Archive for the 'virtual worlds' Category

The paradox of non-disclosure

I have talked about disclosure of identity in Second Life here and here. You know, some people decide to keep details of their real life hidden from others when interacting inside Second Life. Some people, for example, choose not to tell where they are from, of what their gender is, or their age.

I respect those people who choose not to disclose. In fact, I hide many of my real life details from others. However, and after some time living with this, I have come to the conclusion that non-disclosure has a paradoxical consequence. It works like this.

First of all, let us assume that you withhold some basic details about your real life. By “basic details” I mean something that most people would observe and talk about in real life, such as your nationality, gender, age or place of residence. You refuse to disclose that information, and when asked about it, you don’t answer.

The primary consequence of such a behaviour is that people, in absence of information, will make assumptions. In other words, people will create an image of what they believe is the right answer to their unanswered question, possibly drawing from what they can observe in you. For example, if somebody refuses to disclose their age but speak like a teenager, most people will end up assuming that he/she is a teenager. Similarly, if somebody refuses to disclose their real life gender but presents a female avatar, most people will assume he/she is a female.

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More on disclosure of identity

I forgot to say something important about disclosure of identity.

Schwartz and Ward’s list of identity-contributing attributes, which, according to my hypothesis, is also the list of details that opaque bidents tend to keep hidden from others in Second Life, also correspond to those characterstics on which people have historically been segregated. It makes sense, yes, that those attributes that outline who we are, those attributes that give us our identity, also serve to establish the “in” and “out” of elites and cliques. Look at the list again: it’s easy to find recent past (and current) cases of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, first language, gender, religion, social/economic status and sexual, cultural and political preferences.

What is this to do with SL? Well, in addition to the already mentioned reason that bidents try to avoid disclosing information that would cause their two identities to clash with each other, I now hypothesise that an additional reason for bidents to stay opaque is that they try to avoid being prejudged; prejudice is easy to minimise if we hold those details that are often used as a basis for discrimination. Note that this applies to any kind of opaques, not to bidents only.

In summary: by being opaque, SL residents minimise the risk of being the target of prejudice from other residents, thus avoiding potentially unfair discrimination.

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Disclosure of identity

I’ve blogged about transparents and opaques in Second Life before, and about how roleplaying can disguise the “true” identity of people in the virtual world. What I want to do today is talk about disclosure of identity, i.e. why some Second Life residents choose to tell others who they are in real life, and to what extent, and why others choose not to. And, also, which specific details of their real lives they are more prone to reveal, and why.

First of all, let’s recall that transparents are those Second Life (SL) residents who let you “see through” their SL fa├žades and get some access to their real life (RL) personas; similarly, opaques are those who do not let you see through, acting as if there were no RL user behind them. Read this for more information on transparents and opaques if you wish.

We can go on. My experience in SL shows that transparents seldom create an identity separate from that of their RL selves, whereas opaques either do create one, or simply negate having one. What do I mean by “an identity”? Well, let’s get into this first.

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Open letter to Linden Lab

You read it.

The depth of role-playing

I’ve been secondliving for a few months now, so, in terms of Second Life, I guess I can be considered as an adult. I have explored exotic places and met intriguing people. And, precisely, people’s approach to secondliving is what I find most fascinating of Second Life.

When you meet somebody in Second Life, you can see him/her, observe his/her behaviour, and talk to him/her by typing text and reading what they type back. This form of interaction is not as rich as meeting somebody in real life, of course, but is rich enough as to allow for behavioural styles that deserve reflection.

In order to discuss this, we need to clarify some terminology first. A Second Life resident is somebody who secondlives, that is, who lives in Second Life. You perceive residents through their avatars, that is, the 3D, more-or-less-person-shaped little figurines that you see on screen through the Second Life client application running on your computer. Every resident (it is commonly assumed) is “backed up” by a real person, by somebody out there in real life that uses the computer to “direct” his/her avatar to do and say things. This real person is called a user.

Having established the difference between residents and users, we can go ahead with the discussion.

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Comments on Second Life

A few days ago I made a comment about Second Life on the Europe United blog. You can see my comment here. For those who can’t read Spanish, my post says, in a nutshell, that Second Life is different to The Sims, basically, because it is not a game: in Second Life there is no winning or losing, there is no concept of goal, which is what defines games.

A reader replied to my comment by leaving a message on this blog (rather than that blog, Europe United) under a non-related post, so now I am creating this post here and moving his comment under it just to keep things under control. Please have a look at the comments to this post, and feel free to leave your own. Thanks.


I know, I know. I have been neglecting this blog for a few weeks. I am sorry.

I’ve got an excuse, though. I have been very busy in Second Life. One of the first things I read about Second Life is that it is guaranteed to blow your mind away if you are just mildly creative. I must be very creative, because it did blow my mind away, actually.

I promise to pull myself together and come back to the blog. Soon.

In the meantime, check it out, and leave a comment if you like it. Or if you don’t.

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