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Friday, May 15, 2009


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Todd Borst

I don't think the reason for keeping RL identities private needs to be so negative. Sometimes it can be as simple as the desire for separation or the lack of relevance.

Raven Haalan

Have done! Many times over. It's not a huge secret - just not something I have a billboard on. :)

IronGut McCallister

I've done this several times over. Some great RL friendships have evolved from SL friendships. Heck, looking at my RL Facebook account, the majority of my friends on there are from SL. You have to be selective, there are some I haven't (and won't) given my RL name to, but for the most part, there haven't been any stalkers. heh


Beautiful people in real life have an edge on those who are not, and they are very aware of this, as much aware as the less than beautiful people. I've noticed many times in second life, people who have this edge in real life, discover the need to have this power in their second life.

These people are the same ones who deride the non-identity sharers, non-voice users, etc... I've always been open with my identity, but thats my choice. I don't expect this from others. I know many people in sl and rl also. Many of them are not as handsome as in sl. Some have voices they do not like, some are overweight or suffer a deformity, and yes, some are just a different gender.

The great thing about second life for many people, is the opportunity to experience what it's like to be the pretty one, the person other people want to be around, to be popular.

When voice came out I had a couple friends quit sl, and no, they were not men playing women. But they also didn't sound like the characters they portrayed here. Now, there is even a stigma attached to not using voice. You are automatically a man playing a woman, if you do not use voice.

I really don't think we need a fad of sharing our real self in sl. Many already do it, but when it starts to have the same stigma voice has given some we all lose something. If you cannot accept someone here as they present themselves, then maybe you are the square peg. This reminds me of the lesbian gender jira filed recently. If real life matters that much to you, why are you here? Wouldn't you be happier in real life? And even if you do share your real self here as I do, it's not fair to make others feel pressure to do so. I'm very sure if they want to, they already are. If they are not, let them play their game.

Plot Tracer

Anyone with a google seach engine can find out who I am. never made it a secret and could never understand why anyone not engaged in gor would want to hide their identity.

Tateru Nino

Lots of people already know my other name.

Ann Otoole

I think if you are fine with revealing your identity you need to put it all on your 1st life tab in your profile. Otherwise you need to shut up about it.

The people trying to force their agendas on others need to be removed from Second Life. I have witnessed consistent emotional and financial harm come to people stupid enough to fall for these griefers and criminals trying to con people out of their identities.

Nimil Blackflag

my first life tab has always had my rl self in it. always a real photo of me and some info junk. the only thing i won't reveal about myself online is my rl name and my real location, that is common internet protection, but otherwise i don't really see the point to hiding your real self.

Mako Kungfu

Yes, I reject her premise that failure to reveal yourself is a sign of personal failing. I second the fine points made above by Todd, Eriko and Ann.


I don't understand the huge deal. I think that anyone who is in SL for awhile and hasn't told their best friends who they are is hiding something. There's like some pervasive theory that mixing RL and SL turns people into pumpkins and it'd be nice if someday people could quit being amazed that cartoon avatars turn out to have RL people moving them around.

Ann Otoole

@radar - Telling a few people you can trust who you are, exchanging phone numbers, etc. is not the issue. I have and I regret it now but not as bad as others I know who now have to contend with rl monstrosities that endlessly stalk them in various ways.

The issue is the sudden appearance of an increasing number of people trying to shove this "reveal your rl identity info or we ostracize you" agenda on SL. These people need to be removed. They are pushing it too far. Doesn't everyone know by now how dumb it is to hand out your identity online? I guess not. It is the agenda pushers that is the problem.

Some people routinely exchange rl information. On business contracts. Nothing wrong with that. There was no agenda being pushed to "out people" involved. It is the people attempting to incite mob behavior that consistently erode the quality of Second Life.

Nika Dreamscape

I don't think most people consider this a huge deal- most of my friends and I share RL info. Plenty of people have my home address, phone number, place of employment, etc. Its not so shocking.

Botgirl Questi

Hi Hamlet!

Thanks for the story and link. It seems as if some of the comments are responses more to your interpretation of my post, rather than to what I had actually written. So to clarify a couple things...

- I didn't intend to "challenge" anyone. The line was: "I gently ask you to pick a good friend of yours and give it a try." That wasn't quite up to the level of slapping someone's face with my glove or throwing down a gauntlet. :)

- I DO NOT believe that "failure to reveal yourself is a sign of personal failing." The premise of the article is that there are one or more reasons behind each decision we make and it's useful to discover them, examine each one deeply for ourselves, and then make conscious decisions based upon self-reflection rather than because of mere habit, cultural norms, irrational fear, etc. I think the same advice makes sense for just about any area of life.

