h+ Magazine

Summer 2009

Issue link: http://cp.revolio.com/i/1161

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56 summer 2009 56 summer 2009 56 56 s o says scope Cleaver, a designer and architect inside second Life. Praised by New York Times magazine for his design of Princeton university's Diversity Building (the article headline: "Architectural Wonders of the Virtual World," 12/7/2008), his creations have extended his reputation beyond second Life and across several continents, but even that can't protect him from what appears to be discrimination. "I offered the companies a real world proxy who could sign all the papers, but it didn't seem to help." some people see the freedom of anonymity that virtual worlds give them as a nice perk. Others enter virtual worlds to promote their real world selves, or projects, and avoid anonymity for their avatars as much as possible. But for thousands, keeping their avatar's identity separate from their real world identity is a serious philosophic matter. They believe they should strive to be the people they are in their hearts and minds, rather than the person suggested by features of their physical body that are observable on the outside. After all, these external features were forced on them. ethnicity is the cliché example, but other accidents of birth that either can't be changed — or can't be easily changed — include age, gender, stature, attractiveness, nationality, social class, the accent of their birth language, even regional dialect. None of these were chosen, and they are impossible or diffi cult to change in the physical world. Calling themselves Digital People, they design avatars that better fi t their self- image, and then use them to build reputations, personalities and social circles that also better fi t them. Those who oppose this philosophy feel that Digital People present a false self to the world — a grand and elaborate lie. Bad feeling has accumulated as the result of social pressure and insults experienced by Digital People. even non-Digital People who mean well have shown remarkable intolerance. "I won't disclose names," scope said. "What I'm talking about is pretty sensitive. I'm awaiting feedback for a few jobs right now. some of these are recognizable corporate names, and it's international: France, Germany, etc. "Last year I had a German client; about $10,000 usD contract. Lost it because they didn't trust an anonymous avatar. "many potential clients are expecting to talk to me on the phone and sign real Life documents. I tell them that I have two options. One is total anonymity, which sometimes works because I have a pretty solid reputation in second Life and a recognizable name. The other is I offer a real Life proxy to sign all papers. exactly the same as when people do business in real Life. It's binding. If something goes wrong, they can sue him. "I can't seem to fi nd a way around it. It's very diffi cult to tell your client you want to remain anonymous and then say, 'trust me.' They immediately suspect something is wrong. reputation and photos of past projects is enough for some — it was for the estonian embassy, Princeton university and others — but I could have worked for the biggest names in sL if it wasn't for that obstacle." real Discrimination aGaInST Digital People sTePHeN euIN COBB "I must have lost almost half of my potential contracts because the companies wouldn't deal with an anonymous avatar." Photo by Gina Miller

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