Generation SL

We like societal labels – they appeal to the tribal side of our nature; not only does labeling enable us to identify with certain strands of society but it helps us to define cultural trends and patterns of behavior. The manner in which we apply these labels is necessarily haphazard, since it is emerging culture that justifies the necessity for a label – and that in itself may be driven by any number of popular trends… music, schools of thought, historical period, politics and social circumstance, among many others can give rise to these distinct groups and how we view them changes according to our perspective.

Consider some popular labels – punk; post-modernist; angry young men; the Elizabethans; hoodies; child of the sixties; mod; rocker; yuppie… Some may be more familiar than others, some we may relate to or we may feel a conscious response to, whilst others may mean little to us – however, each of these labels, whatever personal response they may evoke, describe and relate to a particular segment of society, at a particular moment in history, and with it, their traits, psyche and even appearance. One label i personally have a particular interest in is ‘Generation X’ – and not merely because it’s such an enigmatic tag!

The expression was first used by photographer Robert Capa for a photo-essay analysing the young people growing up in the wake of World War II – in his own words: ‘We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realised that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with’. Over the years, the label has become associated with disaffected, disenfranchised and misunderstood youth, for whom the future offers little in the way of solace. As a label, it’s very evocative and even those who may never have come across it previously can hazard a guess as to what it might encompass. Such is the power of social stereotyping and labels.

That’s not to say that such labels are a bad thing – often they may have a distinctly positive slant, (although this too depends on where your own sympathies may lie – you may well disagree strongly!): take, for example, eco-warrior or grey power – each describes a social segment of society, defined by a positive mission statement and certain attributes, which may or may not be voluntarily cultivated. However, before i really get stuck into the subject and lose you all completely… here’s the sl slant!

Rod Humble talks to the BBC

I do think if you are going to have a virtual world it has to become user run/created at some point. otherwise its a bit more like a virtual theme park, which is fun but different I think.

I have been surprised how the media acceptance of virtual worlds/online avatars has flipped. maybe it is just me noticing it more but for example the presenter talking about his avatar versus mine in a “yours is cooler than mine” backslapping style is a far cry from even a couple of years back when the tone might have been “so you like to pretend you are a fighter jet in this weird world thing? Whats wrong with you?”

I think thats progress, it shows just how far the sense of virtual has come its not weird any more, it is mainstream.

Nobody bats an eye now if you say you buy virtual goods, that could be a book on your kindle or a clothing in second life. It is just considered normal.

Are we the generation to first embrace a virtual existence?

Unlike other generations, this one spans all ages – no one single generation, nevertheless united by a common bond.

When i read that particular snippet, it managed to evoke my interest. Other than the first sentence, which made me cringe, since it seems that Rod’s brief for any interview is to answer the first question, parrot fashion, with some variation on the ‘sl is different to anything else because all content is user-created’ theme. Other than that, i think that he’s identified an important trend here. Are we, perhaps seeing the birth of ‘Generation SL’? (Yes, i know it goes way beyond sl – but this is a blog about SL, and ‘Generation Virtual Environment Participator’ just doesn’t work for me!).

Thirty odd years ago, when Dungeons and Dragons first hit the scenes it was, in many ways, no different to Monopoly and Scrabble, yet to admit to playing D&D was to be considered one dice roll short of a double-six! It was a niche market, occupied by geeks, freaks and spotty-faced teenagers. Thirty years later and adventure gaming, in all its forms, is mainstream and indulged in by people from every part of society without any social stigma; indeed, if you’ve never played some sort of game that follows the D&D formula or any spin-off genre, people might think you’re a bit odd and a little geeky!

Generation SL is the first generation for whom cyberspace and virtuality are very much part of everyday life. Rodvik’s right – what would have once been considered weird behaviour, causing raised eyebrows and questioning looks is now accepted as pretty much de rigeur… more than that, the virtual element to our world is routinely treated with the same level of engagement as the physical – hence the ‘my avatar is better than yours’ statement no longer has overtones of schoolboys comparing football cards in the playground, instead it’s the stuff of everyday conversation and recreation. We live in a world where you can be considered a bit strange simply because you don’t have a Facebook page – how the world has changed.

Where will all this lead? It’s impossible to say – technology and society alongside it are changing more rapidly than ever before, but let’s just take a short jaunt into the future and see what your typical Generation SL person might be taking for granted in… shall we say a year or two’s time?

Imagine the day when you’ll have the option to literally ‘be yourself’ in sl. You’ll take a 3D snapshot using your webcam, import it inworld, (that’ll be L$10, please!), and apply it to your avatar mesh – a perfect, miniature replica of yourself, (that’s before you stretch it to 7  feet tall and give it massive boobies!). Shopping on the Marketplace will have changed beyond recognition – your avatar will be able to step out of the viewer and ‘try on’ clothing right there on the Marketplace. Better still, you can go for a stroll around the web, checking out ‘real’ clothes shops for items to wear inworld. Back in 2012, you remember they started introducing virtual changing rooms in clothing stores – stand in front of the mirror and pick from the catalogue to see how you’d look in that new outfit, without ever trying it on. Now, in 2014, you don’t even have to leave the house – your avatar can pop into Next, model a few outfits for you and, with a wave of the hand, (mice were so awkward), you make your purchase, buying both your rl and sl outfits in one trip. That’s just for starters!

There’s only one problem with these labels – to the outsider they present a real barrier. They alienate and isolate, they can be elitist and forbidding… The real challenge to Generation SL is not how to get to grips with the ever-changing tide of technological advance but rather, how on earth do we make sure that those on the outside are not left floundering in our wake as we march forward to take over the world!

s. x

The ends must justify the means
Your generation don’t mean a thing to me
Generation X – Your Generation 

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4 Responses to Generation SL

  1. 30 years ago and D&D was for freaks.
    Today everyone plays a game based on D&D, but…
    people who play actual D&D are still freaks.

    Its like that with SL too.
    A few years ago anyone who played SL was obviously some kind of sexcrazed fursuit dangerous nutso.
    Today, everyone is playing some addict-ville game on Facespam that is just a toned down more limited virtual world.
    But the people playing the real thing, they’re still sexcrazed fursuit dangerous nutsos.

    😀

    You Freak
    /pointsfingerofaccusation

  2. I was never a geek type of person, never played D&D, but I have roamed SL since 2007 and totally relate to what you mentioned in your blog. Great article!

  3. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS CRAP? » I don’t have to run day…

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