subjective reality and second life

lately this blog has degenerated into pretty pictures, memes and simple talk about live music i have enjoyed. i have been thinking about lots of things i want to blog about but putting together my ideas has seemed like a challenge for some reason. so rather than wait for inspiration and the perfect post that likely will never happen, i am going to dive in to one of the things that has been rolling around in my head.

without getting into a philosophical discussion of relativism or subjectivism, i think it is easy enough to agree we all experience the world in a way unique to our own personality, culture, and other factors too numerous to list. my dad always used to use that old political quote "where you sit is where you stand" and i think this idea is one of those basic truisms of life.

it is endlessly interesting to me that multiple eyewitnesses to crimes frequently report things at odds with basic facts reported by others "seeing" the same set of circumstances unfold. sometimes this disconnect between our own view and that of others adds to the richness of our experience while other times it can be the breeding ground for conflict.

in second life we have the ability to log all of our conversations and our chats. no more wondering, "did he *really* say what i think he said?" or "did i just miss the point completely?" you can go back and read whole conversations to be sure -- yes he did just call me a "tart" because he didn't like what i said in public chat yesterday. (not that anyone has ever used that word to describe me. ok maybe once. but i am happily married in RL and single as all hell in SL so it was a one off. i swear.) ANYWAY

as we all know written words are flat and lack inflection meaning you cant easily detect sarcasm or joy for that matter. voice allows you to hear tone but not everyone loves it like i do and rather than leave people out of the conversation i tend not to use voice much. so for much of our day to day in sl we are limited to text with no tone. imperfect, yes? what we have to work with for now, yes.

in recent weeks i have been having conversations with friends in an effort to resolve some group issues. in the course of these conversations two different people said to me "that is why i invited you to the group." the funny thing is my memory is a third person entirely invited me to the group. i find it most interesting that three intelligent people all remember a basic fact completely differently. we can't all be right and yet our beliefs about how things happened in the past color our perceptions of our reality now. it goes without saying we are seeing our current circumstances very differently from each other as well. i am sure our different perceptions are broadly at the root of the conflict and developing a shared understanding is key to moving forward together.

does second life make issues of perception more difficult because we lack tone and body language? does the ability to log every word and go back to check on the actual facts of a conversation help? hurt? sometimes i can't wait to rush back and check a chat log. other times i refuse to revisit the record, instead preferring to live in my memory of an interaction. i am not sure what my point is here and i certainly have no answers. just more questions.

the other day a friend told me i think too much and i try too hard. i am sure i agree with his perception in both cases.


Tymmerie Thorne said...

Great essay and quite topical. I had a neighbor assume I was angry at him for buying more land on our sim. (Not Satan - I am still ticked at Satan.) Now, I know if I am in a hurry I forget to put :-)'s or LOL's on my ims and my chat reads so flat. I have scoured the transcripts to find what I could have possibly said but I found nothing. Luckily, in this case I could grab Google Talk and speak to him and he could hear the emotion in my voice as I assured him that I adore him as a neighbor and loved what he was doing with his new land.

I often overuse !!!! in order to convey a smile in my text voice. But people just think I am really excitable over the slightest thing now.

myg said...

does second life make issues of perception more difficult because we lack tone and body language?

Yup I believe it does. But it also makes some things easier too - like intimacy, in a weird way. Because people are less afraid when they're not reading all the non-verbal cues.

The other interesting thing is how it allows people to project so much of their own fantasy or needs or ideas onto others. Each individual is part caricature, part canvas.

does the ability to log every word and go back to check on the actual facts of a conversation help? hurt?

I think it helps if people remember they're being logged. Meaning, maybe they'll think more before they say something. But it has the potential to hurt.

I know, you weren't looking for answers necessarily, but I couldn't help myself.

And as for this: the other day a friend told me i think too much and i try too hard.

I have to say, what's with friends telling you all the time how you are? For the record, of what I know of you, I think you're perfect. Go on and think and try all ya want.

esteban-moody said...

Like Myg, I'd say it does and it doesn't. I think communication/friendship/intimacy are difficult in SL because there's no agreement about what the hell is going on -- all the RL social codes and conventions are up for grabs. In order to talk with someone, you need to make assumptions about what codes and conventions are at play, but most likely they are making different assumptions. You both have different contexts for what's said and what's heard -- and thus different meanings.

I have gotten used to apologizing!

Think too much? Try too hard. Naaaah.

chestnut rau said...

@tym its frustrating to be misunderstood. it feels like a punch when i realize someone has totally missed my meaning. usually i spend a lot of time wondering how i failed to communicate so completely.

@myg damn woman. i miss you and your ability to see to the heart of any situation. thank you for...i have literally typed three things and deleted them i guess i'll just go with "everything." thank you for everything.

e@steban totally agreed. when you actually *do* connect with people it feels like like a miracle, a gift. kind of like my friendship with you.

Apple said...

My brother came to dinner last night... We were looking at his photo's online and he had experimented with doing some HDR. As he was explaining the process to me I reminded him that about 2 years ago I had actually introduced him to HDR and suggested he try doing some shots that way! At that point he remembered and laughed. My point is this... I dont think it matters so much how you got somewhere... It is the fact you are there at all! (I could have sworn I invited you!, but it doesn't really matter does it... your here and thats what really matters to me) Keep thinking and trying! A.M.

Lunette said...

I remember my mother telling me once that I think too much. My mom had a stroke in 1995, and although she is still alive, a lot of her is gone.

In a way she was right. You can think too much to the point that it interferes with your ability to function. But thinking, and self-awareness, are the special gifts we have been given as human beings. It seems a travesty not to use those gifts.

Issues of perception are more difficult in Second Life, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. For me, it has helped to make me question a lot of perceptions that I took for granted. In the process, I think I am finding a way to become a better person.