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Friday, September 05, 2014


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Pussycat Catnap

So its not just this here mulato player on an sub-saharan african avatar saying it this time. :)

That said - it actually is starting to get a lot easier now to find very dark Sub-Saharan African skins now, as well as 'traditional sub-saharan west African fashions.'

Angel Rock for example, is even starting to categorize them by African nationalities. I'm not so sure they're really those nationalities as... skins in SL lack that level of detail.
- They even have one named for the place my own African ancestor came from about 150 years ago.

That's just one example of a growing crowd now of people who have figured out how to do dark textures well for 3D display.

And in fashions, I'm blanking right now, but there's plenty now. Artizania I think is the name of one, but I might be spelling it wrong.

I am curious... if they flipped this study, and made all the "popular" avatars into dark skinned ones... how would the light skinned players react? Would they show the same reaction as the black players did - in reverse - or would they differ?

One claim I hear that is used against people like me who have a 'darker than their RL self' avatar is that we do it because its 'cool' or 'helps pick up dates'... That was NOT my motive at all (I went down this path to help explore my sense of self when I came out as a rasta)...
... And my experience is that its had the opposite effect...

- BUT I have seen the kind of player that inspires that judgment... the sort who come in speaking in some kind of weird slang they got from a movie... filled with offensive terms used in a wide unfiltered context.
- Sometimes searching using such offensive terms can help you spot such players apart from others.

Ciaran Laval

This study did not take the participants into Second Life, it asked them to create an avatar, suggesting they had the default choices.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the people who chose whiter avatars did so because they felt uncomfortable with a black avatar.

The anecdotal comment in the article is more concerning.

There have long been claims that darker skins are more difficult to make in terms of them looking good. Therefore content creators shy away from them but it's not fair these days to say they are hard to find, there are plenty around.

Orc skins on the other hand, now there's a difficult sector!

Pussycat Catnap

@Ciaran: Yeah, after I read the article I noticed - the sample size was rather small, and the study too limited.

I think the conclusion it makes is true - but the study is not the best choice to hold up to make that point.

Needs a larger sample size, and the participants need to show more active engagement with the chosen platforms.

I would also extend it into some MMOs that have the ability to make varied tones and example how they plays out there - though it is harder to make a control group there...

Amanda Dallin

The NWN articles linked in this one are both from 2009, five years ago. A lot has changed in SL as far as availability and quality of content in 5 years as Pussycat and Ciaran both noted in their comments. Alas human nature hasn't changed.

Linda Sautereau

As an Black person with a black avatar who happens to also be an academic researcher, this study is severely flawed. Your results cannot be generalized because the sample size is too small. The argument that people are reluctant to divulge their racial identity if spurious one. Finally, apparently, this person hasn't been in SL lately. There are many places to purchase black avatars.


Once again NWN makes them self look really bad by posting this kind of content :/

Annie Brightstar

This looks like a non story used to fill blog space and elicit comments. Oh dear, it worked, I just commented.

Sam Peters

Also what about the information on the hispanic and asian front? Do they not count, what's it like for them?


"She then had them perform two tasks: Create and customize their own virtual avatars, and rate their willingness to reveal their real racial identity through the appearance of their virtual avatar."

I guess I'm just confused as to how this works. Did she ask her participants how willing they were to reveal their real race online before they logged into Second Life? Maybe there was a hesitancy to do so before for some reason? Maybe not even connected to race; some people are private people. It seems the sample should start with people perfectly willing to reveal their race online before attempting to nail low skin choices in Second Life as causation of becoming hesitant to reveal ones real race inside of it.

It'd also be worth knowing what the users previous experience level with Second Life was, how much L$ they had to shop with and what kind of guidance, if any they had to do so. Second Life isn't the Sims where it's easy to find and use all available options out there. The average Second Life newbie logs off forever with a demo shape's giant feet and a box of something they were meant to unpack attached to their right hand.

Has anyone actually bought the $20 paper to provide more info? Maybe the study makes more sense than described in brief in the linked article.

On a personal note, I'm a black male living in the American south. Offline, I experience racism direct or indirect monthly, if not weekly (disregarding what's seen on nightly news or going viral on the internet on a daily basis), and have had major events in my life like court cases involving racial discrimination by employer that've left my nerves frayed when it comes to race issues.

Considering the above, I'd say maybe on Xbox Live in a game like Call of Duty I probably won't go out of my way to share my race to strangers, they're already flinging around racial insults.