Finally, I empathize with those who feel constantly pressured to reveal personal information. You DO NOT owe your personal information to anyone else. My point was that you owe it to yourself to act with awareness. Does that make sense?

Erbo Evans

A number of people I've met through SL know my RL identity already. One of them is now living with me (hi Selena!).

Besides which, anyone who looked hard enough could find the connection between my SL identity and my RL identity. I just don't tend to advertise it.

(Oh, and my friends and I don't tend to use SL voice even though we're all playing as our RL genders, at least most of the time. We prefer keeping to ourselves, on a private Skype conference call, when we use voice. Of course, when I DJ, I'm using my voice on the broadcast stream, so there is that.)

Mitch Wagner

Botgirl has convinced me! I am now going to reveal my RL name and identity to the whole world of SL.

It's ...

... wait for it ...

Mitch Wagner!

That was kind of anticlimactic, wasn't it?

Ann Otoole

That is not fair Mitch. You will have to reveal something else. :P

Btw the article on military use of SL is very helpful.

Doubledown Tandino

RL name: Brad Reason
SL name: Doubledown Tandino
name people call me: DD

... and I've seen my naked avatar only twice.

Extropia DaSilva

"I think that anyone who is in SL for awhile and hasn't told their best friends who they are is hiding something".

The phrase 'who they are' is interesting. It assumes Botgirl Questi or anyone else is 'PrimaryBound'; in other words that identity can only belong to one RL person.

I really do not see why this has to be the case. As a character in SL, surely Botgirl could be roleplayed by anyone capable of portraying that character well enough for the community to accept Botgirl as the same person? (taking into consideration the fact that we all change somewhat over the years).

I know Linden Labs does not generally allow residents to sell or give away their accounts. There are procedures you have to follow, should you wish to do so. Then there is the problem of finding someone else to take over the role once the current primary is no longer able to do its job.

I am not denying it would be hard. But the more Botgirl goes around revealing the identity of whoever happens to be pupeteering her right now, the closer to impossible it will become. She will not be 'primaryCentred' (meaning whoever roleplays her now is central-but not essential-to the character), she will be 'primaryBound', doomed to die when her pupeteer does.


Arcadia Codesmith

My RL identity is known to a handful of people. But for me, this is an exceptional act of intimacy. Reality is too limited a medium for us to truly express who we are.


As usual, Ann Otoole goes straight to 11. Look, in RL there's layers or degrees of trust and what information you give to specific people, right? Why is SL different?

It's called common sense, people. All the people crying for total anonymity 100% of the time make me think they have some issues of their own.


"Reality is too limited a medium for us to truly express who we are."

- Arcadia Codesmith

That should be tattoo'd on the forehead of everyone who insists that a RL identity is the only true self and that it's all we'll ever be.

One might follow up with a corollary to botgirl's list of factors. People insisting on the inseparability of virtual and real worlds are either:

-Beautiful and popular enough in the physical world to have the incredible privilege of *not* being ashamed of some aspect of themselves.

-So completely lacking in ability to imagine themselves different or better, that you have to wonder if they stand up at plays or movies and complain loudly that the actors "are deceiving us about who they are!"

Anyway, I'm glad botgirl came around and took you down a peg about the use of the word "challenge".


P.S. I see Extropia is still confused about the difference between Mickey Mouse and a living self-aware being. :p

Moggs Oceanlane

I have a few online identities - work, personal, second life. The aim has always been to use them as simple filters to share information with those I wish to do so.

When I came into Second Life, I really didn't expect to mix with others enough to form any real level of friendship. I spend most of my time roaming and muttering on my own but somehow I've managed to meet people from all over the world who I adore and whom I'd happily meet in real life and whom I've shared various pieces of informtion about my real life.

I shared my real life name with a few people a few months ago and have shared my personal online identity with many more (I don't tend to use my RL name online if possible, except for work - and only where necessary).

In a similar way, I have shared my Second Life identity with friends and family who have created accounts and one or two others who I'm close to and a few colleagues who are using SL as a teaching/training medium.

I have been honoured by having some friends share names of their alts, RL addresses, RL experiences, gender, name or other random factlets about themselves. These pieces of information have been shared as relationships grow.

Some people you'll know forever (in either world) but they'll always just be an aquaintance and will never gain your trust as there is just "something about them".

