Friday, June 8, 2007

Innocence of becoming one presence

Entering the fleshy metropolis we build and destroy with whispers....
ID's please:

This is a side note, on my work about gender and power in virtual worlds. See past posts and future ones for that matter, they are forth coming.

I have uncovered a deception. One broad and wide as the totality of IP networked servers that encircle our globe. That which I call the Ork Conundrum...

There are many online worlds, Second Life and World of Warcraft seem to be some of the largest and most written about. And in these worlds the user becomes attached emotionally to their avatar or 3-D character which they have created and grow with. In fact, some become attached to other avatars.

So, you enter these "games" and wander about meeting other avatars and building relationships... But with who? Who are you having a relationship with? If you wander around with an Ork, are you friends with an Ork or the user of that Ork?

We know, at least I hope most of us know, Orks do not exist in our real world. So we know that a male or female human is behind the clicks and streaming text emanating from these fantasy creatures.

But what if its not an Ork or large reptile humanoid? How do we decipher what these fantastical creatures are. If as we go to some polygonal night club, and meet a sexy female avatar, is it a female or male that operates her?

What I have found is we have such a capacity to embrace the fantastical, the illusion, the simulation, on the one side, and yet are curious and desperate to find the reality that lives behind it.

To be concrete, I traveled through Second Life as both a male and female avatar. I seduced, romanced, and had virtual sex with both male and female avatars. Though my physical self was never involved, I can not say what was happening on the other side of their keyboards. I found, typing dirty words a bit adolescent, and banal after the initial surprise that it was so easy. So despite, my total lack of physical involvement with the virtual acts, I learned to whisper in word not volume.

But at one point after a run in with a female professor, I got tired of being a female.
I wanted to broaden the landscape, and not be trapped by the constructs of my latest avatar.I began to care about and become attached to other avatars. So, I felt the relationships I had built would just continue to be like a walk through a trashy lingerie store. Some giggles, maybe a moment of honesty, but basically a world of cliches... Images and words of what sensuality is as in mass produced fashion accessories. Just repackaged into text chat and poorly scripted 3-D animations.

So I did what I thought made sense, I allowed those I cared about to find out who I was. I thought though dangerous, being honest was both courageous and decent. How many walks down the aisle of heart shaped panties can one take?

The irony, the blithely incredible irony, is they took the bite of the apple instantaneously. All I offered was a phrase, a simple two word phrase "culture sponge" and a request if you want to know who I am just google that phrase...

Did they wait? Did they pause and think what am I about to do to this illusion? Did they hold onto that key for a moment? No, immediately they checked it. Yet, here is where the flesh gets in the way. For now, we see who lives inside that Ork, and the city where the Ork lives and the relationships of that Ork.And in astonishment, they prefer not the reality, they prefer the Ork.

I created a virtual feminine persona
(my female temptress) so believable that they preferred the illusion of a 3-D woman to the fullness of the reality. Its like falling in love with the Prince of Denmark, but feeling sick at the sight of Laurence Olivier as he rubs his makeup off.

These persons who could not wait even a moment to destroy the illusion, have no interest in destroying their illusions. They hold onto their simulation soo tightly one imagines a bead of mercury in their palms. Transfixed, all their attention is required not to let even an ounce slip from their virtual fleshy grasp.

They express sadness, that I killed the Ork,I destroyed a city, I pulled back the curtain, on an illusion. Despite the fact I am the Ork...Some even revealed my true identity to others, before I could do so personally. Their lust for reality had no bounds when it came to me.

Yet, I remember, first visiting as a male avatar, Second Life, and I saw a profile. Each avatar, has a pop-up window with just a simple right mouse click on their virtual bodies. This female included their real life photo. At first I was dumbstruck, that picture looks nothing like her avatar. I was turned off and confused, why destroy the illusion?

Now, I understand. If you build a massive virtual metropolis, with virtual relationships, and all the sweet illusions and emotional monsters and desperate heroes to inhabit that city, all you are left with is an illusion.

No sweat, no tears, no bonding that builds real meaning or real value. A sad, silly little world, of no flesh and no blood. A massive social network built on illusions, useless, pathetic, and unable to lift a hand to true tenderness or compassion to those of the 99.999% who live in a real world. Those who truly need help, and need understanding. Not a single tissue crosses from a monitor to a human tear. All the melodious words typed in chat, are worthless, to the touch of a kind hand on your shoulder.

