Friday, September 21, 2012

Suspend...disbelief

I have been doing some thinking on the subject of virtual worlds.

I am not an expert, I don't pretend to be one, and I am what many consider a noob to them. I only found them, starting in sl, around two years ago. I had been off the net for some years due to real life issues.

Prior to that vws were not around in their current iteration.

However, on the subject of this weblog, for that purpose only, whatever time one has found virtual worlds is not important. It is life experiences, and what one has done with those, and how one has used them properly, that is of the most importance.

I have been on the internet since 300 baud modems, half-duplex, and using DOS commands to use them, and printers. It was a complicated process but was also very interesting. But of course they were very limited in use.

Then bulletin board services were much used [even before telnet access via the WWW], newsgroups, and such. Though these are still used by many..other social interactive services suffice for the majority of users who have no idea of their existence anymore. An easy to use, simple interface is the standard and known way of accessing the internet nowadays.

Such has gone the way of DOS for the majority of users as well; those who even remember it now, are a fading group of people. I mean -pure- DOS, not that which is accessed via the windows GUI cmd line, but before windows is even run. Not that many even know what cmd is either anymore.

So, back to, suspending...disbelief.

What do I mean by this? For purposes of this missive, I am referring to opensim as the subject and focus of what vws are all about.

So please attend, please follow along with me, as I attempt to make a point. I will state some of the obvious, simply to set the -stage-...

We all are simply sitting at our computers, as we all know. We all bring with us our own sets of beliefs, knowledge, skill sets...our lives, up to now. If you are 30 you have 30 years of life, 50, 20 years more, 70, even that much more.

However, as anyone who has lived long enough knows. Age does not bring with it the privilege of wisdom. It does not give a person the automatic knowledge that peace and happiness, are a very cherished attribute of life. Age does not automatically mean someone is smarter, better, wiser.

Adding to this equation are people of any age, who always seem to think they know all there is to know. As I said…suspend…disbelief. Who has a child, specifically in their teens, who you listen to, who –knows it all-? [and then there are grandkids..but I digress]

Virtual worlds, and their less graphical predecessors, have one thing in common..and that is that the real people on them are anonymous. Now, if one suspends disbelief, that is true, and it is proper, and it is the way of the internet. Many people thrive on this belief, and do not want it any other way.

However, this is not really the entire truth. Your ISP, thru which you access the world wide web, obviously has all your personal information. Via that portal, we all access the world. When most of us access a website, cookies are obtained. Cookies are little bits of information about you depending upon what the website wishes to know. When you receive emails from many places, invisible tracking images are often imbedded...all these contribute to the workings of the internet..there is nothing necessarily sinister about these things, nothing necessarily wrong with their use..and are used all the time.

I used to download movies and songs using peer-to-peer software. This is now very illegal, I do not do this anymore…because I was very strongly reminded I am not as anonymous as I thought I was when I received a letter from my ISP specifying a filename, a movie, that I had downloaded, was in violation of FCC laws.

I am aware there are more anonymous ways to continue doing this, but I choose not to take the risk with the ever increasing –lack- of anonymity on the internet. In any case, Netflix is around now, and hulu..lol.
You see, I ..suspended..disbelief…
There are even websites that offer additional layers of anonymity. And there are additional ways to attempt to –mask- who you really are from the rest of the internet.

So, for many, we suspend..disbelief..the belief we are secure and that we are anonymous.

We suspend..disbelief..that we are immune to harm simply because, as far as vws are concerned, we can invent a persona, we can invent a backstory, we can fly, we can move the earth, we can –BE – whatever we can imagine. As some like to say, we are Gods..but are we, really? Or do we simply suspend..disbelief?
But yet, we are all simply sitting at our computers, accessing the internet, and vws, via our ISP.
Though of course we are safe from physical harm, our computers are not so immune. Rampant virus attacks and malware make this quite clear. And if a virus can intrude on our lives via our computers, is it terribly difficult to imagine there are other ways to do the same thing?

I once was telling someone I prefer to use the latest beta of Imprudence. She told me she does not like to use beta software. I pointed out, kindly, opensim is beta. Had she suspended..disbelief?

As someone who has been using computers for around 25 years or so….I have used, enjoyed, and thrown away much software. I recall windows 1.0…non multi-threaded, non-multi-tasking, non internet, non much-of-anything. I think it was contained on 3 of the old style 5 ¼ floppy disks. And I was using computers even before then.

Btw, I am old..but not as old as many.

So, virtual worlds. Do we all suspend..disbelief..when we enter them? Do we think we are anonymous?

That whatever we do, whatever we say..it does not matter, really..because we are safe..right?

This isn't meant to be an alarmist weblog, just a treatise on the human condition..really..and as it applies to vws, as I see it, that is all.

Yes, of course, we are safe. Unless we wish to give out personal information ourselves. We can feel reasonably safe from any intrusions upon our personal lives. When we log off opensim, we can go do whatever else it is we do, and leave it behind until we sit back at our computer and log in.

But while here, do we suspend..disbelief.. Or do we, as an opposing viewpoint only, always keep in mind that we are all real people, simply sitting at our computer, with real feelings, real life stories, knowledge and experience. Do we believe that the avatar we see is really beautiful, or a dragon, a mermaid..? Do we forget they are human beings, like ourselves…with feelings?

For the sake of argument only, as in, for an open and sincere debate tool. Do you suspend…disbelief?

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