I don't believe a name is necessary. It can make you feel warm and fuzzy to have it but it won't tell you how trustworthy someone is. You don't get guarantees when you choose to trust to someone in any world. You give trust based on gut feeling, or sometimes need. You jump in with eyes wide open and hope for the best (probably while justifying to yourself the reasons you've chosen to trust them as though the justifications provide a guarantee).

Even in real life where you constantly choose which aspects of yourself you will share depending on context, trust and the audience. Second Life isn't so different - though not being able to rely on body language and facial expressions can make the process a little longer.

I firmly believe that you are entitled to privacy even if you have absolutely nothing to hide.

As for the people I adore, I don't care about their age, gender, sexuality or name... I care about who they are - how they express themselves and how they act.

If they share, I always feel honoured and if they don't, they are still the same person I made a connection with so what does it matter?

Extropia DaSilva

"I see Extropia is still confused about the difference between Mickey Mouse and a living self-aware being".

Just by mentioning the name 'Mickey Mouse', you prove that we do not just live in the objective world of physical objects; we also share each other’s imaginary landscapes.

Consider the following list of names. Ayn Rand, Bart Simpson, Charles Dogson, Dagny Taggart, Ella Fitzgerald, George Elliot, Hauldon Caullfield, Indiana Jones, Jesus Christ, King Arthur, Lewis Carrol, Mickey Mouse, Napolean Bonaparte, Oliver Twist, Plato, Ronald McDonald, Socrates, Tom Bombadil, Ulysses, Walt Disney. There is a good chance that you recognise quite a few of the names in that list, but can you say which are names of actual people, and which are only imaginary?

Well done if you correctly answered, ‘they are all imaginary’. On the other hand, if, say, you thought ‘Ayn Rand’, ‘Lewis Carrol’, ‘Napolean Bonaparte’ ‘Socrates’ and ‘Walt Disney’ are names of actual people, I would point out that none of those people exist: they are all dead. That being the case, you cannot have directly met them. You know about them only through ‘digital person technologies’, which are technologies capable of providing patterns that suitably sophisticated minds perceive as coding for beings, places and events that may not actually exist.

When Anthony Gottlieb wrote an essay about Socrates for the book ‘The Great Philosophers’ (edited by Ray Monk and Frederick Rapheal), he credited Plato with providing much of the reference material, pointing out that “there is no alternative. The Socrates of Plato’s ‘Apology’ is the only Socrates there is, or has been for nearly all of the history of philosophy”. Of course, he did not mean that the only biographies of the philosopher available are Plato’s and his own. He meant that there are no surviving works by Socrates himself (a problem caused in no small part by the fact that Socrates never wrote anything down). That being the case, what is the true nature of the person we know as Socrates? Is that an actual person, or just a character in Plato’s books?

Now consider this quote from a chapter about Ayn Rand in Micheal Shermer’s book ‘Why People Believe Weird Things’. “A twenty four year-old housewife (her own label)…said, ‘Dagny Taggart was an inspiration to me; she is a great feminist role model’”. Note that she gives as much credit to ‘Dagny Taggart’ as she does to Ayn Rand, even though one might think the latter deserves all the credit. Why? Because Dagny Taggart is the principle heroine of Rand’s novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’. She never really spoke or did anything to inspire anyone; only Ayn Rand ever really thought anything. But then, we could say the same for Socrates. Why credit him with anything if it is only Plato’s Socrates that we know?

An obvious answer is that Socrates did exist and his life and teachings inspired Plato to write ‘The Apology’ and other works. Dagny, however, never existed independently of Ayn Rand’s imagination (at least, not until other people read the story she is part of). Remember, though, that inventions come- not from nowhere- but by putting together bits and pieces that already exist. I think that when people ask an author ‘where do you get your ideas from?’, they are recognising the fact that, in some sense, the characters, events and places that comprise a story are discovered as much as created; discovered in the physical world in which the author lives. When Douglas Hoffstadter described beings as ‘having the capacity to…slap together quick and dirty models of beings…[refining] such models over time’, this referred to ‘people’ like Dagny Taggart as much as it does to ‘you’ and ‘me’. Dagny was a bundle of fragments of other people’s souls, as was Socrates and anyone else.

