Monday, September 22, 2008

Linking Dual Identities and Disability Issues in SL

I have noticed an interesting upswing in the number of correlations on the net between Second Life and disability issues recently. Blogs (like this), alternative SL clients, talks at SLCC, Second Ability, more disability groups in SL constatly springing up, and so on. It almost looks like a meme.

Given my own connections (having a Deaf spouse who works with disability issues and my having epilepsy) it only makes sense that I would want to reflect on the question of how this relates to my two characters. Maybe also delving into the dichotomies between them.

My older character (Kara Spengler) is pretty close to myself with a few tweaks. Okay, so I am not a humanoid cat, but otherwise we are pretty similar. Unless my last name comes into it, someone talking to my avatar is pretty much the same as someone talking to my RL self. [btw, when I say Kara below I mean the character rather than just not using 1st person when talking about myself]

At the beginning of the year I also created another character (Caitlyn Clawtooth). After a few days I decided to have her be a child. I have written about that decision elsewhere and will probably repost it here at some point too. Kara occasionally takes on kid-form and looks pretty close to Cait and the two have some matching things in their wardrobes.

It is almost like they are two completely different people at times. Their personalities are quite different and I tend to interact with SL differently depending on which one I use (for Kara SL is more a tool she uses a lot to extend reality, for Cait SL is a completely different world). The ties between the two are very close though. For example, Kara walked away from being an officer in one thing when Cait was not welcome there, Kara is extremely protective of Cait, and kid avatars in SL in general.

Now that I have wandered way off course how to get back to the main thread …

For purposes of simplification we are dealing with two populations in SL: disabled users and non-disabled users. While the former group tends to immerse themselves into their second life, the latter views it as just an extension of how they conduct their RL. It is my position that Cait represents the first view and Kara the second. Kara likes SL but as that character SL is interesting but just another electronic communications medium. Cait only exists in SL and things relating to it.

Interesting how two characters that you would think would be similar have some pretty fundamental differences.


VĂ©ronique said...

Hi Kara. You seem to be saying that all non-disabled users view SL as an extension of RL. Perhaps you really meant "most." Even if that's so, do you have statistics to support this assertion?

As you know, some unknown number of non-disabled people have created avatars of the sex opposite their own birth sex in order to explore themselves and their gender issues. That seems pretty immersionist to me.

Kara said...

Actually I ran out of steam in the middle of writing it so probably did not clarify myself. I did not mean it to come across as all/none but talk about "more often then the other group". No, I do not have stats, just my observations which are also reflected in other blogs I have read on the issue.

Kara said...

Oh, and of course I know about the gender thing with AVs. :)