Joining Second Life

Second Life is also not immune to the same social predjudices and inequities that exist in the real world. My friend Andy Carvin found this out when he created an African avatar – modeled specifically after a Somali child soldier. In an excellent article about Second Life, the Boston Phoenix quoted Andy about his experiences:

Another real-world person experimenting with an entirely different SL persona is Boston-based blogger Andy Carvin. Last fall he joined SL as Andy Chowderhead, but he got “bored with it” and decided to create Abdi Kembla, an African refugee he modeled after photos he found online of former Somalian child soldiers.

“Previously, when I used my old Andy Chowderhead avatar, I found people were more likely to come over, say hello, and start a conversation. But with Abdi, people tended to just act as if I just weren’t even there,” says Carvin, who estimates that he spent between 20 and 30 hours in February and March exploring as Abdi. “The more I traveled through SL, the more I realized I seemed to be the only African-looking character around anywhere.” He adds, “I encountered gnomes, floating beams of light, characters that were shaped like boxes, elves, everything you can imagine — but no African-looking characters.”

Alas, virtual societies are no better and no less biased than the sum of the people who create and populate them. That doesn’t mean I won’t spend some time in Second Life exploring ways that I can use it as a tool for communication and teaching. But it’s important to remember: ultimately technology will not change human nature, and it will not enable us to escape all aspects of our human-ness, both the good and the evil – no matter how much time we spend roaming cyberspace as sci-fi action figures.

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Personally, i think this if false. I meet a ton of african-based characters. However, that is likely because I run “the dancing tree”, which plays North-African Jazz and pop. I posit that the reason that many people don’t meet african avatars often is because they don’t explore the cosmopolitan areas as much as they stick to the comfortable and neutral(read mainstream, hegemonic, culturally repressive, etc. etc.) I built the dancing tree about 8 months ago because, I like the music and I wanted a place where that music played. Likewise on Kula, there is a mountaintop that plays rap francaise, the sandbox plays smooth jazz and the area around the sandbox plays island music… I meet a ton of interesting people that way….

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