Monday, September 28, 2009

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Mixed Reality Portrait: Atismia Unsworth, Academic Researching Second Life as a Mediation Tool


Rod, the man behind Atismia Unsworth, presents this merger of identities. "The painting in the background is one by me," he writes. "The real life version is in my house in Wales, UK and the SL version is in Atis' SL house. Rod is doing research in SL for a PhD."

His doctoral work explores Second Life as a communications technology, asking what it mediates. "If this question is applied to traditional communications technology this answer is pretty straight forward," he explains. "The telephone mediates voice in real time, cinema mediates moving pictures and voice asynchronously. Different communication technologies have different affordances and constraints of course, the telephone is good for conversations and the cinema is good for telling stories, but you wouldn't use film if you wanted to remind someone that something needed doing later on that day, and although you might read a story to someone down a phone line, it does not seem to be a particularly good use of the technology. Second Life, seen in these terms, just seems to put users in a cartoon world. That's why it is seen as a trivial and escapist medium perhaps?"

However, Rod has an intriguing answer to that criticism:

"What I argue is that what Second Life is mediating is a sense of concern for one's existence. A sense of existence as something that must be tended to and worked on.

"All the people who I have met in Second Life during the course of my research are all building in some form or another, either building objects or building on friendships with each other, or both. Second life is a media technology that changes the conditions of building in interesting ways. People might think that one thing it does is reduce the costs of building to zero (like other Web 2.0 technologies reduce the cost of communication to zero). But I don't think that is the case, because building always takes up a lot of time and building good and lasting friendships is as hard in Second Life as it is anywhere (harder perhaps because there is less at stake?)

"Certainly I think that people can and do learn life lessons in SL. So I am particularly interested in what people think is consequential about their being in Second Life and how they are using their time there."

Intriguing project to go with an intriguing profile. See the whole Mixed Reality Portrait series here. Want to send me your own Mixed Reality Portrait? Here's guidelines and suggestions on doing just that.


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