Computer Mediated Communications Assignment 2: Creating an Avatar.

1. What is your avatar’s name?

My Second Life avatar’s name is Slasher TopHat. I typed in Slasher after thinking of the guitarist Slash (trying to be somewhat original by adding the ‘er to it … failure I know). After seeing that TopHat was available as a last name, I of course had to take it.

2. What difficulties did you have setting up your Second Life account? Did you try to personalize your avatar?

Where do I begin? To start, I found great difficulty in trying to communicate with other avatars. I tried to engage in chat with others that I saw in the “beginers” location, but I could not tell if they were just not responding or if I had tried the wrong application. Another great difficulty was controlling my avatar’s movements. While I was able to make it walk (and fly), there would be random moments where my avatar would continue to move even when I was trying to keep it in place. There was one point where my avatar kept flying further and further into the ocean to the point that it had “killed” itself and reappeared on land. When it began to move on its own once again, I had to log off Second Life and sign back in (only to find myself in a new “beginner’s section” and even further lost).

I was not able to personalize my avatar because my avatar did not “appear”. As I waited for Second Life to process my avatar, my appearance was simply a cloud of white smoke. Professor Broderick expects the process to have moved slower due to so many people from the class using Second Life at the same time and location. I have yet to sign back in to see if my avatar has finally processed.

3. What good is this technology? What could it be useful for?

This technology could be seen as a new improvement in online communication. Second Life allows users to communicate with both friends and strangers around the world through avatars and cyber locations. You can interact in a “new world” with a second identity. One could also argue that Second Life provides users the opportunity to use their creative muscle by build scenery/locations and performing tasks/games within the technology. In a sense, Second Life could be used to accomplish tasks that one would like to do in real life but simply doesn’t have the resources for it.

4. Did you notice the opportunities for social interaction? (alternately, are you afraid that you’ll be talking to the void?)

Despite the difficulties I encountered, I still noticed the opportunities for social interaction on Second Life. I can see how some people would have no problem interacting within this online world. However, I argue that AIM and Skype provide the same type of opportunity even better. Like Second Life, AIM allows you to chat with both friends and strangers on the opposite end of the world from your computer with instant speed. Some could say Second Life, though, that gives you something more to visualize while interacting by letting you create an avatar/new identity. However, through video and telephone chat, Skype furthers the visual possibilities of online communication (letting your literally hear and see the person you are chatting with). Some may value the sense of imagination Second Life provides through avatars. However, when it comes to social interaction through the web, AIM and Skype seem superior to me.

5. What are the drawbacks of this technology? Why doesn’t everybody have an avatar?

One of the biggest drawbacks of this technology is similar to that of AIM in regards to crowd control. While I do not know the majority of Second Life users, there is a chance that a portion of users are after less than wholesome activities. Granted, this is mostly a problem seen with AIM. However, such technology that allows you to interact with strangers will always bring the fear of what that stranger is actually looking for (both online and off).

The reason why everybody doesn’t have an avatar is because for the most part, many people view this technology as creepy. To many people, creating an avatar and interacting with other avatars seems a bit weird and unnecessary. “Why would I rather be interacting and active in Second Life when I could be active in the real world?” some may retort. In addition, many people are afraid of encountering the drawback mentioned in the above paragraph. The idea of talking to a stranger with a secret identity can create suspicion within the user. With such mentalities towards online communication sites, most people will view such a technology as sketchy.

6. Given your current experience, do you think that you will use this technology after the class is over?

I very much doubt that I will continue to use Second Life after the class ends. Honestly, I consider myself apart of the group of people who consider Second Life as a tad futile. While I am not afraid of sexual predators trying to talk to me, I do find interacting with an avatar is a bit pointless. Online resources such as AIM and Skype provide all I need in regards to online communication. As for the creative building aspect Second Life gives, it attends to be too time consuming and of little use for me.

Granted, I have been on Second Life very little, and maybe after I try it a few more times it will become more favorable to me. At the moment, however, the benefits this technology provides does not seem useful to me personally.

One Response to “Computer Mediated Communications Assignment 2: Creating an Avatar.”

  1. Andrew Anderson Says:

    I agree with what you say about Skype and AIM being superior to Second Life when it comes to interacting with other people. I imagine that using Second Life to communicate with someone you actually know in the real world would be kind of weird. You know what that person looks like, so if their avatar is a woman but you know they’re a man, it kind of defeats the purpose of having an avatar to begin with. I’m assuming, and I could be wrong here, that Second Life probably appeals to people who are looking to interact with people they don’t know in real life.

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