Monday, 26 March 2007

Where does my Avatar go when I am offline?

OK - before any helpful soul tells me that my avatar disappears when I go offline - I KNOW. The question is rhetorical... it is there to be slightly controversial, and to make a point.

Let me explain.

As I have already blogged, I am occasionally going into SL via the SLeek. This is a text-only interface; good for IM and Chat, but leaves the user completely in the dark when it comes to "seeing" where your avatar is standing. It is like being blind - but more-so as you don't have any other senses to work with either!

So, during a session with SLeek, you could arrive in-world with your avatar stood on someone's head. Equally, you could have a crowd of people stood on top of your avatar's head and you'd never know.

My answer to this is to find a "safe spot" to stand when I exit SL. Then, if I log in using SLeek, I know exactly where my avatar is standing, and am confident that there is no-one else stood on top of me.

Now, as I don't own any land of my own, I have been using a friend's property in SL as my "safe spot". I TP to their house, walk outside, and stand in a secluded spot in their back-yard. Every time I have done this, there has been no-one home, so I have not needed to mention to the owner that I've been passing through their house.

Here is Team, patiently standing in the back-yard, taking in the view

When I arrive in SL, my avatar is standing there, good as gold, staring into the woodland, behind the back of the house. Because I have been so conscious of where to leave my avatar, and where I find it on return to SL, I started to have the random thought of "where do avatars go when I am offline". I guess I've been watching too much Star Trek, with their pseudo-living holodeck characters! Either way, I decided to write this blog entry.... then I got to thinking further about the way I just TP into my friend's house, and wander out into the back yard..... really this is quite rude, and a potential invasion of privacy. I worried so much, that I have since e-mailed my friend to get explicit permission to leave my avatar in the back yard when I am off-line! (and yes, as I said at the start of this blog - I KNOW that the avatar is not there when I'm offline.... or is it.... a bit like the age old question of "when a tree falls in a deserted forest, does it make a sound?")

Which brings me to the serious point of this discussion.... even though logically I know my avatar is not really there (lurking in the bushes in my friend's back-yard), Emotionally, and irrationally, I still find it hard to accept. The immersive experience of the 3D world has left me feeling that my avatar is a real character, who is still there in SL when I log off.

Similarly, I know that my friend has no particular private "belongings" in her house.... I can't go reading correspondence, or even worse, rifling through her underwear drawer! ( and what does having these thoughts say about me!!) But it still feels strange - a bit like trespassing. (though I have since found that she has an automatic visitor log, so has "seen" me come and go via her security system)

I guess it is a bit like the feeling that people have about "being molested" whilst Camping.... (apparently there are some people who will animate their avatars to perform lewd acts with avatars that have been left "camping" in nightclubs). I mean, why get upset about an avatar.... it is just a computer generated image.... and if you are camping, you are not there to see what is going on!..... but equally, why get uneasy about standing in someone's back yard as you exit SL?????

Clearly there is more going on that meets the eye. People get attached to their avatars, and the avatars take on something of a life of their own... so, perhaps, the trick will be in tapping into this emotional bond with avatars in order to develop the "killer app" for 3D worlds.


Betsy Stoll said...

Hmm. Maybe I should create a drawer and put some underwear in it. Just to torture you...

Ian said...

Oh well., privacy is important in SL too, so, i added a few security systems which provide several functions, they are free and one is under 200L, whenever someone who is not in a whitelist that came around my house, it will auto eject the person's home..

Whats the purpose of walls and windows or lockable doors if privacy is disregard?

Of cause, i don't mind if my friends crawling my place when i am offline, but, no strangers of cause..

As for when we offline, our avatar is gone as well, thus, no avatar parking for offline needed, unless you are using a bot, lol..