Friday, April 11, 2014

Social Conventions in Virtual Worlds

More often than not I turn off the tag over my head in Second Life though doing so leads to issues when I rez something at home without noticing I have the wrong active land group set and the item is returned shortly thereafter. Still, the convenience of being able to see others without my name and other information blocking their face is worth the trouble. Sometimes I turn off the ability to see other people's tags, too, particularly in crowded rooms. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think that might reduce lag just a bit while making for a better view.

Doing that also lets me pretend I don't know the name of everyone around me unless I recognize them. How often do you stroll along a crowded location in Real Life and know at a glance that the people on the closest bench are names Billy, Susie, Frodo27, and Lickalottapuss? While their clothing might be a clue, there are no tags over their heads informing you that they belong to the First Reformed Church of Atheistic Voles. Second Life is another story. And here it is ...

A beach I frequent rarely has any visitor that I know more than superficially. Usually I swim, lie on the beach, or ride a surfboard. But I can easily recognize those I've met by the name tags so I can tell when someone new arrives. If I say "hello" first I don't use names, though, as I pretend I don't know them despite seeing their tags. I wait until someone else greets them by name before I use their name.

I could go further and just run without any name tags, but in Our World it is so easy to change one's appearance – subtly with different hair or dramatically by changing species – so it could be hard to recognize a friend. This is something I've been considering this while thinking about social conventions. Phillip Rosedale of virtual world developer High Fidelity (and a founder of Second Life) has similar thoughts and discusses them in the following video at about the 1:13:00 mark.

The TL;DR gist is that no one sees tags over your head in Real Life so you probably won't in Rosedale's next virtual world. No People Near Me radar in Real Life, no Friend List to tell you who is awake at any given moment nor any covert mapping of a person's location. Right. I have two words for you.

Google Glass.

Surely "smart eyewear" has or will have a facial recognition app with quick commands for easily gleaning common social media sites for basic information about someone you see near you . Just like right-clicking an avatar reading someone Profile or inspecting their clothing in Second Life

For that matter, there is Find My Friends on your iOS device. At this moment I can see that my brother's iOS device (hopefully with him at the time) is in a grocery store. What about those apps that use Bluetooth or Wifi to alert you when someone with the same app and similar interests is within a certain proximity to you? Need I mention Blendr, Findhrr, and Grindr?

Virtual worlds are no longer just an entertaining repast. Rather, they have the potential to become  the bleeding edge of a social revolution (or at least a social gravity field) and the time is now to define social conventions. I don't use Facebook or Twitter. My Plurk account is all but dead. The blog I keep to focus on Real Life is public but I doubt anyone in Second Life would likely find it (or find it interesting. I use it mostly to just write, kinda like that crazy lady you see buried in blank-page journals and notebooks at a table in your shopping mall's food court every single day.). There is no Second Life-like Profile page for my Real Life.

In the video above, Mr Rosedale talks about this "blankness" applying to virtual worlds where users would blend both lives and release only information that we wish to give. If Facebook and the like are any example, though, I foresee people over-sharing in the new medium. Maybe that is the new social norm?

From the grocery store list app's Web site I see my brother has finished shopping and there is a carrot cake on the way home with him. I'll text him before he gets near Dairy Queen because I'd rather have a Confetti Cake Bizzard Waffle Cone. Ponder all those implications while go open the garage door and make room in the fridge.


GlynsDad said...
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Pep said...

There are NO valid "social conventions" in a virtual world. There are rules defining *unacceptable* conduct, which are more or less enforced, mainly because they are largely unspecific, giving wiggle room for the authorities to be able to act unilaterally. But these by default imply what it is permissible to do, not what SHOULD be done.

Pep (If you acknowledge and act by social conventions, it is because you want to be part of the clique that wishes to ostracise those who do not. Difficult!)

Uccello Poultry said...

I was thinking, Pep, less of imposed rules than of what has developed within the community. For example, the idea that you know the name of everyone in a room regardless of whether you have met before or not is a given, thanks to name tags. It also seems common that an IM (which I liken to a text message or a call to my Real Life mobile) is acceptable even if the originator is with in Main Chat speaking range. The latter might be deemed unacceptable or not by a socially developed etiquette, but the former can not be judged as acceptable or not by the community since it is a feature that ban be activated or not by each user.