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Friday, August 25, 2006


Nowhere do you see the Observer-Expectancy effect, the Subject-Expectancy effect or apophenia than on the internet, and when you bring diverse people into a formative culture, the signs of it become too obvious to miss.

Second Life is like a giant placebo in many respects, or a nocebo - depending entirely on your perspective.

What is Second Life? A game? Yes it is, because if you only judge it based on it's game elements (noting that most game elements in any game are imposed by the player, not the game) then it's certainly a game.

Is it a platform? Well, yes. You could primarily focus on those elements.

A sandbox? Yes.

A social experiment? Yes.

A country? Yes.

A dark conspiracy? Yes.

Deus ex machina? Yes.

Each point of view requires the exclusion or diminution of certain aspects of Second Life. That's up to you, of course, since that happens inside your head.

Reflexivity is an undeniable fact of Second Life. Well - unless you do deny it. Your own perceptions can make it cease to exist within your personal weltenshauung.

What you get out of Second Life is a bit like the double-slit experiment coupled with a heaping helping of Observer-Expectency effect. It really depends on what you put in as to what you get out, and how you view and interpret the results.

In an environment rich with subjective interpretation, apophenia abounds. In a sense, Second Life really is Your World as they say, in much the same way that a Rorshach inkblot is entirely dependent on the viewer.

A new resident comes into Second Life and they're faced with what is probably the most difficult thing they've ever done. There's a complex interface in front of them; A formative, distributed society of - well disparate and distributed societies; Complicated concepts wrapped in obscure slang; A world that is too large to see all of, and that is constantly changing; An open ended system that delivers satisfaction based solely on the resident's ability to select her own path and goals, and stick to them.

Second Life may well be the first piece of non-business software that a resident has been exposed to after minesweeper and freecell.

At best, our residents are not going to see more than a portion of what's going on in Second Life, from day to day, and they're going to see patterns. People see patterns in everything, because that's what our brains do.

More so, we see the patterns we expect to see, and our brains are adept at discarding or distorting data that does not fit.

One thing you can be sure of is that none of us see Second Life as it is. None of us can. What it is, however, is amorphous enough that our position, circumstances and point-of-view greatly affects what we see it as. There are so many diverse elements and aspects that you can focus on. Second Life might be a dull place to you - or a place full of greed and selfishness.

It doesn't have to be.

Just because these things exist, it doesn't mean you have to dwell on them in your second life any more than they deserve, any more than you might feel compelled to make prions the central fact of your first life.

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