Friday, October 9, 2009

Created My First Art-object...

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions. Second Life

Fairly often, my IBM colleague Robi Brunner hosts a field trip in Second Life for interested IBMers. Today, I was inspired to create my first even remotely artful object.

Happily, my friend and colleague Maria Izabel Vinha Vieira aka Sharon Schmertzin in Second life and I aka Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven in Second Life both were on the field trip together. Maria Izabel lives in Brazil and we have never met in real-life, but we have worked together in Sametime 3D, OpenSim and Second Life.

I took a snapshot of Maria Izabel/Sharon and me, sitting on the shiny, red cylinder that I built (I'm on the left, and we've captured a rare moment, where either of us is sitting still):

In fact, other than Suzy Deffeyes, Mike Ackerbauer, Bernie Michalik and Robi, and my friend Amy from childhood, I've never met any of the friends/colleagues with whom I've been most active in-world. And I feel at least as close to them as to some of the colleagues I see face-to-face routinely, whether or not we work closely together. What does that mean?

Sometimes, I wonder how shy I would feel if I met Chuck or Amy or Maria Izabel or Andy or Karen or Silvia or Thomas in real-life. What would it be like to face a version of Chuck that didn't include skin-covered spikes, coming out of his forehead? How would it be to meet the appealing and graceful Jacqueline's real-life alter-ego, Amy?

For the record, I have neither a pony-tail (the default hairstyle for female avatars in the corporate version of Second Life) nor a Swing Out Sister bob in real-life. And I'm not even sure that any real cat has an elbow, which is the English translation from Yiddish/German for my avatar's first name.

When I asked once, Maria Izabel told me that she dresses artfully in real-life, too, but still, how would I feel if we were witnessing the actual version of each other? Does Silvia really wear elaborate dresses from the 1700s and Indian saris day-to-day? Is Andy as fit in real-life as his virtual version? Probably! How realistic is Karen compared with her avatar? Is Thomas Su as suave as Thom Thom Tigerpaw?


C. Hamilton said...

In late 2008 I was speaking at a conference in San Francisco and had just finished speaking and stepped down from the podium to face a line of people waiting to chat more about our work in virtual places. As I worked through the group I met Nadie “Hi Chuck I’m Nadie” she said as she slightly dipped her head and offered me her business card with two hands. Her obvious Japanese accent and style were familiar to me from my many Japanese friends in Vancouver. “Hi Nadie how can I help you” I said as took her card with my two hands and nodded. “I just wanted to say hi in real life”
she said, suggesting that I should know her. “Its me Nadie …(Can’t remember the last name of her Avatar.) from Japan” she said as she could see I had no clue who she was. Then it hit me who she was and I immediately opened my arms to which she responded by giving me a tiny hug. I realize that this encounter may break a number of cultural and business guidelines, but I had been working actively with Nadia for three months for IBM, although she was both outside IBM and virtual. I felt a strong attachment to that brief relationship, because I had seen and heard Nadie so many times in world. We talked for a bit and then she let me get on with the crowd and we agreed to catch up later in world.

In a later discussion with Steve Mahaley (Duke University) I hypothesized that in many cases meeting virtually first, helps establish a better relationship between two disparate team members or even whole teams. My theory is that because we base this virtual relationship purely on the exchange itself, (what you bring and I bring to the table), that we don’t have the added weight of establishing an early bias of any kind, whether that be physical, cultural or gender related bias. In other words I’m forced to take you at ‘virtual face value’ judging you (and presumably you judging me) solely on our interaction and relative contributions. Clearly as with Nadie and I the bonds can be strong and we are actually delighted to then meet in person and carry on where we last left off. Then once we are virtual, we have both memories to build upon for future work. Steve just said, “wow that is a cool concept, why don’t come here and do a PhD on that. There is a ton of research needed here.”

The global cultural playing field is being forever changed by social technologies. We don’t always understand what may be happening, so we need to be able to stand back and look at situations like those discussed above and examine the possibilities.

Sarah Siegel said...

I wonder what Markus & Nurius, who authored, "Possible Selves" in the September, 1986, Vol. 41, No. 9 edition of "American Psychologist," would think of Second Life's potential in enabling possible selves that in the real-world feel impossible. An excerpt of their article's abstract: "The concept of possible selves is introduced
to complement current conceptions of self-knowledge.
Possible selves represent individuals' ideas of what they
might become, what they would like to become, and what
they are afraid of becoming, and thus provide a conceptual
link between cognition and motivation. Possible selves are
the cognitive components of hopes, fears, goals, and
threats, and they give the specific self-relevant form,
meaning, organization, and direction to these dynamics.
Possible selves are important, first, because they function
as incentives for future behavior (i.e., they are selves to be
approached or avoided) and second, because they provide
an evaluative and interpretive context for the current view
of self...." (p. 954).

I believe that Second Life enables possible selves. I also believe that for a number of SL fans, their avatar is an amped-up version of the way some people seek to be self-expressive through their choice of car or clothing in real-life. Certainly, I form an impression of people by looking at their avatars, whether a fair one or not. In my experience, I'm not sure it's so democratic, i.e., that I'm so purely able to accept the person's essence/contribution without regard to the avatar's appearance...and I'm not classically a visual learner, so I can only imagine what people who are more visual are thinking. I say all of this with some chagrin, as my avatar wears hand-me-downs from my childhood-friend Amy, and as I cannot figure out how to make my avatar's makeup less heavy(!)

Silvia said...

Thanks Sarah :-) well you wouldn't feel that shy if you'll see that I am just a girl with curly hair (couldn't help Anthi get curly hair :-() Looking forward to meeting you REAL LIFE! In between do enjoy your second one :-)

andypiper said...

Nice post Sarah, btw I have a simple answer to your question about my avatar... no! :-)

Karen said...

In my case the answer is 'it depends'- my avatar in ST 3D is probably closer to the 'real' me than some of my other alts, in part thanks to Aimee Sousa's awesome 'prim' hair. And I do tend toward the t-shirt and jeans look... most people who meet me in real like tell me I am smaller than they expected (at only 5-2")- I guess my big mouth doesn't quite match my small stature!

Bernie said...

I sit near Thomas at the IBM Innovation Center at 120 Bloor. He's suave IRL, too.