Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Replacement Candidate for Augmentation vs. Immersion Paradigm

As I was trying to gain some insight on the issue of Second Life Culture earlier this week, the long-standing "Augmentation vs. Immersion" paradigm kept nagging at me. It's another Second Life topic that is plagued by ambiguous terms that often confuse more than clarify the underlying issues.

As a good Venn Buddhist and VizThinker, I thought through the concept using a chart. One axis reflects the number of human identity-centric relationships and business dealings. The other is for one's avatar identity-centric activities.

This ended up providing four quadrants that I propose as replacements for Augmentation and Immersion:
  1. Anthropic: Their Second Life activity is related to human identity. RL identity is in their SL profile. They use Second Life within their RL job, interact with their human friends within the virtual world, etc.
  2. Avatarian: Their Second Life activity is separated from human identity. They do not openly associate their avatar and human identities in any way.
  3. Multiplist: They have a mix of human-centric and avatar-centric relationships and activities within Second Life. 
  4. Dabbler. Just to fill out the chart, I labeled the quadrant of those with very few relationships and activities of any kind.
So I offer "Anthropic vs. Avatarian" to replace "Augmentation vs. Immersion". What do you think?


Lalo Telling said...

Agreed: Bennetsen's original paradigm was a halting attempt which, through a process of "adoption by reference", has gained more status than its ultimate usefulness demonstrates. But, see also Wol Euler's blog The Second Lifer, the most recent post, "Augmentationism", and the aphorism I coined in the comments thereafter.

At first glance, the new categories presented here appear to be orthogonal to Bennetsen's, rather than replacing them. Whereas he was trying to characterize styles of action within Second Life (and attitudes related to those actions), "Anthropic/Avatarian" considerations focus on the actors' choice of self-identification. Thus, any single example of one of Bennetsen's types could fall anywhere on the new graph.

Nevertheless... These are different times, calling for different modes of thinking, and your categories are important and valid to the discussion. In one respect, they relate to my "Separation/Integration" proposal by elaborating on the relative size of the intersection of the domains of human and avatar identity.

As for me, I am 100% Avatarian in public (which should come as no surprise), both in and out of SL. In private, fewer than 10 people know so much as my "real" first name, and fewer than half of those know any more than that.

Botgirl Questi said...

Lalo: Thanks for your comment and pointing us to Wol Euler's post.

I enjoyed your aphorism, but it doesn't mirror how I understand the augmentation/immersion poles. For instance, when I was 100% Immersionist (complete as possible split between RL/SL lives) I still used Second LIfe as a toy when I created machinima. And I think that many people who view their avatars as mere extensions of their RL identity can feel like they're embodied within the virtual world playground.

I guess I need to work on the image. I meant to show a continuum between the poles, with the labels indicating the extremes. Also, I didn't mean for it to be completely about pseudonymous vs. open identity, but also about activities and relationships that cross the domains of the physical and virtual worlds, or are isolated.

Tateru Nino said...

Using "augmentation" or "immersion" in these cases is like calling your PC "a hard drive".

Only problem is, I'm not sure I fit anywhere on this chart.

Botgirl Questi said...

Tateru: Hmm. I don't see how you couldn't be in there somewhere. One axis is for virtual world activities and relationships that are connected to physical world activities, relationship and identity. The second is for those activities and relationships that are isolated from them.

So if you have a paid job under your avatar identity and your employer does not know your human identity, I would consider that to be in the second category. If ten friends/associates knew the connection between your virtual and human identities and a hundred did not, then it would place that aspect towards the bottom right of the chart.

One unique aspect of this anthropic/avatarian visualization compared to the usual augmentation/immersion debate, is that it doesn't imply oppositional philosophies, just classifications of activities and relationships. It can potentially include both quantitative and qualitative data.

Tateru Nino said...

I suppose as best I can figure, I'd be the dot in the middle.

Mo Werefox said...

I wonder how some psycho-social variables (self-presentation strategies, emotional disclosure, etc.) could vary in the two poles. I agree with the chance the model offer about inserting quantitative data. What about trying to validate it? ;-)

Botgirl Questi said...

Mo: I was thinking last night about how hashmarks on a chart that tracks anthropic or avatarian data could be very misleading if they don't also take the intensity and relative personal value of each instance into account.

For instant, a chart for a person who works in Second Life within their anthropic job may have everything cluster in the upper left. But if they had an alt identity with a weekend "Second Life" built around it, the perceived importance of their avatarian activity could be very high.

Svea said...

We live in a 3D physical world and a 3D virtual world, so perhaps this discussion and diagram need a third axis :) We often behave differently in a work environment and a personal or discretionary environment. The comments seem to support a view that says personal choices in second life may be different than work choices. We are certainly complicated people. Some folks have a great deal of synergy between work and personal, and some folks choose an alt approach. Thinking this way makes the model (which I really like) feel more complete.

Mo Werefox said...

@Botgirl: but in that case, from a statistical point of view, he/she has to be considered as two persons, I guess. One avatar = one point in the chart. This wuold be done in order to validate the model. Then, in a futher application, you can consider multiple motivation in a single person, resulting in the use of alts. But this last point is complicated, I suppose...

