« And Harper's Award For Best Oscar Gown Goes To... | Main | Love And Seraphine »

Friday, February 22, 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Christophe Hugo

This is a question more than a comment: is the proportion of "augmentists" higher in the East than in the West? If so, the current population trend (e.g., lots of new active SL residents coming from China or Japan) would mean that augmentism will be predominant.

Augmented reality already is happening in the streets of Tokyo...at the same time, someone living in an oppressive Asian regime like [fill the blank here, or ask Mia Farrow to do it for you] may want to "escape" it for a short while by living a parallel life in SL.

Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Hamlet.


Wow, thank you for posting this. Reading both their journals was informative and thought provoking. I wish them both well on their journey. I found this phrase by Sophrosyne extremely pertinent:

"You may or may not have asked me out. Even were I to date outside my family, I probably wouldn't go out with you. I've got my insecurities, and I'd fear you would really want the A/S/L and the atomic-world hookup and were just biding your time to get me to "trust" you enough to set aside my "Digital pretense" and get with you physically. I'd fear you thought I was lying and pretending, and so were lying and pretending to me. Maybe I should trust you enough to set those fears aside. Maybe I should, but not today."

I have seen that happen so many times in SL, and hurt so many avatars and most importantly, the humans behind the avatars. Again thank you for posting this.

Hamlet Au

Glad to, though of course the big props go to Sophrosyne and CyFishy.

Sophrosyne Stenvaag


Thank you for the attention! I'd like to direct anyone interested in these issues to Boc Cryotank (Stephen Euin Cobb)'s podcast, "The Future and You."

He's been exploring SL, and this week (http://www.thefutureandyou.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=309115) he features immersionist Argent Bury and a long interview with augmentationist and SL-Transhumanists founder Giulio Perhaps (Giulio Prisco). It's good stuff.

Oh, and sorry for tousling your hair yesterday - it's just so - irresistably fluffy! :)

Doreen Garrigus

This is an interesting thing, to me, this struggle to define a difference in approach. I am almost identical in both places, differing only in name and by SL limitation---I have yet to get my hair quite right inworld, although I finally found the perfect eyes (thank you, Miriel). But just because I don't see Second life as a discrete reality doesn't mean that I consider it to be glorified chat, either. There is too much more to it than that.

It strikes me that the Jesuits have the situation well defined. They have declared Second Life to be a "land", like an unexplored continent. It is a new frontier, with its own sensibilities and customs. I am here to see it, explore it, marvel at it, become a part of it. And I will do that as myself---a self that is seamlessly contiguous to the one I walk around in every day---because I am comfortable with other people knowing these things about me: I am female, I am caucasion, I am short and small, I am in my late 30s, I have blue eyes and blond hair, I have a deep, unfulfilled longing for clothes that fit when I buy them and, as a result, an expensive, enduring relationship with a real-life tailor. You can tell all of that by looking at me in either world.

If I were to choose an avatar that differed in any fundamental way from my real life self, that would reveal a whole host of different, perhaps more intimate, details about me.

An avatar constructed out of the depths of my mind might reveal who I had always hoped to be, things I regret, wishes and dreams achieved or unachieved, values, desires, and insecurities. It might reveal something profound about my experience of self that would ordinarily take other people many, many conversations with me to discover.

I am not comfortable with people knowing those things when they meet me for the first time, so I give them only those bald physical details they would get in real life. That is how I maintain my privacy. Immersionists are not lying or pretending---they have stripped their spirits naked. They are much more vulnerable than I can bring myself to be.


I remember how annoyed I was hearing a furry using Voice. He wouldn't stop! After about five minutes, I typed "be quiet," and then, "shut up!," but he kept talking. Another furry showed up, and this only made him talk louder. I started IMing the guy, hoping to distract him. It only helped a little. Finally, I had to "mute" him. "You see what you get?" I scolded him, knowing he couldn't respond back.

Extropia DaSilva

A person unfamilar with SL but who has heard about 'augmentism' and 'immersionsism' may want these terms explained to them, and the best way to do that is to compare it to something they may well be familiar with: Namely, literature.

An augmentist is somewhat similar to a writer of an autobiography or a diary, in that the 'character' is their RL self.

An immersionist is akin to a writer of novels, whose characters don't have any physical existence outside of the printed word.

This just goes to show that inventing a character who may not bare any resemblence to the RL self is not some weird new activity create by oddballs with no life beyond the computer screen, but rather is a continuation of a very old tradition of understanding what real life is/ could be through the medium of storytelling.

It should be immediately clear that it is innappropriate to ask 'which is the correct use of the written medium: The autobiography or the novel?'. One is no more or less a legitimate use of pen and ink than the other.

But which is more trustworthy, the autobiography or the novel? The latter deals with fiction, the very opposite of fact. Is it, therefore, just a bunch of lies?

