the atomic sensibilities are increasingly inworld, is the question of shelf life also a question of choice for virtual identity...which also takes on any number of different forms? For me, that means celebrating the non-atomic identities of all the wonderful cultures in SL by wearing wings and neko ears and tails, for example, mashing up fashion, attempting to build things even if what I build is of a level that is incredibly that of a beginner's mind, finding those builds that surprise the mind. It opens up discovery. Not only inworld but internally...a journey that calls to be travelled when we're logged in and when we're logged out. I didn't intend to say so much in this comment...your questions are incredibly complex ones. I just wanted to share my thoughts...even if they read like a beginner's mind. Gosh I would be so happy if they did! :)

Peter Stindberg said...

I should point out that I am not n English native speaker and - while having an advanced grasp of the language - do sometimes pick confusing, misleading or outright wrong words.

So don't put too much into my choice of the word "void". It sounded right at about the time I wrote that post. And still does. But it still is a random choice. I could have chosen "emptiness" or "destinies" or "fulfillment" or "desires" or countless others.

Botgirl Questi said...

Michele: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experience on this topic. I think we're all pretty much figuring this stuff out as we go.

I agree that the virtual world's ability to hit us on the side of the virtual head and create a state of Beginner's Mind is one of the the most precious gifts it can provide. As a matter of fact, that was the most significant reason that I ever made it past my first couple of days of life.

Unfortunately, I've been losing that initial state of mind over the last two and a half years and haven't been able to get it back, at least not to the initial degree. I've replaced the state of wonder with a mind full of ideas and opinions. I am grateful for all of the insights and enhanced skill I've picked up along the way, but sometimes mourn the loss of my innocence.

Anyway, the journey is still on and who knows what will be around the next bend! I really appreciate your intentional approach to virtual life and your generous and thoughtful comments.

Peter: I was mostly using your choice of language as a platform to consider the related ideas. If it was a random choice, I am grateful for it. I'm actually working on a short video based on the Visual Thesaurus image in the post. I'll be posting it sometime in the next few days.

Michele Hyacinth said...

Thanks for not minding my tremendously long comment, Botgirl! What I shared is not all-inclusive in terms of my personal experience but seems to be some generalized overarching themes to suggest. It is kind of ironic isn't it that the beginner's mind probably starts out as an unintentional thing but then after things are less surprising, that same beginner's mind does seem to need to be nurtured with intention. What a great mix a beginner's mind and ideas-opinions can be! Viva la journey!

Kwame Oh said...

Thank you Peter for clarity, for your piece went to my belief that communication between us as a species is what its all about and medians such as social media, virtual worlds in that order, are or should be a part of , not all of this communion we share with others.

Have said in the past any relationship in social site or virtual world in itself is valid, only if other connections are attained, so as not to leave an individual returning from this land of shadows, wondering what is that expression on the humans face, is it a frown, or a smile?

If there is a down side to social sites and virtual worlds it is the seduction it hold in not having to deal with the sweat and smells of reality.

Just my humble opinion.