Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"The Making of Second Life"

Wagner James Au is the online games editor for GigaOM.com, and for the last five years, has been writing about the user-created online virtual world Second Life, first as an embedded journalist with the company that started it, and now on his own blog, New World Notes. There and in his book from HarperCollins, he explains how Second Life became such a phenomenon -- and how it helps us understand our real life society in new and unique ways.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World, and reported the following:
Fortunately, I think my page 69 is fairly representative of the larger book, which is fundamentally about how Second Life allows people to create new identities and new forms of online community, and what that transformation says about our real lives.

From page 69:

Self-Made Mankind

Identity and in the digital generation

At the start, Stella Costello was beautiful by most standards of either the real or virtual world, with a slender waist and a neck framed by perfect crests of blonde hair. But something seemed off, for the woman who owned Stella would look at her on the computer screen, and feel no relation to the avatar she was controlling with her keyboard. It had to do, she realized, with the avatars settings for Stella’s size, making her svelte and petite — which Stella’s owner was, admittedly, not.

Her solution was to adjust her avatar’s girth and weight with the system’s internal appearance settings.

“[I]t was a gradual shift,” Stella’s owner recalls. “I'd look at her and feel distant. Then I'd slide the slider up and feel more honest with myself and more connected to her.”

Gradually Stella became full-figured — making her unlike nearly every other female avatar in Second Life, who are near invariably slim. She doesn’t denigrate that choice in others. But her own avatar, she decided, would defy those beauty expectations, and the honesty of her size became a tiny victory for her.

“In a cheesy, cheesy way,” as she puts it, “Stella taught me to love myself more, so I let her be me.”
Read more about The Making of Second Life and its author at W. James Au's blog, New World Notes.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue