The course Media Studies Essay

Courtney Redrose’s Big Adventure Before I began the course Media Studies, I had little exposure to virtual online worlds such as Second Life. After learning about Second Life in class, various research and creating an avatar online and exploring the virtual world, I am amazed at everything it has to offer. Second Life is not only a type of internet game, it is a space where there are no limits to your creativity and expression. Strong communities are created and are even supported by the avatars’ own financial system, the Linden economy.

Second Life is a place where you can meet and interact with millions of people around the world, who you otherwise would most likely have never met. Anyone who has access to an internet connection can create a Second Life account free of charge. A basic account allows you to create an online persona called an “avatar. ” With your avatar, you have complete access to the Second Life world. I have learned that the majoritit of people who engage in second life on a casual basis typically only use the basic account.

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However, more serious players can upgrade to a premium membership, which includes extended access to better technical support and other benefits not available to basic members. For example, a stipend of L$300/week is deposited into premium members accounts, raising the value of membership from US$72 to US$14. Second Life’s potential market is enormous based on the fact that the majority of people living in developed countries have access to an internet connection. The accessibility of potential customers paired with a free basic account results in a large market that will only continue to grow.

The existing basic free membership is a great way to attract potential customers, who, after experiencing Second Life make the decision to upgrade to a premium account. When creating an avatar, the options are endless. The avatar can accurately resemble your appearance in real life, represent only certain features of your real life appearance or be completely different at the discretion of the host. Avatars can take the form of human, animal, mineral, vegetable or a combination. Also, even after you create your avatar, you are able to continuously change and alter this representation.

Overall, I believe people who are more confident in their appearance in real life tend to create an avatar that resembles them. On the contrary, people who do not like certain aspects of their appearance are more apt to create an avatar that does not closely resemble their appearance. I spoke with an avatar named Sabrina1 Halsey who commented that, “you make your avatar something that you’re familiar with, but also something that you fantasize about. ” In Second Life, people have the control of what other avatars can see and also what they cannot see.

When I began creating my avatar, I did not want to use my real life first name. I thought it would be safer to use a different name by not having any ties with my real name. Courtney is actually the name of my best friend, who I was going to meet with right after I created my account. When I chose Courtney as the first name for my avatar (the creator is free to choose any first name, including the spelling of the name) a list of last names was presented to me to choose from. The fact that you have to choose your avatar’s last name from a list hinders your creativity slightly, but is obviously for safety and repetition purposes.

My avatar does not look like me in real life, besides the fact that she is female. I thought Courtney’s dark hair and dark skin looked beautiful and was also a nice change from my blonde hair and light skin. I believe the majority of people with avatars find the same freedom in creating a representation that is different from one’s appearance in real life. Robert Kolker further explains this concept in his book titled “Media: An Introduction” when he states, “Creating an avatar is also an act of liberation, a way of breaking free of confiing identity, even of gender, and of imagining oneself into a gaming space” (Kolker, 266).

Some of the avatars that I came in contact with in Second Life would not be categorized within a society’s norm. For example, I came across one female avatar, RoxyLee Rayna near a fish pond. She was wearing a small belly shirt, a short skirt and was carrying a sword. She actually informed me that she was going to engage in role playing, which included a type of sword fighting. Avatars allow people to be something they really are not, acting as an outlet. It also allows people to do activities that they would not necessarily be able to do in real life.

When I asked RoxyLee Rayna to comment on the concept, she responded by saying, “it helps a great many people. For example, individuals who are handicapped by an illness or disability can engage in activities otherwise impossible. They can be anything they wish in Second Life, all in the privacy of their own home. Those in wheelchairs can dance, play football and ice skate. Those in silence (with) no one to talk to (can) make friends from all over the world. ” Second Life is a source of amazing creative freedom for people all around the world that is exists with just a click of the mouse.