I think we need to be careful before jumping to that conclusion. Every writer of fiction must draw on some real life experience in order to create compelling characters; there is always some truth in fiction. To what extent is Orwell's '1984' just a bunch of made up stuff with no relation to real life events and no important lessons to teach us? As for autobiographies, given the innacuracy of human memory and our tendency towards prejudice, I think a strong case can be made regarding the rejection of the idea that any diary/autobiography is 100% factual.

In short, there is always some fiction in an autobiography and there is always some fact in a novel.

And I think that is just as true with SL. Despite all this talk about people being divided up into augmentists or immersionists, I suspect that it is actually the case that most are some mixture of the two. I would be very skeptical of anyone who claims the presence they have in SL is a 100% true portrait of their RL self- the temptation to go beyond RL constraints is just too great. And I would be just as skeptical of anybody claiming to be 100% SEPARATE from their RL self- creating a convincing personae with no reliance on RL experience is just too difficult.

(Of course, ongoing research into artificial intelligence MIGHT one day produce avatars that can legitimitely claim to have no meatbody running them.)

Doreen Garrigus

Exactly so, Extropia. The autobiography is constructed of fact, as remembered, whereas the novel is constructed of truth, as perceived. Each tells you very different things about the author. Although the autobiography does it more directly, you mostly only get what the author wants you to know. A novel, on the other hand, reveals all sorts of things about the author's sensibility and perception of the world that he or she may not have intended you to see.


Kudos for a beautifully articulated post!

It puts a far less self-delusional face on the agumentationist camp for me (seriously--do y'all REALLY think that sporting that 'realistic' looking avatar is any less of a contrivance, or an act of 'ropleplay,' than my blue skin, feathers and tentacles?), and gives me a basis for a more sympathetic and open-minded stance towards them. Not everyone is so eager lay bare their inner-being, and that's something I can totally respect.

You've also captured, quite succinctly & poetically, both the heart of the 'immersionist' style, and the core of the tension between the two camps:

"Immersionists are not lying or pretending---they have stripped their spirits naked. They are much more vulnerable than I can bring myself to be."

Thank you so much for that!

Thank you as well, for a very well laid-out analogy, and the level-headed caution against the extremism that we humans tend so strongly towards. You're absolutely right, of course: none of us falls entirely into one camp or the other...

One question about your last line, tho: If it's not being run by a 'meatbody,' can it really be considered an avatar any longer? Wouldn't it just be the AI's 'body'?

Orfeu Miles

@ Extropia Da Silva.

"But which is more trustworthy, the autobiography or the novel."

Perhaps this depends on the talent of the writer.

Extropia DaSilva

'One question about your last line, tho: If it's not being run by a 'meatbody,' can it really be considered an avatar any longer? Wouldn't it just be the AI's 'body'?'

Oh, well, one has to wonder what self identity means in a post-human world.

Human beings already clearly demonstrate the ability to model the world in their minds and perform 'what if' experiments with the imaginary characters 'existing' therein.

According to Kurzweil, future adances in nanocomputing should give us computers with enough capacity to equal 100 million human brains, plus the capability to reverse engineer the software of intelligence.

I think it's safe to assume that when a human being models the world and populates it with imaginary characters, each one must be using less than one human intelligence since they are all 'timesharing' one human brain.

Ok, but now imagine if that brain were 100 MILLION times more powerful. Such a brain would have no trouble modelling the thoughts of millions of people, each one of which has full human intelligence.

So where are these people? Well, they could be running within the internal simulation of an environment created by the post-human mind; they could be copied and pasted onto the software bodies of people in 'external' cyberspaces of the metaverse; they could be remotely operating robotic bodies via photonic connections streamed from white light LED in realspace.

Plus, when you consider the fact that electronic forms of thinking would be millions of times faster than electrochemical thinking you get...

Aimee Weber thinking, "what will I make today?" and in about two seconds has diverged into a multiple versions of herself, exploring a design possibility from a million different angles for a century of subjective thought.

The term "avatar" comes from Hindu mythology and refers to the temporary body a god inhabits while visiting Earth. Given Vinge's speculations that the Internet will leak out to become coincident with Earth, I would argue that avatar is MORE appropiate a term for a post-human entity, not less.


I loved this quote:

..."An avatar constructed out of the depths of my mind might reveal who I had always hoped to be, things I regret, wishes and dreams achieved or unachieved, values, desires, and insecurities."...

Mine is and does.

I am an immersionist for reasons of my own and all I ask is that you let me leave behind in RL the things I wish to leave behind. Is that so hard?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Wagner James Au
Wagner James "Hamlet" Au
Dutchie Summer Special
Nylon Pinkney Outfitters in SL
SL Hair Fair Wigs for Kids benefit
my site ... ... ...