Ready for your virtual closeup?
Lawrence Lessig argued in his book Free Culture: The Nature and Future of
Creativity that the bulk of consumers learn about new technology through
Americans learned about the radio from newspapers. They
heard about the television via radio. My mother learned about the Internet from
a dancing baby on Ally McBeal.
Now television programmer RDF USA – creator of such high art
as Wife Swap – wants to put
the synthetic world on the small screen. Sleuths uses "mobile participation
television," blending community interaction with interactive advertising.
Continue reading Interactive TV Promises Smarter Consumers
We wrote an article last week that asked whether virtual world consumerism is essentially a product of social pressures. In support of our opinion, we cited an article from the Virtual Economy Research Network that made the case. One of its better points:
Beyond individual appearance, consumption can also be associated with
group membership and belonging.
Through their visibility, items of
virtual clothing, accessories, and full avatar skins serve as marks of
membership within particular groups.
What the article is saying is something anyone who went through high school would know: It's a whole lot easier to be accepted by a (virtual) social group if you look the part.
For the most part, Second Life's furries hang out with other furries, and someone dressed in a Steampunk outfit will likely have a difficult time being accepted.
Well, our article caught the eye of my friend and critic Dusan Writer, who took us to task and inspired a lively debate on his website. 13 posts later, its apparent there's a clear divide between those who view the consumerism in Second Life as a product of social pressure and those who view it as a means of digital self-expression.
But what kind of social pressure is it that makes self-expression dependent on purchasing things? This sentiment is inherent in Dusan's argument that consumerism is self-expression: Second Life avatars are expected to express themselves through what they've purchased, and the in-world society gives positive feedback to avatars that look especially attractive due to their purchases.
Though this pressure may not be visible, it certainly is a social pressure. The unspoken need for people who associate with the Furry mindset to purchase Furry outfits in order to participate in Second Life group activities is evidence of this. Furries who show up looking human will find a much different atmosphere than their fox-eared companions.
I'd like to keep this discussion going — post your thoughts and I'll follow up through the week as the discussion develops.