One of the pleasures of being custodian of a little bit of land in sl is having a visitor tracker that sends you the names of your visitors, and seeing the remarkable creativity and little bit of madness that people put into how they wish their virtual selves to be known. (i never said it was a particularly exciting pleasure, did i?). A smile will often suffuse my face when i’m notified of some of the more unexpected monickers that pop up in my inbox… Fumblewax Bogbeetle; Horrible Haricot; Fudgemedley Butterbonk… so much more fun than the boring names that most of us are blessed with in rl. Even those poor virtual souls who came into being after the ‘Great Last Name Scandal’ frequently manage to come up with single-worded nominals that can raise a chuckle, or that say far more about them than you’d think possible from just one word.
Sadly, as time passes, the lucky barrel of unused names becomes ever more depleted and those who don’t have the stamina to wearily cycle through endless repetitions of ‘that name is already taken’, on sign up increasingly find themselves being drawn towards the less challenging, and far more boring path of the telephonetic name… a crude mishmash of alphanumeric nonsense that uglifies the whole concept of personal identity. Boris74832; 311in0r5m1t4 and, 11111Matt are simply too impersonal, contrived and lame to really be considered names in any proper sense of the word, yet more and more frequently, both within sl and pretty much everywhere else on the .net, this is a burgeoning identity crisis that’s wantonly rearing its ugly head.
That, my friends, is the unfortunate beast that is the internet – a monstrous creation, at the heart of which lies an insatiable appetite for turning information into bland, blind data: strings of ones and zeroes… a whole universe rendered down to the most simple premise of all: yes/no; on/off; 1/0.
The moment we come into contact with the internet, that rendering-down begins – it seeks to de-humanise us, stripping away identity and reducing who we are into a meaningless set of digital code.
On the one side of the keyboard, we are people – a short hop onto the other side though, and what do we become? An ID; an e-mail address; a login – our personal details assimilated into the greater whole as a meaningless string of characters… mere cookies in the the great biscuit barrel of the metaverse. There’s little we can do to retain our identity either – we futilely try to maintain our individuality… ‘That name is already taken’, and try to assert our character… ‘Invalid – only the characters A-Z and 0-9 may be used’, in vain, we attempt to describe ourselves: ‘Please keep to a maximum of 8 characters’ – and so, defeated we succumb to the inevitable… ‘Hello, i’m Seren1234, and i’m a netizen’.
It’s not just on the .net either – so often these days in every walk of life we’re no longer people: we’re relegated to customer numbers, telephone numbers, pin numbers – even waiting in the queue at the meat counter we’re told to ‘Take a ticket and wait until your number is called’. Dammit! Even that lump of dead cow on the butcher’s slab has more of an identity than us… ‘Aberdeen Angus beef, slow matured and sourced from an organic Highland farm’!
SL however, is special – alright, we may not be able to fully express ourselves with the name we select, but once we’re in, there’s no stopping us. In some ways, sl is the antithesis of the rest of the .net – it may only be a virtual world, but unlike all the rest of the virtual metaverse, it provides us with an identity that is uniquely ‘ourself’. How we dress, talk and socialise; our mannerisms and group affiliations; the manner in which we choose to express out creativity – it’s all, quite uniquely, about us. Through the tools sl places at our disposal, we can reveal our character, in all its depth; our personality shines through and the very essence of our being is made evident. Almost perversely our virtual world and our virtual representatives – our avatars – allow us to regain the one thing that the modern world is hell bent on stealing from us: our identity. In a bizarre and unexpected twist, sl permits us to be real people.
SL provides us with the means by which we can fight back at a dehumanising, data-crunching, one-size-fits-all world. In a world that stubbornly refuses to deal with us, unless we surrender to becoming PIN No. 3712, we can fight back by asserting our right to be Broombuster69Chunkblatter… and there’s nothing at all they can do about it!
And now we are grown up orphans that never knew their names
We dont belong to no one thats a shame
Googoo Dolls – Name