Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life
Shopping in Second Life…. where appearances count
Shopping in Second Life: The point of view of an academic working in the field of New Literacy Studies
This week I have undergone a process that might be referred to as ‘blinging up my Second Life avatar’. Less than a week ago my avatar, (me?) was wandering around the University of Sheffield Education space in its (I now realize) pitiful looking ‘system’ shoes, hair, skin and clothes. I had skulked around in the safety of the education buildings where my colleagues were grown up , discrete and quiet about my lack of self-awareness.
In Infolit iSchool I have attended regular meetings and treated the space as if it were some kind of Skype facility – talking with colleagues, planning a funded seminar series and conference. I just concentrated on getting the voice facility to work; not bumping into things and on talking about the business in hand. I tried to disregard the idea of myself as a physical being in the space and just thought about what I wanted to say and making the communication work. I had noticed that others at these meetings, more experienced at SL than I am, somehow looked better than my own avatar. Fitting in to the community is to some extent, about looking the part – you show you are a insider by your physical appearance. The fact that you have shed your caterpillar skin is to show that you have been about in the world a bit and have investigated the options. You have to earn some stripes – or get your wings … (to mix my metaphors).
I was not really clear about what it was that looked so ‘system’ about DrJoolz; indeed it was just this week that I discovered from Sheila Yoshikawa this look had been inscribed in the language with the term ‘system’. The word seems to belong to the same paradigm as ‘insitutionalised’ (with all the suggestions of ineptitude) but actually identifies not just a lack of individual style, but also the idea that one is not yet an insider, someone who has not moved beyond the ‘basic rations’. The person who stays looking the same way after signing up for Second Life, is the person who has ot lurked enough; who has not looked about and tried to understand the culture. Essential, if one is to show respect, maybe?.
I have spent the last couple of days hitting the shops (and the bank balance), spending my Lindens and getting freebies to my heart’s content. Here’s me out and about, scouring for bargains. I found these freebies by Hyde Park (yes that’s right.)
Meanwhile, there are always those people jangling the can trying to get you give to charity while you are out:
A strange thing has happened, which is that in getting involved in shopping activities I have started to think about my avatar as a presentation of self within the world. My engagement with shopping activities, the act of evaluating goods, selecting and buying merchandise, has meant that I have invested time, money and thought. Whilst I have selected things that are in some way close to what I would wear in Real Life, I have also been influenced by what is available in-world and by what others are wearing. That is to say, there seems to have been some kind of accommodation process happening and I have gradually started acclimatizing to the new cultural spaces in SL. And with all this I have become further aware that Second Life is not one cultural space but many, and that different ways of behaving are expected in its different domains.
I have been pulling together ideas for a presentation at the Festival of Social Sciences this week. So maybe you’ll pop by Infolit iSchool tomorrow?