There are some things I see in the real world that confuse me every bit as much as some of the more unusual things I come across in SL. Maybe RL isn’t quite as way out and bizarre as the virtual world, but there are still a wealth of weird things going on which I find hard to understand. I’m often bewhildered, for example, by shop windows without views.
I probably need to explain that… There’s a common practice adopted shops and stores that I see everywhere – everything from the local convenience store and newsagent, right up to the big brand supermarkers – whereby a large expanse of the visible frontage is glass, but rather than being employed for its obvious use – as a window – it is instead completely obscured by a full size printed hoarding. In the case of local stores, it’s likely to be advertising cheap international phone cards or money transfers; for the larger establishments, it could be just a logo or even a plain, blank design. All of which, for me, begs the question, why bother with a window there in the first place?
It’s always struck me as a bit odd that someone should install a transparent plate glass window, and then fail to use it for it’s fundamental function. There are, of course, reasonable arguments for it: I suppose, installing advertisements indoors through a transparent surface, makes for easier maintenance and cleaning, but it’s always seemed such a shame to me not to use a window as a window! Maybe it’s a sign of our changing shopping habits? Back in the days of the bustling High Street, competition between shops was stiff and window displays were the key sales tool, displaying the best of the store’s wares, artfully arranged to tempt shoppers away from the competitors. Today, that’s all changed: The small independent shops have been mainly driven out of business by the bigger concerns who don’t need to tempt shoppers by creative window displays; you can’t find a window big enough, to start with!
So now we have faceless, bland shop fronts, and the only way of knowing what’s inside is to walk through the door.
It struck me that there’s something of a parallel in SL – we’ve all come across, and moaned about, those faceless profiles consisting of little more than a rez date, a few groups, and all but the most basic of introductory information. There’s no picture, virtual or real, no picks and practically nothing for us to go on in terms of understanding the avatar to which the profile belongs. If you’re a profile perv, like me, there are few things more annoying. It’s the shop window without a view, that tells us practically nothing about what’s inside and does little to answer our questions or give us any insight into the owner.
Such a profile leads me to making what could well be the wrong assumptions about the owner. I’m immediately drawn to wondering what they have to hide, especially if the profile is more than a few weeks old. Are there nefarious reasons behind them purposely hiding their identity? Is this the sort of person I should tread carefully around, in fear of upsetting unknown sensibilitiess? Are they purposely being obstructive and awkward, and want to avoid attention and interaction?
Perhaps I need to reassess my own response to such a lack of information? Should I instead consider this an invitation to seek out those missing details, to make contact and get to know the person through interaction, rather than interpreting what has been put into a – possibly out of date – profile? The virtual equivalent of walking through the shop doorway and seeing what lies inside. That probably makes a whole lot more sense than trying to second-guess somebody’s personality based on my own assumptions and little more. It isn’t, however, my style: I really don’t like to go into any personal interaction cold – if I turn up at an unfamiliar venue, it will always take me some time to suss out the people around me and the atmosphere before I’ll become anything like my usual talkative self, and when strangers turn up, I always like to find some common ground so that I can strike up a conversation, rather than simply take a shot in the dark.
If nothing else, if you’re going to have a blank profile – at the very least, put something in it to give me a clue… ‘Say hello!’, or ‘Bugger off!’ will more than suffice, and will let me know exactly where I stand.
Perhaps the Lab should give us the option to turn off profiles completely, rather than wander around SL with an empty one – otherwise, it’s a bit like those big plate glass windows whose only function is not to be a window!
And so I wake in the morning
And I step outside
And I take a deep breath and I get real high
And I scream from the top of my lungs,
“What’s going on?!”
4 Non Blondes – What’s Up