Second Life has its own currency known as the “Linden dollar”, which is represented by the symbol “L$”. This money can be used to purchase a variety of items such as land, buildings, vehicles, clothing, jewelry, art and much more. The money can also be used for services such as entertainment, wage labor, building and a variety of other common services. Linden dollars can be purchased by using real U. S. or other accepted currency, similar to the way or purchasing other products online.

If an avatar makes money in Second Life, it is usually respectively small sums of money and is just used to purchase other products on Second Life, continuing the consumer cycle. Several avatars are able to earn greater profits as high as US$5,000 from selling virtual goods, providing services or renting land. When referring to the offline community to someone who is online in Second Life, I came across two opposite reactions. Of the relatively small amount of avatars I spoke with in relation to the large number of avatars that use Second Life, I found that roughly one third of the avatars do not discuss their offline lives.

For example, clearly in Roxylee’s info box it was written that, “1st life and second life are separate. I like to keep it that way, so please don’t ask me about rl (real life). A refusal may offend. Second life is NEVER like 1st. Sometimes it’s even better (smiley face). ” This could be purely for safety reasons or could also be the individual’s personal preference to keep the two worlds separate. Again, referring to the idea that Second Life often serves as an escape from real life and while their avatar is in Second Life the individual does not want to remember whatever problems or concerns they have in real life.

Kolker refers to this as, “the distinguishing mark of any computer game is the unrooting of the player, placing him in an imaginative realm over which he has some control… games add yet another element, of creating a narrative in a worl that will change according to how the player interacts with it” (Kolker, 266). On the contrary, the other two thirds of avatars that I came in contact with did not have any problem discussing facts about their real lives. For example, I met an avatar named, Billy Suivios who freely relayed his location, age and occupation.

I met two other avatars, Sabrina1 Halsey and Hibiki88 Andretti who both shared similar personal information with no hesitation and also informed me that they spent twelve and ten hours a day respectively on Second Life. I believe that spending too much time doing one particular activity, regardless of what it is, is not necessarily healthy or productive. I believe people with avatars like Sabrina1 and Hiniki88 who spend that much time on Second Life may be exposed to a false sense of real life.

A large part of society, especially those individuals who have never engaged in Second Life have a negative attitude towards the program. I have often heard people refer to users of Second Life as “losers. ” Even when I was on Second Life, my friend came over and looked at my computer screen and basically judged me asking why I would be on Second Life. I also spoke to an avatar that said he spent a lot of time on Second Life but his family, who he lives with does know what Second Life is or that he uses it frequently for he is afraid that they will disapprove of him.

I believe overall people are quick to view something unfamiliar in a negative light and if more people explained what Second Life actually is and what purpose it serves for them as an individual, more people would be accepting. Avatars did not go towards Courtney and start a conversation. However, when Courtney walked up to other avatars and started a conversation almost every avatar was receptive and engaged in conversation. Also, I asked several avatars if I could interview them for this research project and to my surprise, every avatar I asked agreed to answer questions and was a great help.

I found that the people within Second Life are very friendly once you initiate a conversation. Overall, the community within Second Life is very strong. There are also events taking place throughout Second Life, such as workshops, concerts, parties and contests. You can create your own event and invite your friends within Second Life, expressing your creative and social side. Furthermore, you can look for social events on a calendar in Second Life, ranging from eccentric to educational to competitive activities. Also, you can create or join different groups connected to Second Life where you can connect with others with similar interests.

The possibility of group topics is endless, including art, home and gamer groups. I talked to an avatar named Texas Ruben he described his friends on Second Life as a great circle of friends. Texas, like the majority of people connects in Second Life through chat and voice. The chat is in instant message form and can be seen by all the avatars around the area, which allows the conversation to be between many avatars. Texas related that it is much easier to talk to people on Second Life than in real life because the conversations move faster.

