Coming Of Age In Second Life

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Coming Of Age In Second Life is well written, very well researched and whilst it does not get bogged down in academic detail and theory, it does provide reference to such theories that undergird the author's research.' -Rob Harle, Metapsychology, 'The gap between the virtual and the physical, and its effect on the ideas of personhood. Coming of Age in Second Life is often mentioned in connection withHaraway is often cited by those who have speculated, over the past 20 years, on the emergence of a 'posthuman' society. Hayles (2006) suggests, for example, that electronic media have transformed life so that the individual person is losing significance when compared with.

I’ve just finished reading anthropologist Boellstorff’s account of two years of fieldwork within Second Life ‘Coming of Age in Second Life.’ The author’s ‘stance’ in studying Second Life, from an ethnographic point of view, is to treat virtual worlds not as contrasting with the real world but with the actual. The author’s two main explorations into this idea are through, firstly, the notion that the avatars’ manipulators are never within the virtual world (cf. the elaborate section within the book about being ‘afk’ absent from keyboard) and secondly, the notion that the world represents a ‘techne’ culture where humans engage with the world and create the world illustrating a craft-based culture rather than a knowledge-based culture.

Coming Of Age In Second Life

In the book, Boellstorff, or Tom Bukowski (his SL avatar), dedicates the first section to outlining the history of virtual worlds before turning to the methodological approach he undertook to conduct his fieldwork. This chapter’s underlying message is that virtual worlds must be studied in their own terms but that this does not mean ignoring ways in which ideas and practices from the actual world impinge on the virtual world but rather examining how they manifest themselves within the virtual world.

In section two, the author examines the culture of second life under the chapter headings of a) place and time b) personhood c) intimacy and d) community. Within the first sub-section, Boellstorff underlines the importance of the visual aspects of Second Life and how a sense of place, increased through landscape and home-ownership, is fundamental to residents. He also comes to understand how sociality is a key reason why the majority of residents remain in Second Life and that this is largely due to the possibility for synchronous interaction with other residents. The effects of lag and afk on social interaction are discussed.

In the second sub-section ‘Personhood,’ Boellstorff looks at senses of virtual personhood and how avatars create selfhood by their choice of name and by placing themselves on a ‘life course’. The author discusses how residents can identify ‘newbies’ and how actual life events can impact on virtual personhood, relationships and emotions. The section also looks at embodiment (and how this is used by physically disabled in the actual world) as well as race and gender.

Within the section on intimacy, the author investigates language within SL. He discusses the use of acronyms, different turn-taking practices and how residents code-switch between group instant messaging within a specific location and one-one- instant messaging between avatars (NB. At the time of writing audio chat was not incorporated into SL). Boellstorff then turns to describing how friendship is the primary relationship form with SL and that SL friendships, are often considered as more real than actual world friendships, due to the lack of prejudges based on gender, race, age etc and the idea that SL friendships are accelerated friendships due to their intensity. The different sexual communities which exist in SL are then examined as are romantic relationships.

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The last chapter, within section two of the book, is dedicated to ‘community’. The main idea within this section is to reiterate that virtual worlds are places, which become sites of culture as residents interact and that with time they become communities. Boellstorff describes how, in general, kindness is common in SL but that problems of ‘griefing’ (harassment and trouble-making) do exist. He then examines how ‘griefers’ are a specific SL community themselves. The author also looks at communities which extend over several virtual worlds and the importance of forums and blogs which constitute part of the SL community.

Finally, in section three of the book, ‘The Age of Techne’ Boellstorff addresses the issues of politics, economy and governance before concluding with a chapter on ‘the virtual’ describing what SL is and what SL is not. Perhaps the strongest messages within this final chapter are, firstly, that SL, despite drawing on aspects of the actual world, is not a simulation, as the world does not seek to become a replicate of the actual world, and secondly, that SL is not a social network. Rather, the author describes the virtual world of Second Life as a place of sociality where culture can be crafted.

Coming Of Age In Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores The Virtually Human

A crew of young people on a lifelong expedition to colonize a distant planet grow frustrated with their rigidly controlled existence and begin to rebel, putting the mission at risk, in Voyagers. Director Neil Burger's (Limitless) new film is part classic space epic, part mystery, and part dark psychological thriller. All those elements serve as a framework to explore questions of morality, freedom, power, and the fundamental core of human nature.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

Burger was inspired by two vivid mental images. 'The first was a group of young people sitting around inside a spaceship,' he said. 'They were disheveled, zoned out, and looking like predators resting after a hunt. I don't know where that image came from. But the second [image] implied a story: that same group of people chasing another crew member down the narrow corridor of the ship, pursuing him like an animal.'

Burger sensed there was a meaningful story there and shaped his film around the ship as metaphor for our own world. He also researched the science of long-distance space exploration and on human behavior, most notably the effects of prolonged confinement, aggression, tribalism, and violence. The result is Voyagers.

Coming Of Age In Second Life Summary

Per the official premise:

With the future of the human race at stake, a group of young men and women, bred for intelligence and obedience, embark on an expedition to colonize a distant planet. But when they uncover disturbing secrets about the mission, they defy their training and begin to explore their most primitive natures. As life on the ship descends into chaos, they're consumed by fear, lust, and the insatiable hunger for power.

