Saturday, December 8, 2007

Love Me, Love My Alt?

For those women who liken being in SL to playing with virtual Barbies, it may interest you to know that I play with not one, but two Barbies. Yes, I have an alt (technically I have two, but only one really gets much attention and the other one lies on the closet floor with her polyester hair all tangled). While lots of people in SL have alts, for a variety of reasons, they are sometimes regarded with well-founded suspicion.

Originally, Island Girl was created to work; I had ideas about creating and selling something in SL, and as Roisin I was mainly a social creature. Being able to build things in SL requires concentration and solitude, and I have a nice list of friends who want to include me in such fun as impromptu parties on open hillsides. Island Girl wouldn’t have friends; she would go in world to create undisturbed.

Of course, the aesthete in me couldn’t just leave her in a default avatar, so I made her pretty; mostly I tried to find quality freebies, but I spent a few Lindens on good hair and shoes. I did let a few friends know I was making an alt, but I tried not to reveal her name. I did mention to a friend—I’ll call him Tech—that she is partly Polynesian, though—and his ears perked up. We had talked of working together; he would build and script, and I—or she—would write the instructions. I told him her name, and let him add her as a friend.

Fast forward a couple of months. I no longer see either Sparky or Jet; and in one case, that can be blamed on an alt, a man who created at least two avis in order to catch his RL wife cheating. Hence the aforementioned suspicion—the idea that the newbie you just met may have a typist you’ve talked to through another avi gives many of us the creeps and warrants a good bit of caution. You really never know who you’re talking to.

Given that discomfort, I do have a rule: my alts are not allowed to interact with people who know Ro, except with those who have been informed that they’re talking to my alt. I am, generally, more comfortable in the skin of Roisin. Ro looks somewhat like my typist and has established a life in SL. What RL information I reveal as Ro is my truth; Ro’s personal history is the same as that of her typist.

It turns out that as Ro, I’ve actually been able to do some work, selling my RL photos as framed prints in SL. I decided to explore a little as Island Girl, though, just for fun, on some days when most of my friends weren’t in world. Tech saw Island Girl online and began chatting with her. Slowly, Tech and IG have started to spend more time together. She has begun to accumulate the trappings of a social creature: ball gowns, more hairstyles, jewelry.

As both Ro and Island Girl, I find myself exploring concepts of identity. One of my friends referred to Island Girl as Ro in a Hawaiian Halloween costume. I have to disagree; I feel like a different person when I travel in SL as Island Girl. We speak of each other in the third person; she has even been known to make snarky comments about me. Tech knows he’s talking to the same typist, but he understands the role play and treats each avi as a separate person.

Of course, even Ro, as established a persona as she is, can only be a partial projection of her typist’s personality. Island Girl brings out yet another side of her typist, but she needs a personal history that differs from mine; her ethnicity alone (Hawaiian/Japanese/Mexican/Irish) necessitates a different background. As Ro settles into working on projects and maintaining established friendships in SL, does Island Girl now become the more social personality? And how does she maintain the separation from Ro as she grows into her new self?

It’s an interesting exploration.


Garrett Larkham said...

It's a good idea to have Island Girl do your heavy lifting, but with the increased socializing will Island Girl turn into a party animal like Roisin?

Roisin Hotaling said...

I don't think Island Girl will ever become quite the social animal that Ro is; she would have to make a whole new circle of friends, for one thing. Besides, without any friends other than Tech, she's fairly well assured of not being interrupted by IMs from friends during their dates.