studies of second life (part ıı)

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here follows the second part of the interview with tom bukowski.

i ask him why virtual worlds are important. “two reasons,” he answers. “one, they are going to become a significant form of human social life. not that long ago, the percentage of human social life in virtual worlds was zero percent. it will probably never be 100 percent, but it’s higher than zero now, and will get higher in the years to come. so we need to understand this new form of human social interaction.”

“the other reason is this: in some ways humans have always been virtual – ever since language, ever since cave paintings presenting a virtual world on a stone ceiling, since the story of plato’s cave. and virtual worlds can help us understand how virtuality has always been an important part of the human condition. so things like sl are important both to understand continuities, and to understand changes.”

bukowski says there is a long history of both utopian and dystopian narratives around technology. “wild dreams of a perfect world, or wild dreams of a hell … and what happens, is always something in between.”

so is second life a part of the tradition from cave paintings, as a result of the basic human need to be creative and re-create the world? “yes, but the basic point is that humans have always produced two kinds of things – episteme (knowledge) and techne (art, or craft), which is the root of ‘technology’. and one thing that sl and virtual worlds more broadly show us, is that techne opens a gap between the virtual and actual.”

according to bukowski, the origin myth of episteme in western tradition, is the story of eve, the eating of the apple of knowledge of good and evil. “while the origin myth of techne is prometheus, who stole the fire for humankind. and in the book, i say we are entering an age of techne, where, for the first time, we can create worlds where techne can happen inside them. instead of just making them happen, like a book, a song, or a movie. so there’s the continuity, but also something new, once again.”

the ways sl is important to its users, is of course for a lot of different versions. “for some people, sl is very important, more important than the actual world in some ways, and that’s almost always about relationships and emotional connection. as one person told me in an interview: ‘in the actual world you get to know someone form the outside in, but in sl it’s from the inside out.’ meaning that in sl i don’t judge you on your body, if you’re a man or woman, if you are rich or poor, or whatever. i get to know you for you first. that’s the belief that some people have. i’m not saying it’s true or false, but for some people it is true and very meaningful to them. then there are people who are in sl just to play tringo, or have sex, or shop for clothes, and all kinds of other reasons.”

“and it’s not just that people come to sl to do something or find something. the virtual world makes new hopes and desires and goals possible for many people. a lot of people in intense emtional relationships here say they didn’t come here for that. they didn’t know that was possible online. but then they met someone and fell in love, or made a best friend, or whatever. then i know cases where family members in the actual world participate in sl together. maybe the son has gone to college, and instead of calling home, he meets his dad in sl and they can actually do something together. so many different ways sl can have meaning for people.”

the third – and last – part of the interview will be published tomorrow.

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~ by theresecarfagno on July 29, 2007.

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