When Hoffstadter refers to souls, he does not mean some mysterious energy or spirit forever separating people from ‘lower’ animals and machines. He is referring to the outward behaviours that you or I use to infer what someone else is thinking and feeling; to suppose they have minds in the first place, and what level of consciousness we should attribute to that mind. The ‘bundle of fragments’ are our memories of conversations, observations of other people and the objects that surround us. We observe all kinds of patterns in daily life, not only when we fully participate in the society we live in, but also whenever we watch a film, read a book, listen to the radio or music or surf the Web. A character in a novel or roleplayed in an online world does not pop into existence when pen is put to paper or an account is set up. Both are merely part of an ongoing process. The likes of Dagny Taggart and Argent Bury emerge gradually as someone makes the right connections between all kinds of patterns. The act of writing the story or roleplaying serves to ‘flesh out’ that character; to refine conceptions of how that person looks, acts, thinks and feels. But all such things were already formed in the mind- albeit ghostlty and incomplete- before writing or roleplaying began. People like Dagny Taggart and Argent Bury already existed as fragments of patterns embedded within the larger patterns produced and maintained by cultural memory systems. Creators of such people are more properly called Perceivers. Ayn Rand’s achievment was in perceiving the patterns that were Dagny, scattered and disordered among the greater patterns of life. The act of writing or roleplaying serves to bring order to those patterns, to make it easier for others to perceive them.

Doug Hoffstadter describes the human brain as ‘a universal machine’, saying, “our neural hardware can copy arbitrary patterns…beings have the capacity to model inside themselves other beings they run into, to slap together quick-and-dirty models of beings they encounter only briefly, to refine such course models over time”. People are prolific imitators. We observe each other’s styles, habits and postures. We absorb each other’s jokes, accents, catchphrases, analogies, metaphores, tales, memories and sometimes we incorporate such things into our own lives. We retell jokes, we adopt a style or a walk or a catchphrase and use it as part of our own repertoire until, after a while, it feels as much like a part of ourselves as our own limbs do. As Hoffstadter said, “we are all curious collages…each of us is a bundle of fragments of other people’s souls, simply put together in a new way”.

What we perceive as reality is a simulation created by the mind that usefully predicts at least some part of the actual reality which (I assume) exists outside of the mind. Every person, place and event that you can remember exists only as complex patterns stored in and processed by your brain. I should clarify that. I do not mean nothing exists outside of your mind. I mean that how you perceive those things is unique to you, shaped as it is by the bundle of fragments, the intricate pattern of experiences, that comprise your life so far. Evolution has surely shaped our minds so that your perception of certain things matches that of other people, but nevertheless you live in a simulated world of your own.

In this simulated world, what really matters is not the actual/fantastical and virtual/physical dimension of a person, place or event. It is the resolution of the model that counts; how ‘fine-grained’ it is. Strange though it may seem, this would suggest that a ‘digital person’ you know very well, having developed a rich model from the patterns provided by the relevant human/technological source, is more of a person to you than the hordes of people you pass in the street every day, but from whome you never take the time to build an elaborate representation.

So, if Mickey Mouse is a familiar character to you, that makes him more subjectively real than all those living, self-aware beings you pass in the street and barely notice.

Mitch Wagner

The Australian writer Greg Egan has written a number of stories about uploadable minds, which inevitably lead to speculation about identity.

In one story, a young man is dutifully making his weekly phone call to his grandmother. Grandma died not long ago, but she took advantage of the technology available to upload her mind to a computer. He talks with her on a video-call, she still looks and acts like Grandma, and her surroundings appear in no way unusual, even though she's just a digital representation of a mind in a computer.

Over time, the young man becomes convinced that Grandma if living with Grandpa -- which is impossible, because Grandpa died before mind-recording technology became available. He concludes that the uploaded minds have gotten together and come up with technology for creating a digital person based on the *memory* of a real person. And they're keeping that technology secret from living humans.

Such a digital person would not necessarily be an idealized version of a real person. Grandpa would have a hairy back, and he'd leave his dirty socks on the floor for Grandma to pick up, assuming he did that in real life and she remembers him that we.

We can imagine a computer scientist and historian teaming up to create a digital Socrates -- or a digital representation of any historical figure -- based solely on the historical records about that person.


I don't know whether to be gratified or terrified that my little bit of mocking humor provokes such a lengthy, deeply thought out and deeply misguided response. I suppose what concerns me is that believing that everyone else is imaginary and all you ever experience is a self-wrought simulation could lead us further and further away from making any real connections with each other.

I'm sorry, but I'm real, and I think you are real, and that botgirl is real. We may only ever see one another's creations but that doesn't stop it from being true. And let me tell you, it worries me greatly that some day we may have someone will be in charge who thinks that other people are indistinguishable from fax copies, or "mind uploads" or what have you. It's only a small step from that to thinking that the simulation of a person is "just as good" as the real thing and gets rid of all the actual people because, let's face it, they are resource hogs.

Step outside your own head now and then, Extropia, other people are real too.

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