So what is left? Isolation, a long interminable masturbation of the mind, nothing can be learned about sports, politics, art, or fashion, without the flesh. Yes, you can discuss, the art of a waltz, or share a chat on the use of light on a canvass. But flesh, being present in the face of that canvass, or making the body move and coordinate to that song. That is living.

So, they rationalize, they hide, they accuse, "that I am fragile?" That I should understand its just fantasy. They forget it was my experiment, it was my creation they bonded to, it has been detailed in multiple college sociological papers... But by connecting and ultimately revealing my virtual persona with my real world persona, I am innocent.

And it is they that can't let go. They won't let go. No they must keep the two worlds separate, they didn't when they had a chance to see me as I am, but they themselves? The fear and loathing holds them silent. So they continue to build, to buy, and to create a fantasy. Its a refuge, its just play, are all the sad excuses of those who wish not see any inch of real flesh which will crumble the metropolis around them. Ignoring, a virtual fantasy built by fleshy bodies.

In the virtual world they shared intimate secrets and passions. But, now, my flesh exposed, they revile the reality. They embrace the illusion, while defending that their reality is so different that no connection could or should ever exist...No matter how much those thoughts now contradict the ones they expressed when both our avatars were naked together and passionate whispers were exchanged.

How terribly sad, to love in one world, and to fear the real world. To have passions in one city, only to live most your life in a city without that love.That instead of building bridges you build walls. Instead of turning virtual playmates into decent friends, you build massive thick walls to keep everything in its place, for their virtual feelings to hide behind. They will peek outside, if you give them a window. No, they will rush to that window and stare, but dare not knock on from the outside. You will hear the deadbolts click, the shudders close, and the lights go out. For who do they not trust?

To those who fear the power of real human flesh, emotional connectivity is death. The virtual and real must never connect their worlds. Despite, facebook, myspace,friendster, and the list goes on, these connectivity hubs are to be feared, in at least never connected with their virtual persona.

But why? Why would you live two separate lives? And do whatever it takes to keep them that way? Fear, fear that the flesh, the body might awake and take the real with it to the same realm of the virtual emotion. Fear of loss of control, to let the hormones that drove your avatar to have virtual sex, might take over and dirty the clean organized world of reality. Ultimately, its fear of presence, the power of being in front of instincts and impulses that millions of years of evolution has hardwired into that brain that can deceive itself that the virtual is real. Being present requires; control, patience, and thought. Handling all the tiny signals of a gaze, a walk, the tone of your voice, is just too much, as letting a computer do it for you.

Thus, Presence, is now a commodity today. We pay people to just show up. From Tennis stars to Hotel Heiresses , people pay for there mere presence.To catch their gaze, to see them walk with no advanced 3-D graphic card needed. But as the hotel heiress has made a business out of just being present and selling it, most have not.

And all the work to build a virtual presence? As long as it stays in their small virtual world and disconnected from the flesh it remains a little hobby.A little hobby, that placates whatever fears, keeping them from connecting it to the outside world.

But sadly, they cannot market their presence, they cannot connect it over to the real world and build real value. Their feelings must be protected. They must keep any real emotion felt in the virtual world safe in a small locked box know as a personal computer. As such, personal growth is impossible, if not slowed to a imperceptible crawl... This is not to say their real world emotions, and lives are stilted. No, these are intelligent creative beings, and with dynamic minds that are eager to travel in a virtual world ahead of the masses.I swear to it. Kudos, to their spirit, yet lamentable to see them fearful to make a more meaningful connection.

So be it.

I build real value. I have built real companies from nothing. I build real communities with real social networks. I am not afraid to connect the virtual with the real. My passion for technology and science and wellness is empowered by all my connections of the virtual and the real. I am sure of the hundreds in my real social network, there exists a few Orks. I have no need to ask for their ID. But if they show me their ID, I am free to show them mine, connected and unafraid. Unnecessary of course, because the flesh in my world is passport enough.

Therefore, I will travel between all worlds virtual and real, looking for those who wish to travel with me. My flesh, my heart, and my mind will never bar my way and will remain as open as one can on travels to other worlds. If you would like a friend and companion, there are enough links to guide you, I hope to see you soon.


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