In the year 2063, scientists have discovered a new, habitable exoplanet where the human race could flourish, as Earth is fast becoming uninhabitable. Richard Alling (Colin Farrell, Minority Report, Artemis Fowl) is charged with raising a crop of designer babies to serve as the crew aboard the spaceship, Humanitas. Their voyage will take 86 years, meaning it is their grandchildren who will ultimately reach their new planetary home. So the children are raised and trained in isolated conditions that mimic those they will experience on the Humanitas. Alling grows attached and opts to join them on the mission, even though he won't live to see its end.

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Ten years in, the crew have matured into young adults, dutifully performing their assigned tasks and taking their daily 'vitamin supplement,' dubbed the Blue. Then Christopher (Tye Sheridan, Ready Player One) discovers a strange toxin in the irrigation water aboard the ship and realizes it's coming from the crew's urine. Specifically, it's an ingredient in the Blue, designed to subdue the personality and decrease pleasurable response.

'They're drugging us so we can be controlled,' Zac (Fionn Whitehead, Dunkirk, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) says when Christopher tells him about the toxin. They resolve to go off the Blue, and eventually most other crew members follow suit, bringing all those raging hormones to the fore. The result is teen rebellion against Alling's authority, growing distrust and paranoia, and of course, sexual experimentation and the desire for instant gratification. Could there be a mysterious alien life force lurking just outside the ship, further complicating matters?

Ars Technica: I've seen this film described repeatedly as Lord of the Flies in space. Do you agree with that description?

Neil Burger: It makes sense in a way. I love that book, and I love the Peter Brook movie. Whenever there are teenagers going wild or society breaking down, it becomes a Lord of the Flies reference. And I understand that. To me, it's a little different. Lord of the Flies is about those boys enacting male behavior from English society and [notions of] masculinity: hunting and going to war and all that stuff. This movie's a little different in the sense that this crew—they have no cultural reference. They have none of that background.

Voyagers is about a group of extraordinary young people waking up to sensual desires, to freedom, to power, and the thrilling euphoria that goes with that experience. The ship is a sterile environment where the young crew almost seem like laboratory rats. We watch to see how they behave under the conditions, how quickly they descend into savagery. [The film] is more about, 'Who are we when you strip away all that cultural baggage? Who are we at our core? Are we good? Are we animals? Are we moral?'

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“Who are we at our core? Are we good? Are we animals? Are we moral?”
Coming of age in second life

Ars Technica: There are so many scientific elements in this film: designer babies, exoplanets, interstellar travel. You clearly did a lot of research on these and other story elements. What is your approach to weaving science into your storytelling?

Neil Burger: I love science. I'm really interested in all sorts of aspects of it, and learning as much as I can about all sorts of things: growing babies in a laboratory, or how we're able to sense whether a distant planet has certain chemicals, if there's water on it. I love exploring all of that. I wanted to make [the film's setting] as real as possible. The themes about human nature are important and real, so I wanted the setting and the ship and everything around it to be as real as possible as well. The spacecraft is purely utilitarian and functional and based on actual proposals within NASA and other organizations studying space travel outside our solar system.

Ars Technica: There's a nature versus nurture question, I think, that comes up because, as you say, these young people have no cultural context. They were genetically designed to be the ideal crew. But sometimes it's not enough to just design them that way, as we see with the character of Zac. There are other influences that shape who we are.

Neil Burger: For me, the movie is about human nature in a vacuum. [The crew members] have no real models for behavior and little to do on the ship except eat, work, and sleep. In a way they are pure humans—all nature, not nurture. I always thought of them as horses that have never been let out of the stall. As I said, when you strip away everything, who are we at our core? And is that even a real thing?

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Perhaps for the mission planners in this movie, that's what they were looking for. But there's always small things that do influence us. Is there something inside Zac, for example, that makes him tend toward a certain kind of response? I would argue that he's smart enough, that he senses that he's being controlled. So when he gets a little taste of his own control or power, he's just never going back. It [feels] reasonable, what he's doing—even though it isn't.

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Ars Technica: Zac's actions demonstrate the power of manipulating with misinformation. That resonates particularly strongly these days for obvious reasons. But it's fairly universal in human beings: even though we love our freedom, we are very vulnerable to that kind of manipulation.

Neil Burger: I think we're understanding that more and more. When I wrote the screenplay, it was years ago, and I was obviously aware of that happening in our society and other societies. I was writing it as a cautionary tale. In the last few months, it's become something completely different. Fear is a big theme and a major issue in the movie: how a leader uses it to manipulate his followers and maybe even drive them to mob violence. It all raises questions about how a society can function—about selfishness and self-sacrifice. That's the foundation of the conflict.

Ars Technica: You've said that the ship is a metaphor for our world: humans hurtling through space on Earth, not sure why we're here or where we're going. And somehow we have to find meaning in that. We see the best and worst of human nature on display in the film as it builds up to a big central question: is humanity worth saving?

Coming Of Age In Second Life Review

Neil Burger: I think it is worth saving. And I think that we continue as a species to try to move things to a better place. It's tough and there are setbacks, but I think that the predominant thrust is to try to alleviate suffering in our fellow humans. It's not always easy.

Voyagers is now playing in select theaters.

Listing image by Lionsgate