Monday, October 29, 2012

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When It Comes to Fashion, Virtual & Real Are Just About Equal (Comment of Week)

Matrix and NWN comments

I love the long reader comment thread on last week's post about a study which suggests some people prefer virtual experiences to real ones, because it's just as interesting (if not more so) than the actual post. It also reminds me how lucky I am to write for such a smart and engaged group of readers. (Dammit I fricking love you guys.) I'm tempted to say all the comments constitute last week's Comment of the Week, but let me highlight this one from Ezra, on the appeal of virtual fashion:

"I bet a lot of people using Second Life spend more money on virtual clothes than real clothes some months. Why? A lot of us, especially those of us that live in temperate places, don't buy clothes at all based off of physical functions like keeping warm or protected anymore. The bulk of our closets are items we chose based on shape, colors and patterns, and most important of all how we believe thousands of passerbyers in the streets will like them when seen but never touched.

"So what makes a real shirt more 'real' than a virtual one in terms of value when anything physical doesn't play a part?

"That's overstated because despite not necessarily buying clothes to keep warm, we also buy based on the feel of clothes and still do enjoy our own bodies, but it seems 'real' and 'virtual' matters a whole lot less for everything that amounts to show and tell, because pixels suffice for that and even exceed in some areas."

"I think the limitations of virtual being as good or better than 'real' is boxed to the senses of sight and sound. It's why clothes are so successful in Second Life. Virtual is perfect for everything we only need to see or hear. Taste, touch, smell, obviously we're a long long way from betraying our friends for a steak, but in the meantime sportin' a nice collection of shades and trenchcoats is already here."

Many more interesting comments here.

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Pussycat Catnap

I spent 10,000L or so on virtual pets in SL.

I still don't consider them real.

Even though I've picked up a dog before from a box out front of a grocery store and given it a home. So I guess, since it was a freebie, it wasn't real.

I think the person who's comment is up there, has lost sight of some parts of reality.

I'm having this same conflict, or did over the weekend, with some Goreans in the roleplay subforum of the official forums. People who go from talking about their characters to talking about real emotions as if the two were the same. Not seeming to understand the difference between a fictional character and themselves...

There's a word for this; delusional.

Used to require LSD for normal people to end up like this...

Pussycat Catnap

I should a bit to the above, because I did go on a rampage at the Goreans over their choice of roleplay - that I do think the choices we make in what to portray and what fiction to emulate or aspire to, or what topic to glamorize...

- These things do have real impact. They shape culture, and the 'virtual' in terms of stories, games, fiction, et all; have long been vehicles through which to spread new norms in thinking and behavior.

So it -IS- very much dangerous to glamorize evil, as this can normalize it.

(Many of the statements made in Gorean fiction about how 'natural' and 'normal' women, who are 'naturally heterosexual' properly seek to be submissive, and that the 'warrior woman' motiff is nothing but a fabrication of 'sexually frustrated feminists'... Statement like this very much -are- oppression based logic, seeking to normalize oppression by shifting the linguistic and moral burden onto the other side of the debate. This kind of terminology was once used in race-oppression as well. And in both cases, there have been long lists of glamorized fiction, thrown out as "just stories" or "just games" for the very active purpose of normalizing evil.)

- That's a tangent to virtual... but still related.

Because a virtual world is just another form of relating stories and norms and ways of thinking about and perceiving the world.

What works to spread ideas in a novel or a good yarn, works possibly even better in a VR.
- especially one where it is so easy for so many to lose sight of what is real... the fashion in the "game" or that in the physical world...

It really -isn't- just a game.

Pussycat Catnap

The conclusion to my above two comments, would probably be:

Getting so wrapped up that you start to see it as 'just as important' or 'just as real' is not healthy.

But at the same time it really -isn't- just a game. The concepts, the images, the words - they do have impact.

So (the conclusion part) its vital to get some 'perspective' and step back sometimes - both to not get pulled in too deep, and to become 'mindful' of what has pulled you in and how it has impacted you.

In your gors sexin up bitchez

I'm sorry...I'm too busy laughing my ass off at the above set of comments. Because gor roleplay is of course the first thing I think of when SL Fashion is mentioned. XD

And as far as the original post- I think it likely has much more to do with the fact that you can get a 'designer dress' in SL that looks better on your avatar in most cases than it's real counterpart would look on your actual, physical body since most of us aren't anywhere near as physically perfect as our avs, and also the fact that if you have a business in SL, you have lindens to spend, but even if not, said virtual high fashion can be achieved for a few dollars a month, vs. the hundreds you'd have to spend for the real thing. It's a cheap, easy, vicarious thrill.

Ezra

@Pussycat "I think the person who's comment is up there, has lost sight of some parts of reality."

No, I just think 'virtual' can compare to 'physical' when it comes to sight and sound, so long as we have displays and speakers. It's why I used a virtual shirt as an example and set aside things like a steak that requires the three senses we don't have hardware interfaces for to experience virtually.

Virtual through the medium of computers isn't an opposing idea to reality, no more than virtual through movie projectors or mp3 players are. Virtual is augmentation of reality that allows us to have favorite actors we've never met in person, and collections of virtual shirts we sometimes spend more money on than physical ones.

