Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wired and Virtual

One of the advantages of fast internet is the ability to watch shows not available locally. I can watch the latest television shows by following them online, even by downloading an episode or two so I can watch it from my computer. I get to look at issues and stories through new eyes as I get to watch documentaries inaccessible to usual means.

I recently watched a PBS documentary online called Digital Nation, a documentary which shows the effects of living in a constantly wired world. Through the web, people are finding love, playing games, rediscovering themselves, making friends, sharing thoughts, creating things, making alternate realities, and in the case of the US military, waging war without risking lives of their soldiers. It was a really interesting show to watch, largely because I can relate to the many things that it presents good and bad.

For instance, older people gawk and complain at the notion of people my age and younger being constantly online and wired, fiddling with our Blackberry, twiddling with our iPhones, multitasking our brains away. When there's nothing to do, we find ourselves on the web. In coffee shops, malls, airports, even parks and sandy beaches, we are all wired to the internet, keeping it alive with buzz and activity. Took an interesting photo? Everyone will sure to be able to see it online minutes after the photo is taken.

Ever since I started using the internet, I have discovered many things, talked to many kinds of people, and kept in touch with friends over the years. Email, chat, and Google have made my quest to learn and look for things easier. I found my favorite singer, Josh Groban online, I knew my temperament and personality through the The Keirsey Temperament Sorter website, I read online more nowadays than I read a book, and though books never lost their appeal to me, I find myself drooling after a Kindle because the idea that information, entertainment and literature is at your fingertips is very thrilling.

Over the years, my interaction and presence on the web has evolved to its 3D realm. For the last 3 years I have been "living" as a resident of the virtual world of Second Life. For the uninitiated, Second Life is a virtual world where you can make an online persona of yourself--an avatar, create things, and have an opportunity to do things that you normally won't be able to do in your normal life. Those things can vary from person to person, and experiences like releasing your inner creative talent to unleashing the sex kitten in you are a common occurrence. People can talk through text chat or through voice, and within the world, can create a lot of things, from outrageous futuristic clothing to fantastic locations one can go at a click of the "teleport" button. Reinventing yourself has never been so easy, instantaneous and gratifying.

I have to admit, during the first year (some people say until now, but that's their perspective) I was totally hooked; my eyes couldn't get enough of the pixel creations and social interactions the virtual world has to offer. I would dance gracefully in Second Life; while in real life continue to be a dud with two left feet. I socialized, flirted, dabbled in business, I started to write again, and I had a huge beach front property with a house that I furnished myself. I even arranged the underwater corals and made my own underwater haven.

I have also resurrected my long dormant curiosity for things and to write about them. Currently, apart from writing once in a while in my blog my virtual experiences, I also write regularly for a magazine that exists in Second Life. I also happen to co-create the magazine, research for content, and manage a staff of writers and photographers whose typists are from all around the world. During my spare evenings and weekends, I interact with them about their articles, get their progress updates, and help them get their article together. I contact people and update our progress sheet in Google Docs that my co-editor and publisher from Singapore will look through. We would have meetings in Skype and in Second Life talking and discussing content. We have a dedicated readership of three hundred thousand avatars, and I make a modest amount writing and managing the magazine.

My virtual dating life has had its shares of ups and downs. During the first year, I have not figured out that I can also be a writer in Second Life, so I lived it as a serial dater. I dressed my avatar up, worked as a club host, and partied. As my virtual life started to accommodate responsibilities, my dating activities has died down tremendously, but in the three years that I have been in the virtual world, I have had three boyfriends and two fianc├ęs. While it can be tremendously romantic, dating is complicated out there in the virtual realm.

With all that, I feel I have discovered a lot about myself ever since I landed my virtual feet in SL, and at the risk of sounding odd, Second Life has made my life more interesting. If you were one of the many who was able to watch AVATAR, I guess I can compare the feeling of being in Second Life and acting through my avatar as being similar to the feeling that Jake Sully had when he started walking through his Na'vi avatar and exploring the new world. While he was limited in his movements because he was disabled, in Pandora and as a Na'vi, he was free to do things he could no longer do, feel sensations and textures that are new to him, etc.

Yet along with discoveries about myself, there are also more questions. Is what I am doing an example of living a dual life? How can I converge my living, breathing self to my pixel self? How can I make people understand that my experiences online are real and valid? Is it a substitute to what I lack in reality? I struggle through them day by day, and everyday my molecular reality is interlaced with virtual reality. It’s a struggle, but since when has man never struggled, especially with humanity?

Other people go through life in the physical world struggling, either failing or succeeding. Going wired and virtual is the same eternal struggle, also with the same two consequences; either you fail or succeed.

Post a Comment