Monday, March 19, 2012

SLebrities: Narcissistic Attention Whores or Valuable Thought-Leaders?

"Second Life's Most Influential Voices" is the cover story for this month's edition of Levity Magazine. The article included the e-magazine's Top Ten Second Life Blogs and brief interviews with the authors.

I've noticed a certain ambivalence about influence in the Second Life community. On one hand, there is definitely a core group of people who tend to be out in front on emerging issues, inspire cross-blog coverage of the topics they write about, and have large and responsive social networks.

On the other hand, we disparage "SLebrity" and recoil at the idea of intentionally trying to become influential. Chestnut Rau, one of the bloggers named in the Levity Magazine article, put it this way:
I don't even want to be influential. I don't have anything to sell or any well planned agenda whatsoever. I don't want to spur other people to do things. I don't want to change your opinion. I do not seek to influence the debate about LL, virtual worlds, the state of the economy, politics, nature vs nurture, punk or pop, whether or not Elvis is really dead, who should be voted off the island or even what book you should read next. Honestly.
I like and respect Chestnut. There's an idealistic part of me who agrees that creativity should emerge for it's own sake and not because of some external purpose; that influence should arise naturally from the value of your ideas and actions, rather than from a strategic campaign to impact the hearts and minds of others. But practically speaking, if you want to be a positive force in the world (virtual or otherwise) you will need to influence other people.

For instance, Saturday's "Art of Micro-Storytelling" presentation at the VWBPE was designed to encourage people to experiment with micro-storytelling for themselves. Ideally, some educators would even be influenced to try micro-storytelling in their classes. I was definitely trying to be influential. And I see that as a good thing.

What do you think? Do you cringe at the idea of someone trying to influence you or do you value outspoken and thought-provoking people in the community?  Do you see SLebrities as narcissistic attention whores or valuable thought-leaders?


Quen McLillian said...

Necessary evil.

Unknown said...

i definitely value people like Chestnut who have a strong voice in the blogging community. I respect that. I am definitely influenced by that. However, I prefer to think of it as 'inspiration' rather than being influenced. Chestnut and others inspire me to check things out for myself, get informed and make my own opinions and decisions.

I suppose it all depends on what being influential means to you, whether that is something negative or positive.

Bunjie said...

R. said...

Who? What?

Can I go back to sleep now?


Chestnut Rau said...

If I have to pick being a narcissistic attention whore or a valuable thought-leader, I have to admit to having a modicum of influence because I do produce a blog that has been around for a while and enjoys a loyal readership. Still, it is important to remember we are a small crowd who mostly talk to each other. I don't put much stock in our ability to really influence much.

I prefer to create a third category called "Second Life Observer." It sounds so much nicer than attention whore and less ego driven than thought-leader. But that is just me.

Botgirl Questi said...

Thanks for commenting. The question was mostly meant as a tongue in cheek illustration of opinions about this in the SL community.

Trin: I'm curious about why you think it is an evil or something negative. The necessary part I get, since they help promote discussion about SL outside of the virtual world itself.

Carrie: I agree. I looked up "influence" and it's in the same ball park as "inspiration". It's impacting something in an indirect way, not necessarily through direct logical argument. I think it tends to have a negative connotation in the SL community.

Bunie: I read the post and had so little experience with the people and forum mentioned that I couldn't make heads or tails of it.

Crap: You may. Thanks for asking.

Chestnut: Thanks for reminding us that we are a small crowd. I haven't counted yet, but I bet there are less than a couple of hundred who regularly post and comment on this stuff. It's hard to tell how big the readership/audience for it is. My guess is a few thousand.

As I thought more about this yesterday, I think the ego side and the value created side don't have any necessary connection. And you can value your own ideas highly in a non-egotistic way. It's also perhaps more common to marginalize one's own thoughts.

As you wrote, this isn't an either or issue. But it's good for us to occasionally evaluate our own actions and motivations and then recalibrate if necessary.

And thanks for inspiring me to write this blog post! :D

Ron T Blechner said...

Anyone with a blog saying they don't want to influence people is lying. In fact, I would more think that by saying "I'm not looking for attention" THAT is more of an attention-getting ploy than admitting, "Yeah, I am looking to influence people."

I'm also BAFFLED why influencing people is somehow a bad thing to be vilified? Thanks, some of us like to have influence but aren't narcissistic attention whores, as implied.

Quen McLillian said...

@Botgirl, I've no opinion about the blogosphere. Most are just opinions, I enjoy reading or simply ignore. The cockfights are hilarious tho.

The evil part I'm talking about is the inevitable implication of any elitist subculture. Bits and pieces, such like a briskly art scene are of very huge value for SL. But they most likely tend to overrate their opinion. If self-importance comes together with the Dunning-Kruger effect and granted influence, the system falls apart. I have dealt enough with designers and so called artists in RL and I had opportunities to meet content creators in SL either. I find the similarities very interesting. Virtual content creators are probably more paranoiac. Maybe for a good reason. After all, the relation between residents/consumers and SLebrities/creators is pretty much an exaggerated illusive social (video) game. SL is society in a nutshell and I actually like it, because it's so predictable.

"On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy."

Botgirl Questi said...

Ron: I agree that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be influential. It's also good to be open to influence.

Trin: I've been on the periphery of the SL art scene, but have a few friends and acquaintances who have described some of the elitism you mentioned. That said, Second Life is an incredible example of an environment where the amateur artist can find an appreciative audience.

Yordie Sands said...

I've read this post a couple times, plus the comments. I think Ron Blechner's comments rang true with me.

Maybe you start out just writing for yourself but as soon as you discover you have an audience, you have to recognize you are influancing someone.

Sure you can start out desparately seeking attention and maybe you get some, but if your work isn't of any value you'll never influance anyone.

I do understand that not everyone is seeking recognition, but it comes with the territory I think.

Botgirl Questi said...

Yordie: I started writing a response and it's getting so long that I'm going to use it for a new post. Should be published in the next half hour.