Virtual is just another way to have visual, audible shared experiences of things to either lesser or greater effects. Virtual is me preferring 10+ NFL games through DirecTV every sunday versus going deaf and not being able to see much of a single game at the Georgia Dome with my crappy 300 dollar ticket.

Virtual also isn't the same thing as imaginary. Imaginary is reading a book and experiencing in your mind the sights, sounds, tastes, scents and touches of things. Virtual provides the sights and sounds and ceases the need to imagine everything that can be experienced by just those two senses. Virtual is the opposite of imaginary in that it brings things out of our heads into shareable experiences where real value is found.

When it comes to things that only need to be seen or heard to have its value, like a shirt bought for fashion purposes, it's virtual representation is reality. The only difference between a virtual shirt and a physical shirt is that it's data stored on disks somewhere later churned into pixels and not stitched panels of fabric. Many will see this as a lesser experience, but I figure for Second Life users its just a different, additional experience and doesn't warrant lesser or greater comparisons, or questionings of sanity. It's the same as how no one debates concert tickets vs. our iPods since its as simple as two different experiences of our favorite music artists in real, in the ways that matter, physical and virtual forms.

A virtual shirt is a different kind of real, but who cares? Isn't that an obvious point that doesn't matter? Much like Christina Hendricks is never actually in my living room when I'm watching TV. Thankfully there's no zombies when I'm watching Walking Dead, but the experiences are real in the ways that matter in that I'm entertained.

Virtual clothing, again setting aside physical counterparts like coats we select for warmth, are real in all the ways that matter in that they allow shared expression of one's self. Yes, if you need snow boots for an outing today, Marketplace can't help you there, but a virtual shirt can serve the same goal as a physical one if the objective is to have others see your taste.

So, one can tightly join together their definition of real as meaning physical and doubt the sanity of others that don't feel like emphasizing the differences between virtual and physical everytime when speaking of real experiences, but "real in the ways that matter" is all that counts and a lot of the time whether something or someone is physical just doesn't matter. It's why this conversation can be had through pixels and no one's doubting their sanity just because there's no more physical about it than virtual shirts.

There's no need to over think it all, the reality is we've long since been fine with digital representations of physical things when they can be fully enjoyed with just sight and sound.

Ten years from now maybe buying and valuing a virtual shirt will cause only as much stir as buying an ebook today. Nowadays it's no big deal to buy a paper book for one reason yet an ebook for yet another reason, but ten years ago that was less the case.

I think what freaks some people out about Second Life's virtual items is that we're able to interact with them. So, much like violent videogames create much more controversy than violent movies due to differences in interactivity, some believe Second Life users are mistaking 'real' for 'virtual', a opposition of words, in the sense that we believe the value and experience of virtual items to be the same as physical. Value? Sure, a lot of the time but not all the time. Experience? Obviously not the same, sometimes better, sometimes not.

Shirt and steak, there's a difference between thinking a virtual shirt is pretty and a virtual steak is delicious. It's mentally lazy to sum it all up as crazy and detached from reality.

Rather than achieving something by continuing to parse, define and re-define the whole glossary of words we use to describe aspects of virtual things and physical things, I think a sooner reality will be people just not caring.

At present, most don't care if an ebook is really a book in the sense that its paper, we consider an ebook a real book because it's core value of being readable is apparent and that's all that matters. The same kind of fate awaits virtual shirts, though to a lesser extent since we can't fully replace our closets like we do libraries, but everything that can be represented in full value with sight and sound alone has a future in virtual worlds like Second Life, more vibrant than the 10 year past already established in Second Life.

Pussycat Catnap

I've got multiple debates and arguments going on over the last week and my frustration in some of them is bleeding into my commentary in others. So I think I need to step back for a few days.

My post reads as hostile up there towards people here... when it shouldn't have by what I wanted to say... but I'm not yet sure in my thinking to clear up and get to what I wanted to convey.

( https://my.secondlife.com/pussycat.catnap/posts/508ff8b22d51580002001b0a )
- So you know this is me.

I don't feel the virtual is at the stage of being equivalent to the real. But it -is- important in our lives. AND we can lose sight of the divisions if not careful. Sometimes the blend is helpful and sometimes not.
- Maybe that's a short version of what I'm trying to get at. If it still makes sense to me reading that a few days from now. :)

Arcadia Codesmith

Our subjective reality is mediated through the evidence of our senses. As interfaces become more sophisticated and computers more powerful, the virtual will become increasingly real, subjectively.

The impacts on our shared sense of objective reality are already becoming manifest. We already have communities of Americans, perhaps as much as half the country, that believes things that are contrary to objective fact, conveyed through media no more sophisticated than text e-mails, blogs and talking heads on a television screen who intone them with an air of authority. It's only going to get more pesuasive and invasive as the monied interests behind it hone their techniques.

As we move into a more virtual future, I think it's critical that we fight like hell to keep a connection open to objective reality. Ideas like the Gorean fantasy view of women have to be countered with the reality of female empowerment.

And we can't do that if we don't understand or we dismiss the incredible power of subjective experience.

Nexii Malthus

A piece of wisdom I keep in my profile:

"If what we think, feel, and experience is real,
then what I think, feel, and experience in
virtual life is very real."

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