Second Life though? From day one all of my avatars have been black males, darker than me, and even my avatar names always lean some African or Middle Eastern descent. I have friends from all corners of the US and world at large and never felt race had anything to do with any interactions I've ever had or anything I've ever done or been apart of in Second Life.

"Enthusiasts like to imagine the metaverse makes it possible to leave our old prejudices behind. Time and time again, however, we see that's often not the case."

This is why its important not to conflate Second Life with "MMOs" or a "game" period. There's an aggressiveness and competitiveness actual games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty brings out of players that'll eventually lead to a 15 year old blurting out a racial slur and a person like me not wanting to bother revealing much about themselves.

Second Life has many important differences to MMOs and games, so rather than warn against "thoughtless utopianism", I'd warn against thoughtless conflation of Second Life with everything else that happens to have both people and pixels. Those are easily spotted similarities, now how about getting into the hundred differences that makes a person like me feel less afraid of racism and prejudices in Second Life than they do in their own city, and most definitely an MMO guild run by teenagers?

No place is a utopia; virtual or otherwise, but Second Life has qualities about it that makes it a better place than most online for either self-expression including race or escapism from self however one chooses to if a person goes that route. Shame those are kicked under the rug in this post.

Tracy RedAngel

I wouldn't go so far as to call SL a utopia for racial equality (there are plenty of backwards-thinking morons in the metaverse, just like real life) but in a world where people run around as humanoid dogs, cats, horses, frogs, hamsters, and neon colored ponies, I don't think it's a big deal. It shouldn't be either. Maybe I'm missing the point of this post, but people should have whatever kind of avatar they want, no matter their race, gender, or animal species.

Ciaran Laval

@Ezra the study wasn't about experiences within Second Life. They weren't asked to login to Second Life. The task was :

"Lee gathered 56 study participants — half identifying as white and half identifying as black. She then had them read a fabricated magazine story titled “Meet the Coolest ‘Second Life’ Residents.” The eight “Second Life” avatars profiled in the story were either all white, in the low-diversity scenario, or an equal mix of white, black, Hispanic and Asian, in the high-diversity scenario.

She then had them perform two tasks: Create and customize their own virtual avatars, and rate their willingness to reveal their real racial identity through the appearance of their virtual avatar.

She found that black participants reported less willingness in the low-diversity scenario, and that they also created whiter avatars, as judged by objective raters. By comparison, white study participants were largely unaffected by either the high-diversity or low-diversity scenarios."

The linked article points out the flaws with lack of numbers and the fact that only black and white people were involved rather than other races.


And then there's the SL new account webapp, which no longer offers any dark skinned male starter avatars... Well, other than full-time monster caricatures. :/


Well, people also tend to hide their age and look 19 while being 50+ in RL, people also tend to hide their weight and look slim while being 200 pounds in RL, people tend to be 6 feet while being short in RL, people tend to look pretty while being ugly in RL. And so on and so on.

If you have the ability to be whatever you like, people tend to be like the "ideal person is supposed to be in our society" (white, tall, pretty, young, slim, sportive, tanned, rich, intelligent, successful, healthy, able-bodied, partnered and so on). Wow, surprise!!! You need a study for that? Seriously?!

Pussycat Catnap

"Also what about the information on the hispanic and asian front? Do they not count, what's it like for them?"

Asian is also improving. Both um... Pink Fuel I think, and Angel Rock, have good Asian skins.

Angel Rock has some recent Latina skins as well - but I haven't demo'd them...

When I first joined SL, I tried to get a look close to my real life self - ended up in an 'Inca' sim that was really a Gorean place or something... and decided that I didn't want to wade through demeaning knockoffs until I found something, and gave up.

BUT... since that time I've noticed a very large Brazilian community in SL. There may be resources there.

Pussycat Catnap

#3 result in SL search for "Interracial":


So why did I search that term the first time I searched in back in 2009? Because I'm mixed raced.

The results then, and now, are similar... This is actually the worst result I've seen though...

- And if you visit these places... yeah...

Pussycat Catnap


- Deleted the first screenshot as it had some extra junk in it.

Pussycat Catnap


Moved it to flickr in case SL wipes it:


dated article, dated pictures, NWN leading the way!

Joe Guy

Is there ANYTHING in the UNIVERSE political correctness can't fuck up?

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