Monday, May 19, 2008
A Brush with Identity
This 2 week session of TandLinVW has the focus of avatar identity. For me this is a key issue in SL. My avatar, Esme has transformed over the year that she has existed. She is young and casually elegant. Her personality is strong, direct, funny, kind, and at ease in unfamiliar situations. And she has made me just a little bit like her. Because of her adventurous nature, she meets many people. I meet many people, and delight at variety of personalities and interests that I find in SL.
Today I had the pleasure to meet a young, generous, quirky, extremely bright, furry. I can't say that I know _much_ about furrys. I know that furrys dress as cartoonish animals and many enjoy cartoonish animal art. (Esme once donned a furry avatar and received a tour of some furry haunts and was only slightly startled to observe furry sex animations.) I did not for instance know that some furrys opt for dominant submissive relationships. I was told today that unlike goreans, furrys are never slaves. My new friend is his master's pet. While he did not want to confuse his furry identity with the work relationship we were establishing, and therefore did not speak at length, he is apparently a furry lifestyler.
Until a year ago, I knew nothing of some of the subcultures that can be found in SL. Some might be fearful or repelled by the prospect of meeting people with such unfamiliar lifestyles and mores. To me it is the wonder of SL. I am safe here. I don't need the protection of my family, neighborhood, social class or ethnic group. I can travel freely among people from different nations, with varied abilities and disabilities, with opposing and similar political views, with lifestyles that I find intriguing, curious or even repellent. None of the obstacles that usually protect me from variety exist. And what I most often find is people who are engaging and helpful and open and curious just like me.
What does it mean to explore an identity in SL? Am I role playing the more confident persona of Esme? Can I learn from this practice to be more like Esme? Am I a voyeur or a participant in an exciting social experiment? As an educator should I steer clear of those who thumb their whiskered noses at the dominant culture? Can I use SL to help my students explore hidden potential within themselves? What is the potential for teens to "find themselves" in the safety of a world that offers Control-Q - the ultimate answer to unsafe situations?