Posted in General, Opinion, Privacy & identity, Second Life

Unencumbered by the trappings of real life

An updated version of this article is now available here

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of opinion on Rigged Mesh, and the efforts of Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz, formerly Qarl Linden) to address the fundamental deficiencies of it with the Parametric Deformer project.

That’s been covered elsewhere in great detail and I don’t think I can add much to the debate directly on that although will provide some links at the end.

However, it has got me thinking about what Second Life means to me, what I view as important and how I interact with other people.

Some of the people I meet want to know all about my real life, about how I look or where I live, or how old I am, or any number of other things. And I tell them that, quite apart from privacy, I simply don’t see things like that as having any relevance to my Second Life. And, further, I don’t particularly want them to volunteer anything about themselves either. I’m simply not interested in their “skinvelope” (or, as I have heard others refer to it, their “meatsack” or “meat rider”, which I confess aren’t phrases I’m particularly enamoured with) and want to get to know the real person, unencumbered by the trappings of real life. Some of these people have got quite defensive about my attitude and asked how I can know the real person when I say I don’t want to know the real life person. Some have even called me crazy. Well, allow me to explain what I mean.

I think the key phrase for me is “unencumbered by the trappings of real life”, and by that I mean free from any prejudices of race, height, weight, physical beauty (or lack of), age, gender, or any number of other things that colour our perception of the other person whether consciously or subconsciously. For me, there is a purity in keeping things SL-only. Some may call that Immersionism but I prefer to see it as accepting the other person as how they choose to present themselves. So what if the beautiful woman in front of me in her 20’s with impeccable fashion sense is actually a 45 year-old mum of four whose tits headed south round about child two and whose clothes in real life are more Matalan than Milan? Or, for that matter, a 24 stone, 58 year-old trucker named Barry with a beer belly in a different postal zone?

If they utterly convince me in SL and stay in character then that’s good enough for me. Likewise I’m under no illusion that a Furry friend is actually an anthropomorphic animal in real life. And I’m sure that if an Artificially Intelligent robot able to pass the Turing Test had been invented then I’d probably have heard about it.

The point is that Second Life is meant to be a place where we can cast off the roll of the dice that made us what we are physically in RL and roll them again in SL. And in SL you can use loaded dice and choose how you want to be. And I think that people should respect that and not try to undo it by dragging RL into things.

Now, I’m not saying that discussing your RL isn’t allowed – the kind of music you like, the books, films and art you like, the jokes you tell, the quips you make, what you think and say – they are all part of you as a person and they are shared between RL and SL. But what I’m trying to convey is a separation between the personality that is “you” and the physical container for it.

If you think about this, it’s not such an unreasonable supposition. If you look around SL you will very rarely see a person in a wheelchair, or someone walking with the aid of a stick, or bed-ridden. Why would someone choose to limit themselves in SL when it gives them opportunities to enjoy things in SL that are denied to them in real life? I’d venture to suggest that there is simply no need to carry over that attribute of their real life body into SL unless, for whatever reason or agenda, they chose to do so. And I’d say the same for someone’s physical sex too; I have several transgender friends who I consider to be cis female in SL regardless of the roll of the dice they got in real life.

The trouble is that even Linden Lab seem to have lost sight of this (see my article “Second Life increasingly a misnomer?”) and the whole concept of Rigged Mesh and Standard Sizes compounds this further, with clothing designers dictating which of a limited number of shapes are compatible with their mesh clothing. The clear sub-text being ‘conform or become a member of the fashion-denied underclass’. That’s why I think Qarl’s Parametric Deformer is so important as it returns us to the Status Quo where Second Life is an expression of how we want to be, how we choose to present ourselves to others.

Sadly, as many far better bloggers than I have already pointed out, my attitude is becoming increasingly quaint and old-fashioned in the modern age of Facebook and a joined-up internet “experience”. I think that’s a great shame.




Further reading

Rigged Mesh and the Parametric Deformer: (Max Graf’s reply to that, which is really worth reading)

Immersionism, Augmentationism, and the like:

11 thoughts on “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life

  1. I agree with you – and with Max Graf, whose commentary on the forums I point to.

    I find it sad that art is now imitating the more negative aspects of life by insisting upon conformity. I’m still hoping that the parametric deformer can achieve what was originally hoped – clothes conforming to shape, rather than the other way around. There may be technical issues as to why it may not – limitations within SL (and particularly the basic skeletal frame / rigging of our avatars, which is rather long in the tooth) that are absent places where it has worked – but I sincerely hope this is not the case.

    Had I the time yesterday, I’d have written more extensively on the matter, but I think you’ve framed the core issue here perfectly.

    1. Thanks Inara – I really appreciate your comment (and compliment!)

      Yes, I think Qarl’s work is immensely important. Standard Sizing is merely a workaround, not a solution, and carries with it some immensely negative ramifications as you and Max point out.

  2. Great blog Bex. It’s disgraceful how some people are treated in SL because they dare to be different. I recently made a new friend in SL, her name is Qway. Qway is the nicest, sweetest, friendliest, most adorable person you’ll ever meet. She’s an absolute joy to talk to, and I’m so glad we’ve become friends. She’s also a furry. We met at the club I work at, and when we got to talking she confided that she had been nervous being there because of how she’s treated at some clubs, where people make comments like “What’s that animal doing in here?”, and other tasteless and cruel comments. Why is it we go through the trouble of creating a second life, and we just carry all of our prejudices and bigotry over from our first one. Open up your minds people. Get to know people for who they are, and forget what they look like (SL or RL). Maybe if you can start to do that, you can start to open up your hearts as well.

  3. A Zen koan asks, “Who were you, before you became you…..” Rei is a very real part of me. It is not all of me, but all of me is not contained in the meat robot typing this either. It seems to me you picked the perfect word in “unencumbered”. Rei is an extension of me, so why limit that with mundane details?

    The only word I would change is “uninterested”. I am actually interested in RL stuff. But information has power, and it changes things irrevocably. Sharing information changes your perception of that person permanently which seems like a lot to risk. The experiences in SL are real and my friends are important, and a few are absolutely precious to me.

Let me know what you think!

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