When I asked him why he thinks that is, he responded, “because (people) are more open when hiding behind a keyboard. ” There is also the option to communicate through voice where you speak to the avatar’s real person on microphone on your computer and you are able to hear them through your computer’s speakers. This gives a more realistic and personal element to Second Life chat. However, the real people still have the option of portraying themselves through their avatar by choosing to audio mix or distort their voice. This option allows the person to hide their true identity and live only through the identity of their avatar.

The community in Second Life is also strengthened through the avatars’ interactions. For example, avatars often agree on a time and place to meet again and are also able to see which friends are also online through their friend list. In particular, the avatar, Texas informed me that he had a partner on Second Life. I did not get into much detail with Texas but he did inform me that he met his girlfriend for the first time a couple weeks ago. He plans to travel to the United Kingdom in a few weeks to visit with her and to meet several other people who live in the UK who he also met on Second Life.

Second Life serves as a strong community to build social networks. However, I believe certain safety precautions need to be taken when interacting with someone in real life who you met in Second Life. This virtual world acts as a venue where you can pretend to be someone or something that you are not in reality. This can serve as a nice escape for people but can also be extremely dangerous when you believe you know someone, perhaps the avatar that does not accurately portray the person in real life. Second Life was developed in 2003, and has quickly transformed the way people use the internet.

Since its creation, Second Life has served as a medium for millions of people worldwide. People are able to engage and exist in a world without boundaries, where few rules and prejudices exist. The existence of such a world has created a new form of community not bound by geography, race, social class or any other normal real life circumstances. Instead, the community exists and thrives through the wants and creativity of its members. The site has already reached millions of users, with the possibility of reaching many more. *I would like to introduce you to my avatar, Courtney Redrose. This is Courtney speaking with Sabrina1 Halsey *This is Courtney at night in water speaking with Hibiki88 Andretti. *A portion of Courtney’s conversation with Sabrina1 Halsey Courtney Redrose: How long have you been on second life Sabrina1 Halsey: 6 months Sabrina1 Halsey: i joined last december Courtney Redrose: how many hours in day do you spend on second life Sabrina1 Halsey: probably around 12 Courtney Redrose: do you resemble your avatar at all? Sabrina1 Halsey: yes, in some ways. Sabrina1 Halsey: i think everyone’s avatar represents them, and it also does not.

Sabrina1 Halsey: just that you make your avatar something that you’re familiar with, but also something that you fantasize about. Sabrina1 Halsey: the avatar i’m currently wearing is meant to represent that fact. Courtney Redrose: where do you live? Sabrina1 Halsey: i live in the united states. Sabrina1 Halsey: the great lakes region. Courtney Redrose: okay, do you have a real life occupation? Sabrina1 Halsey: this is my real life occupation. Courtney Redrose: do you make money from second life? Sabrina1 Halsey: no, i am not entirely comfortable with the ways people can make money here, to be honest.

Courtney Redrose: how do people make money on here, if you don’t mind discussing it with me Sabrina1 Halsey: the most lucrative way is to buy land, and resell it Sabrina1 Halsey: but you need a lot of money to begin with. Courtney Redrose: okay Sabrina1 Halsey: then there’s making things, and selling them Sabrina1 Halsey: and there’s performing services. Sabrina1 Halsey: there’s also things like camping, and gambling, and other ways, but those don’t pay very much of anything. Courtney Redrose: are you married or in a relationship on second life?

Sabrina1 Halsey: no, i am single in sl, and i am married in rl. Sabrina1 Halsey: and i plan to stay single here, and married there. Courtney Redrose: does your husband engage in sl Sabrina1 Halsey: no, except by way of my talking about *A portion of Courtney’s conversation with Hibiki88 Andretti Courtney Redrose: How much time a day do you spend on sl Hibiki88 Andretti: I’d say six to ten hours. Courtney Redrose: do you have an occupation in rl Hibiki88 Andretti: At the moment, Yes. Home artist. Courtney Redrose: do you go to college Hibiki88 Andretti: Not at the moment.