Botgirl Questi said...

I added a couple of new charts to the following Flickr set to visualize the activities and relationships of one person by its level of significance and it's connection to human identity: Flickr Set.

Extropia DaSilva said...

'Augmentation vs Immersion' inspired me to come up with this parody, known as 'vehiclists vs architecturalists'.

The toyset legos gave rise to two philosophical mindsets. One was a group known as 'vehiclists'. They believed the propper use of Legos involved making cars, trucks, helicopters..anything so long as it was a vehicle.

But, another group, known as 'architectualists' argued that Legos aught to be used as building material for cottages, factories, churches.

Now, clearly, both sides are missing the point, which is that Legos is a playset flexible enough to allow its users to make vehicles AND architecture and lots more besides. Both are entirely appropriate ways of playing with those famous plastic components.

But, what if one group were to have such an influential voice that legos gradually evolved from a general purpose playset, to something extremely good at building all kinds of vehicles but useless for anything else?

Anyway, something to think about:)

Botgirl Questi said...

Extropia: That's why I ended up building a mobile home. ;)

iliveisl said...

it is funny how we continue to want to live "inside the box"

categories do not define the human very well

imo, using an avatar to express your creativity, especially within a virtual world, is no different than a painter using oil and canvas to express themselves or a poet using words

my avatar expresses myself virtually and has extended into the online world

an "extension" is the best way that i can express what my avatar means to me

great post, thanks! =)

oh! because i use smilies, does that mean i need to categorize it as well? well, if so, extension or augmentation fits because when i =) i do the same irl


iliveisl said...

nice comments Tateru! i had not seen them till after my comment

i resent being labelled and it is much like we have done for years in education - we insisted on learning styles and right vs left brain - only to now start to see that we don't have these neat and clear boundaries

but, as humans, we think that by defining things, we are more intelligent

the sanskrit origin of the term avatar may be the closest to what it is - the manifestation of the divine - maybe the divine that is in us all and why things like Second Life ring true for so many

namas te =)

Botgirl Questi said...

iliveisl: I don't like being labeled either (unless it's something like "creative genius"). But what I like even less is the tendency to accept our own beliefs without challenging them through close examination. So one way I've found to put my own beliefs to the test is to try to visualize them in various ways.

The purpose of this kind of visual thinking isn't to put anyone in a box, or to equate the totality of any person with the sum of the categories they fall into, whether it be gender, age or place on my chart. But in this case, if we want to collectively consider how Linden Lab policy related to pseudonymity may impact Second LIfe residents, I think it is very helpful to explore this type of metric-based perspective. Not as a replacement for our personal stories, artistic expression, etc., but as an additional dimension.

One reason my Second-Life related work is so all over the place in terms of video, comics, rants, VizThink, that I don't want to get caught in any particular conceptual box. Including the one that says, "it's bad to categorize". ;)

Net Antwerp said...

Linden Research needs to stop fingering (interfering with) Second Life customers.

As a service provider, Linden should be aiming for a stable, scalable and flexible VW platform. Instead, They've overrun customer-run pixel "money" exchanges, and they've also GOM'd customer-run pixel item shopping sites. On top of the 2009 destructive policy rollouts, ~70% destructive UI changes with Viewer2, their failed social networking venture, more linden favouritism and so on.

Obviously Linden can't cater for every single customer that walks through the pixel doors. Top-notch platform and a fair, balanced set of regulations and rules is the key, and should be the driving factor for Kingdon and his devs.

Without categorising and alienating the Customers.

sororNishi said...

I like the idea of a colour-shading of this image to depict more of a continuum.

I would see myself as a dot on this colour image moving around according to who I was with and what I was doing rather than as a static blob on a chart.

My psyche is a complex mix of layers in both worlds and defies a single catagorisation, so maybe my dot would be fairly large, fuzzy round the edges and pulsing...:))

iliveisl said...

i don't think your work is all over the place at all! i think you are rather creative, free spirited, and open - a true artist

so keep blasting in all directions - there are no wrong answers

and if i ever feel that you put me in a box, just toss me some crayons and i'll amuse myself (one advantage of being an only child)

Hiro Pendragon said...

People who are "multiplist" are augmentationist. The bottom line is that augmentationist believe that virtual worlds augment our world. And one viable augmentation is, of course, entertainment and such - including immersion. Immersionists believe Second Life is a fantasy world and that there *needs* to be a complete split between virtual worlds and "real world". They deny other uses of virtual worlds.

The problem is that immersionist is a subset of augmentationist - only that staunch immersionists don't see the superset as valid. Ergo, I don't think your grid approach works, because it shows each as a mutually exclusive set.

Botgirl Questi said...

soror: One of the earlier drafts of the chart did use graduated shading. I ended up not going with it in the draft I posted because I couldn't pull off a two axis graduation that I liked.

Hiro: The additional chart views I posted show my idea the underlying activity that would provide the underlying data to situate someone in the chart.

I think just about everyone, no matter how strident an Augmentationist or Immersionist would have at least a handful of relationships and activities that were on the other side of their philosophical fence.