When real life gets boring…

When real life gets boring…
September 29, 2014

There is a complete parallel universe out there. Where? The things is, you can’t exactly see it because it’s virtual. It exists somewhere out there in internet coding.

This week in class we have been exploring digital ethnography. As explained in our lecture (for those of you who aren’t in class with me but read my blogs), ethnography is a qualitative research method in which the researcher describes and interprets the shared and learned patterns of values, behaviors, beliefs and language of a culture-sharing group (Harris, 1968).

So, digital ethnography involves taking all of the research to the web and having human-technology interactions.

Before this week I had never heard of Second Life. For this assignment, we needed to jump in and spend some time on SL to learn how to fly, walk, and function in the virtual world. During our readings there were brief explanations for what certain things meant, so I thought I would be prepared well enough to have a basic understanding once I logged on. Boy, was I wrong! My initial log in featured my avatar standing on a beach as I tried to figure out the controls. Suddenly someone else appeared next to me and I could tell that they were trying to learn like I was because their avatar moved in circles.

I had the walking around part just fine but I’ll be honest, I was more concerned with the less-than-cute outfit my avatar was wearing. My goal became to transform my avatar to look more like myself but I quickly learned that things in this digital world cost money just as they do in the real world. The currency which is used throughout SL is called a Linden and with a free account, you start dirt poor with $0 in your bank.

I first clicked all of the buttons and menus to see what was available. I named my virtual person “Liv McCoy.” There was no significance to “Liv” but I used “McCoy” after my favorite rock’n’roller, Josie McCoy from Josie and the Pussycats. I was determined to transform Liv into a virtual rockstar. Thinking back about this now, I really wish I would have given her the first name of Kimberly in honor of the original Pink Power Ranger. However, Second Life only allows you to change the name of your avatar once every seven days.

Teleporting was fun. It made me feel like my avatar was almost in a Harry Potter movie getting to apparate. Of course, by teleport I really mean that once you find the location you would like to go to, you hit the “teleport” link and before you know it, that scene is loading around your avatar.

I found a place called Gold Hunt that said I could have all of the money I was able to find. GREAT! My quest of changing my avatar was within reach! I walked around the streets grabbing the coins one at a time and their value was all revealed to be .05 cents. With each coin I picked up, I had to wait thirty seconds too. Money isn’t really free, now is it?! My second interaction with another avatar came when a girl ran up and stole one of my coins! Shame on her for stealing .05 from me. Probably not an area of SL I should be hanging out in alone! Thanks, friends! After walking around for about thirty minutes, I wound up with about .40 cents in my bank account. My avatar was going to remain unfashionable without my likenesses.

I found a few different places that offered free items, thanks to my trusty pal Google. The only things I was able to grab were resemblant of sheets that attached to the avatar’s arms. Still, not a great look. Then behold! I spotted a store across the way that looked like they had platform heels and cute little party dresses. But, with the shoes being over $30, my SL avatar was going to remain that little moth striving to be a butterfly.

Second Life seems interesting if you have a decent amount of time to invest into your digital self. It will take time to earn Lindens, make friends, build your house (you can own land if you have a paid account), learn the initial controls to fly/walk/change camera angles and more. For those of you who play SIMS, it reminded me a little bit of that… minus the “rosebud” cheat code for Simoleons.

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Tags: avatar, digital ethnography, lindens, mmc5427, second life, sims, virtual world

6 thoughts on “When real life gets boring…”

  1. You are so much wiser than I! I forked over 10 bucks (Real money) to buy 2500 Linden. I, like you, wanted to tap my inner little girl/fashionista and play dress up. I got over that really quickly when I learned how challenging that was as well!
    I didn’t even bother to look up free money though. Smart you!
    I loved the flying aspect as well. Your Harry Potter analogy is a good one. I think my favorite part was the whoosh noise when you fly and turn corners. Another cool aspect? My avatar had a long skirt at one point and it would flow in the wind. Nice touch Second Life!
    I have never played SIMS so I know nothing of what you reference but overall I find the virtual world exhausting.
    When I would finally log out and lift my gaze, my eyes hurt, my head ached and I needed a nap!
    Who knew it would be so all-encompassing?
    In the end, I choose real-life.
    I see the benefits and potential of it…but I’m clearly not the target demographic!
    Good post Megan (and great blog by the way!)

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly!
      I thought it was exhausting too because it involves so much thinking–or at least as a newbie it involved a lot of thinking for me. I did enjoy the little details to some of the features like the wind in my avatar’s hair, so I agree that was pretty awesome. I was a big fan of the SIMS when I was younger but it really takes up a lot of time to build your virtual world the way you want it and to develop the relationships a person would have in real life. Granted, that was the other version of the game before the SIMS even had babies and aged–but still very time consuming! I can see how people can get lost in the virtual world for hours at end… but I have to admit that I would rather do something more constructive than stare at my computer screen for more time than I have to since I do so with school and work.

  2. First off, I LOVED Josey and the Pussycats! Secondly, good job explaining the assignment foundation to this experience. I thought it was really smart that you went to Google and found tips on how to navigate in SL. The gold-finding adventure seemed really fun too! I agree that unless for the purpose of education, professional experience or social networking SL just doesn’t seem to grab my attention. However, you mentioned SIMS and that is something that I truly enjoyed when I was in high school. I even had the “Hot Date” edition. I was ‘too cool for school’! I didn’t get the hang of the wardrobe either– I ended up going to a beach with a strict dress code. Once I failed to get my avatar in a bathing suit and noticed another avatar exposing himself next to me, I decided to call it a night and retreat back into RL!

    1. Hey Cassandra,
      Thank you! I suppose I could have asked other users how to get free stuff on SL but I wasn’t sure how receptive they would be to a newbie asking so many questions about things they probably didn’t really care about like, “How do I change my hair to pink?”
      The SIMS were so much fun–I think mainly because of the cheat codes that helped you build mansions. Maybe one of these days I’ll look around for my old disc and pop it in… see if I’m still entertained by it.
      I’m glad that I didn’t have your beach experience. When I landed in SL, I was standing on a beach but the other avatars were just standing around too so I assumed they were trying to figure out what to do since there was no chat dialogue. Yikes!

  3. Hi Megan,

    I just wanted to stop by and let you know that I appreciated your post, especially the details you included when explaining your experiences in Second Life. “A little month striving to be a butterfly” was my favorite line in your blog post. What a beautiful picture you paint! I am sure Liv looked great, regardless. I couldn’t help but smile when you confessed the amount of time you spent focused on the outfit of your avatar. Like you, I also expressed concern with the looks of my avatar. However, I wasn’t as smart as you — way to go for googling free clothes! I didn’t even think about that. Isn’t it funny? We shouldn’t care what we look like in a virtual world, but for some reason we do. Overall, I found the experience to be an enlightening one for me as well. I can definitely see how people can get sucked into this virtual world, as it truly does provide an escape from reality. Thanks, also, for including the graphic. Great screenshot! Your post was exceptionally enjoyable to read and I look forward to continuing to read your posts this semester.


    1. Thanks, Kim!
      I use Google for EVERYTHING. When in doubt, ask Google :o). You are right though, we shouldn’t really care what we look like in the virtual world but from what I have gathered in other classmates’ posts, they too wanted to change the appearance of their avatar–whether it was for completely vain reasons or they just didn’t want to look like a newbie.

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