Courtney Redrose: where do you live in rl Hibiki88 Andretti: With relatives. Courtney Redrose: Oh i meant what state if you live in the US Hibiki88 Andretti: Oh Hibiki88 Andretti: NY Courtney Redrose: okay i have family in NY too Hibiki88 Andretti: That’s cool. ^ ^ Courtney Redrose: what is your favorite thing to do in sl Hibiki88 Andretti: Meet people and share. Courtney Redrose: share what? Hibiki88 Andretti: Interests. Courtney Redrose: oh okay Hibiki88 Andretti: Like different things about ourselves, what we like/dislike, our hobbies. I like relating to people.

Courtney Redrose: do you relate to people in the same way in rl? Hibiki88 Andretti: Somewhat. Family conflicts are a main problem in reality. Courtney Redrose: do you use sl as a type of outlet, if you dont mind me asking Hibiki88 Andretti: Sure. Courtney Redrose: okay Courtney Redrose: have you ever met someone on SL and then met them in RL? Hibiki88 Andretti: Nope. Courtney Redrose: do your friends or family in RL engage in SL? Hibiki88 Andretti: Nope. Only me. Courtney Redrose: how do they view SL Hibiki88 Andretti: They don’t know about SL actually. ^ ^ A portion of Courtney’s conversation with RoxyLee Rayna RoxyLee Rayna: I will say one thing for you to know Courtney Redrose: okay RoxyLee Rayna: it helps a great many people.. those who are unable to leave their homes.. due to illness or disabilities. RoxyLee Rayna: they can be anything they wish on second life RoxyLee Rayna: those in wheelcharis can go dance play football Ice skate. RoxyLee Rayna: those in silence no one to talk to make friends from al over the world RoxyLee Rayna: some try and be like how they look real life but a lot try different looks A portion of Courtney’s conversation with Texas Ruben Texas Ruben: well I have a circle of friends here that are great Courtney Redrose: how do u interact with the friends? Texas Ruben: voice and chat Texas Ruben: I also have a partner here Texas Ruben: we just meet a few weeks ago Texas Ruben: I am going to the UK to spend a couple weeks with her Courtney Redrose: very nice Courtney Redrose: how do you interact with people on second life, do you all agree on a time and place to meet? Texas Ruben: kinda Texas Ruben: we usally are on and are on friends list

Courtney Redrose: okay so u have a friends list and u can see if they r on and where they r Texas Ruben: yes Courtney Redrose: okay Courtney Redrose: would your conversation on SL differ from a real life convo? Texas Ruben: i don’t think so other than things here seem to move faster Courtney Redrose: why do you think that is Texas Ruben: because ppl are more open when hiding behind a keyboard… lol Courtney Redrose: okay Courtney Redrose: have u carried over any other conversations with ppl from SL to real life besides ur partnet Courtney Redrose: partner*

Texas Ruben: yes I have some close friends I made here that live in the UK and will be meeting them * All of the avatars that I have interviewed agreed to do the interview and were all aware that it was for a class project and that their thoughts and conversation would be in the paper. I also gave the avatars the option of remaining anonymous, but no one wanted to remain anonymous. Log Hours: 6/09: 8:00 p. m. – 11:45 p. m. 6/10: 7:20 p. m. – 9:00 p. m. and 10:00 p. m. – 10:29 p. m. 6/12: 11:00 a. m. – 1:30 p. m. 6/13: 7:45 p. m. – 9:50 p. m

Works Cited Kolker, Robert Phillip. Media Studies: an Introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print. “Second Life Avatars and their Real Life” Web Urbanist. http://www. weburbanist. com/2007/06/17/top-3-look-alike-avatars-and-people-from-second-life-to-real-life/ Linden Lab (2007-08-02). “The Second Life Voice Viewer is Live! – Official Linden Blog” https://blogs. secondlife. com/community/features/blog/2007/08/02/the-second-life-voice-viewer-is-live “Second Life Economic Data”. Secondlife. com. http://secondlife. com/statistics/economy-data. php