Archive for January, 2009

UnTrue Names, cousins, & soul brothers – Picking an Identity in Second Life

January 24, 2009

When I created my first Second Life [SL] avatar, I chose the name Spike MacKay, to be similiar to my real-life [RL] name.  The following week, the gods created the last-name family of McKay.  (“‘The gods” refers to “the Lin”, the Lindens – the rumored creators and overseers of our virtual world.)  I was aggravated! Now I’d have the same last-name confusion in sl that follows me in rl – “Is that spelled ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac?’ ”  So I decided to create another avatar.

By now, I knew that avatar names *cannot* be changed after creation, so I thought carefully about my next choice. I was under time pressure – in three weeks [summer 2006] the weekly stipend given to an avatar was dropping 20%, from L$500 per week to L$400.  Zee Linden had just been appointed CFO, and he was going to plug a loophole:  if you paid a year’s fee in advance, your discounted avatar cost was only U$6 per month – and the Lin were paying you a net profit of U$24 a year!  Zee later cut the stipend again in November to L$300/week, the current rate.

I’ve always loved astronomy, and I’d been aware of Olber’s Paradox even before Edward Harrison’s Darkness At Night book explained its history in detail.  So, when I saw that last name “Olbers” listed, I grabbed the opportunity to have a small joke.  Only astronomers laugh, so few notice the gag.  Those of us with the same last name sometimes refer to ourselves as “cousins.”  I’ve only met one other Olbers cousin in any of my interest groups.

Then I created Beta Mountain, the LunaEarthian with a mission – to return to Luna.  And then I waited until my broadband access was enabled Nov 4th, 2006, and stepped into Second Life…

Four Soul Brothers

 It turns out I have 3 soul brothers – Zeno, Fermi, Olbers, Twins are our last names/clan names, but all of us have the first name/personal chosen name of Paradox!  Celebrating and cerebrating the “you can’t get there” Zeno’s Paradox, the “where are the aliens” Fermi’s Paradox, the “why is the nightsky dark” Olbers’ Paradox, and the “one twin ages less” lightspeed time dilation of the Twins’ Paradox.  I’ve never looked up Paradox Fermi, Paradox Twins, or Paradox Zeno inworld, but I like their senses of humor!

My favorite clever names in SL are Trimzi Hedges, 50 Wynks [slang expression for a short nap].  Tell us yours!

There used to be 50 or so avatars in a family before the Lin would remove that last name from the new avatars signup list.  But with the vastly increased numbers of new avatars, each surname now has a total family in the hundreds.  When i joined, the total number of avatars was one-quarter million; we reached a million before the end of 2006, and ten million by mid-2007 in the hyper-expansion brought on by the worldwide publicity/hype wave.  That inevitably cooled off again, and the next year and a half only added another six million avatars, one-fifth the rate of the first half of 2007.

In November I checked the currently available names.  Amaterasu, Martian, Morpork, Robonaught, Scribe were my favorites out of only 35 choices, not 200.  However I learned recently that the Second Life homepage only offers 39 out of the more than 200 currently available names on a rotating random basis; at least one other signup location offers the *entire* list at one time – the SciLands science, tech, and engineering continent. 

Here’s an excerpt from my letter to the astronomical artists at the International Association of Astronomical Artists, the IAAA http://iaaa.org/ asking for people to come inworld for the opening ceremonies of the IYA’s Astronomy 2009 isle.

“And if you *act now*, you can grab an free avatar with the last name of Galaxy! (I just created another avatar for myself named Whirlpool Galaxy, “irl” or M-51 to my friends.)  Go to this special Second Life signup spot at the SciLands website http://www.scilands.org/, (not the Second Life website, which offers 3 dozen choices).  On the right side of the homepage, click on the Second Life signup button, and you can see all 200+ currently available last names, including Charisma, Chrome, Cyberstar, Engineer, Guardian, Haiku, Halostar, Huntress, Landfall, Longfall, Moonfall, Pearl, Pleides, Python, Ruby, Sabretooth, Sandalwood, Silvercloud, Snowpaw, Steampunk, Swansong, Terasaur, and others.  🙂 ”

One major advantage of using the SciLands webpage to create an avatar is that you can skip the SL equivalent of purgatory –  the crowded chaotic Orientation islands of the Lin, with many confused and puzzled avatars all typing at once as they look at each others’ gray unrezzed bodies (due to graphics card overload).

The SciLands signup will bring you inworld at an island called “SciLands” at the heart of the SciLands 50+ islands, where you can see your surroundings much faster, and can walk a path with quick introduction signs about basic SL avatar skills.  Moving your av with the arrow keys, camera zooming, text chat, one way to acquire items such as a shirt for your inventory, how to pull the shirt from your inventory and wear it, editing your appearance, and how to use Voice to talk instead of typing to other avs are the lessons.  You then walk into the SciLands main info area with 8 useful sources of SL info, 9 more intro tips, and info on 10 of the member islands/organizations.

True Names, of course, is the classic Vernor Vinge novella about cybernet IDs and multiple-user net sites, written in 1981.  It’s available on the web at the media studies website  http://mediastudies2point0.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_archive.html among other places.

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