At a bit of a loose end last weekend, so i thought i’d find somewhere atmospheric to catch a few artsy screenshots, and that’s how i found myself stood in the rain in Mad City – which, on reflection, wasn’t the best choice on this particular weekend.
The place seemed a little more crowded than expected, and then it dawned on me – i’d only gone and picked the weekend of the Feed-a-Smile celebrity auction to turn up. Not ideal conditions for putting together atmospheric, arte noir images, as i discovered after waiting 20 minutes for the side of a building to rez! However, i’m not going to complain – it’s a great charity, well-worth supporting and an example of something that sl people do extraordinarily well. The success of virtual charity events in sl never ceases to surprise me: the willingness to give support by attending, giving up time, land, creativity and – of course – hard cash, is one the things we seem to be extremely good at, despite the rather unusual difficulties that running these events in a virtual setting can pose.
Even so there was something about this event that caused me to raise a questioning eyebrow – no reflection on the event itself, its participants or the organisers, though – it’s more the method: you see these celebrity auctions are something i’ve never really been able to get to grips with in the real world, and seeing one in sl made me wonder about how we actually define celebrity within a virtual setting.
Maybe it’s because i’m a Brit, and this sort of thing isn’t really our style – auctioning somebody off for a day just seems a very weird thing to do, particularly since it’s unlikely you’d find any real certified celebrities involving themselves in such a thing. You’re more likely to be bidding for an evening at the local curry house with the creepy DJ from the local hospital radio station, or that girl from accounts, (the one with the lazy eye), than a hot date with Russell Crowe or Jessica Alba, unless of course you happen to move in very different circles to the vast majority of us. There’s something inherently creepy about it too… why would you put yourself up for auction to the highest bidder, unless well… you know?
Celebrity is one of those things that i can’t really relate to – perhaps because i’m such a shy and retiring soul – certainly, i’d love to be rich, but equally certainly, i’d rather walk barefoot through a bath of fish intestines than be even a little bit famous. There’s nothing quite so unpleasant, to my mind, than having your life exposed to the world and his wife, losing your privacy and having every little thing you do subjected to public scrutiny. If there’s one thing i could never be, it’s a celebrity – even if i had what it took to be one. And that’s a very salient point when it comes to sl. In the real world, celebrity tends to be a by-product of some other activity: it is one of the ‘rewards’ for success, talent and ability – the recognition by the masses of a person’s achievements – and i can’t help thinking that’s something that doesn’t really translate to sl terribly well.
When it comes to the virtual equivalent of what we might refer to as ‘fame’, much of it depends on who your audience is and how they perceive you, and to a much lesser extent than in rl, your achievements. For example, i try to keep myself informed of what goes on in the wider metaverse – even if i tend not to prattle on about it here. i know who the movers and shakers of sl are, what’s hot and what’s not, who the ‘must read’ bloggers of the moment are, and the current flavour of the month in art, creativity and wherever the whims of the sl in-crowd happen to be currently focussed. However, most of the people i know and associate with in sl haven’t the faintest idea of what’s going on and who’s doing it! If i was to ask them what they thought of [insert current bloggist of the moment here]’s latest post, they’d say “Who? Never heard of them!”, and the same goes for designers, photographers, machinimakers, writers, etc. etc. etc.
We move in very discrete and defined circles in sl, and yes it is possible to have a degree of fame, but the average SLelebrity has an active fan base of probably no more than a couple of hundred people, whilst the rest of sl has no idea who they are.
Then there’s the peculiarities of scale and scarcity. In the real world, one thing that makes celebs special is their inaccessibility and rarity – you’re not likely to bump into Robert Plant at your local DIY store, or have a chat at the bus stop with Madonna. It’s almost as if they live on a completely different plane to the rest of us, where the carpets are always red, the cars are always chauffeur-driven and the cigars are always Cuban. Almost the opposite is true in sl – it’s such a small place, and such a public place, that the chances of running into somebody that might be considered ‘famous’ in virtual terms, often in the most mundane of circumstances, are pretty high.
i consider myself fortunate inasmuch i’ve met – usually purely by chance – some pretty well known sl residents. These are people i respect, and even aspire to: i’ve chatted with them, cracked the odd joke with them and i’ve even ensnared a few on my friends’ list. You could never do that with William Shatner or Kate Beckinsale, which sort of makes my point perfectly: you may be famous in sl, but unless you also happen to be famous in rl too, you’re not really a celebrity at all. It’s not so bad, after all who wants paparrazzi taking sneaky topless shots of your virtual boobies at the beach, and plastering them all over the virtual press, anyway?
Not me, for sure.
Is it so wrong to crave recognition?
Second best, runner-up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding
To want more than is given to you?
Bloc Party – Prayer