Cyberculting

A blog about Cyberculture and ICTs.

Posts Tagged ‘second life’

Man, I feel like a woman.

Posted by candacewhitehead on August 12, 2008

I find it fascinating to see how men and women represent themselves on the Internet, in terms of the avatars or images that they use, the way they represent themselves in their “About me” sections, or how they “speak” online.

In 2006, Elizabeth Coverdale, a student at the University of Southern Indiana, wrote a paper called “Cyberculture and Gender Identification in Online Chat Communities”. Her interest lies in the linguistic aspects of online interaction – basically, how men and women talk. She conducted an experiment on Second Life (SL) where although she kept the same ID, she changed her avatar to a male one for a week – albeit a slightly feminine one. As she began interacting with people – both long-time friends and people she was beginning to meet – she found the way she spoke to people changed dramatically.

She writes “I found that my sentences were shorter, more direct and filled with less chat detritus: meta-language like emoticons, laughter, and other emotional responses”. There she highlights one of the key markers differentiating the language that men and women use on the internet: what she labels “chat detritus”. I find this a very useful description: it is those conventions which can be deemed as “excess”.

Women tend to do it a lot – they add smiley faces such as :), 😦 or 😉 more readily than men. They often inject giggles such as “heehee” or “hehe” into paragraphs or at the end of a sentence – they use more words like “lol” or “hugs”, and are tempted to add dozens of little kisses at the end of each conversation. Research conducted in 1994 in Multi-User Domain Communities shows that female-presenting characters used almost three times the amount of emoticons and representations of laughter than their male counterparts. I took a look at my friends’ Facebook pages to see if I could spot these conventions, and I found this little gem:

“Hey Sally,
Iheard about you and Johnny shit I’m so sorry my lovvie but you know what he wasn’t worth it at all. I think you and me should hit [the club] this weekend for a little jam-jam, if you’re feeling up to it? 🙂 Also just wanted to check if you are free for a little dinner tonight? 🙂

I’m making lasagne so if you could bring some wine that would be oss-um. Heeheehee.

Many lovvies and hugs
xxxxxxxxxx” *

I would love to see the male version of this, applying Coverdale’s rule:

“Hey Johnny
Sorry about your chick. I’m heading off to the pub for a pint later, you keen?
Shot for the burger last night, it was lank awesome.

See you at the rugger at five. GO BOKKE!!!!!!
Cheers bra.”

Generally, women seek more acceptance in everyday speech than men do, which is something that Coverdale points out. Women use flippant extras to their speech in order to convey enthusiasm, support and a desire to keep the conversation “buoyant” – something that is translated into their online interactions.

I know I apply a number of these conventions: I love using smiley faces – they make me happy, too. (Ha, I sound like a woman there) And I’m really sensitive to when friends of mine use or don’t use smileys. Although I don’t go as far as using “lovvies” or “whuggles” or other nauseating phrases, I am just a part of this linguistic convention as most other girls I know.

Man, I feel like a woman.

*Any similarities to persons living or dead are not coincidental. That’s because I stole this off your Facebook page.

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You can’t always get what you want

Posted by candacewhitehead on April 14, 2008

I learnt a valuable lesson yesterday. Make sure everything is saved in at least two different places. My dear laptop crashed – and took everything with it. Including my blog draft. I’m going to have to wing it, so bear with me.

I would love to give you a first-hand account of my Second Life (SL) experience, but alas. After two attempts at getting it up and running, I gave up. At first I tried to download it onto a computer I knew was better than my little Fujitsu. Installation and registration was fine. And then it came to choosing a name.

I must have tried about twenty names for my female character, and all of the cool ones were taken. For those of you who don’t know how SL works, you get to live your “second life” online – choosing a name for yourself, and a new image (an avatar). You have the freedom to do whatever you like – and you can even charge “Linden dollars” to your very real credit card in order to buy things. 

At the end of March, over 13 million people were registered residents of SL – and each has to have their own individual name. You can type in your first name of choice, and then have to select a surname from a prepared list. And some of these names are pretty weird.

So after beating my head against the desk for about half an hour, I managed to find a relatively cool, unisex name. Trouble is – 13 million other people want to have a relatively cool name too. So screw having a normal first name – if you want to have that, you’re most likely going to have to pick a surname that would have seen you beating to a pulp at breaktime in primary school. Sorry folks, thanks for playing.

Once I’d sorted out the name dilemma, it was time to choose where I wanted to land. On that first island, they said I could meet and interact with people, walk around, even fly if I wanted to. Fantastic, I thought! One of my major aspirations in life, after watching X-Men in my childhood, was to be able to fly like Rogue could in the cartoons. Fortunately for Rogue, she didn’t get an error message saying that they couldn’t pick up her network connection.

So I crawled under the desk to check the network cable, disabled the firewall and the antivirus, chickened out and re-enabled the antivirus. And so ended part one.

Then I tried to get it on my laptop – and SL sniggered in its sleeve at my puny machine. See, SL wasn’t designed for people with computers like mine.  If you don’t have at least the recommended (recommended, not minimum) graphics card, SL jerks and shakes until you quit out of pure nausea.

But despite the admin issues, SL is hugely popular. A number of universities have a SL presence, where you can take classes. The Maldives were the first to open an embassy in SL on “Democracy Island”, and were swiftly followed by Sweden and Estonia . 20th Century Fox premiered X-Men: The Last Stand on SL. Reuters has a news bureau. Sky News has a virtual newsroom. Mazda  and Toyota offer virtual replicas of their cars. It’s bizarre, I tell you.

I think it’s the escapism. I think it’s the way you can make up for your past mistakes, and be able to turn over a new leaf and go “this time, I know what to do”. I think that now, but I don’t know. This is only the beginning of my exploration into SL – setting the stage for what is to come.  One virtual step at a time.

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