In the Metaverse, No One Can Hear Your Accent

by Alphaville Herald on 26/05/06 at 11:56 am

by Fiend Ludwig

Time zones complicate Mel Cheeky’s Second Life

One of every four residents you meet in Second Life lives a real life in a country other than the United States. Although an unabashedly American construct, SL seems to appeal to non-Americans in a big way. Do these residents (myself among them – I am Canadian) experience SL differently because they are not American? I set out to find out in this inaugural report for First Person : Second Life.

Demographic stats provided by Linden Lab show that the large majority of non-American residents are from English speaking countries that share similar political and economic values to the USA. Of the residents that are non-American, approximately 60% are from the UK, Canada, or Australia. Another 20% or so are from countries that are generally identified as ‘Western’ (Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, and France).

Residents to whom I spoke unanimously agreed that SL is filled with polite and interesting people who couldn’t care less where your real life is located and in most cases will never know anyway. Resident Dani Frua, whose real life is in the UK, told me, “I have met and made friends with people who turned out to live in the US, Canada, Japan, UK, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. The point is I did not know where they lived for much of the conversation. One of the many amazing things about SL is you make judgments on people based on their SL presence, not real life looks, location, age, wealth, etc. Provided you speak English, SL is a world without borders. And that’s just a fabulous thing.”

“The only problem I have had from being in the UK is that SL weddings tend to be in the evenings US time! I haven’t been able to attend any yet,” Dani lamented.

Certainly groups from other parts of the world can organize SL events that match their own time zone, but many residents do not have that luxury. If Mel Cheeky, a popular SL singer-songwriter, wants gigs, she is bound by SL time. Cheeky, another UK subscriber, must perform live to an SL audience when her time at home is 2-3am. “The time zone thing is a HUGE impact on the SL experience, especially for me as a performer”, says Cheeky, “It’s an 8 hour difference for me.” I asked Mel whether she stayed up this late before finding SL. “No. *lol*,” was her response.

Singer-songwriter Mel Cheeky: Tip big – it’s 3am for her!

This dedication to SL is also shown by residents like builder-vendor Yoshinori Shirakawa (Y.S Authentics and T & A), a German subscriber who deals with the same staggering time difference to conduct in-world business, building, and relationships. Yoshinori says, “All the people I meet, without exception, are so friendly! That was the most important fact to feel comfy in this game. The time difference, well, this is annoying because my [SL] partner in business and ‘crime’ is living far, far away (-9 hours). It works [to some extent]; I have to stay up late anyway.”

“In this time I create, chat, explore and have a lot of fun meeting people from all over the world,” Yoshinori says. “Tired people from Hong Kong, awake people from Australia, some friends from France, and of course a lot from the US. So it’s not just a matter of a relationship to an American social model, it is much more. Is there a world social model? If yes, you will find it in SL.”

Yoshinori’s SL partner Shelaura Tomba is an American, and a builder-vendor as well (Sweet Things). Shelaura agrees with the sentiments expressed by Yoshinori, but also feels that the non-English speakers SL tends to attract have a high degree of education as they must both know English well enough to communicate in-world, and have the technical savvy and equipment to get hooked-up in the first place.

Builder-vendors Shelaura Tomba and Yoshinori Shirakawa: So close, yet 9 hours apart

It may take until SL experiences a large-scale influx of non-English speakers from some new market that this social dynamic will change. SL often feels like a big, cosmopolitan Western city – perhaps New York or London (or Toronto for that matter) – mainly Western and English-speaking, but with many tourists and growing multiculturalism. Until such an arrival occurs, SL residents need to speak English to get along. This alone may suppress the incentive to form large in-world groups that operate in another language and another time zone.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, it is tomorrow lunch-time. Australian designer Andromeda Raine (Coconut Ice) says, “I do have a couple of Aussie friends here [in SL], but my closest friends are the US night owls! Sparkle Skye [another SL designer] and I are very close, she’s up all night, I’m up all day.” I asked Andromeda if she noted any difference in her SL experience because she is not an American. “Well, yes. For example, I speak and act American in [SL]; if I talk too Aussie I get a lot of raised eyebrows,” she said. “Also styles of clothes, fashions, spelling, slang, and the way I communicate are just the beginning. I do have 2 very close [non-Aussie] friends who I feel right at home speaking ‘Aussie’ in front of. Only half the time they ask what I’m on about! The other half they understand. Sometimes I forget and blurt something out like ‘stop being such a sook’ and I get, ‘Sook? What is that, how do you pronounce that?’ I have to be careful or I waste time going down a whole new conversation path! *giggles*”

So perhaps, in the Metaverse, people can hear your accent after all.

15 Responses to “In the Metaverse, No One Can Hear Your Accent”

  1. Prokofy Neva

    May 26th, 2006

    It’s interesting that the 24/7 world cycle makes people with group activities and businesses able to leverage the sleep cycle differences to keep things open. You might consciously look for someone on the opposite time zone as you, in order to keep customer service available. I also find that unless I’m willing to give up sleep and put in some time at wierd late/early hours, I can’t get my customer requests done for Europeans, and they are a major part of the customer base in SL.

    I do want to say, however, that as happy a little story this is, and as happy as we know all the little trees to be in SL, with all the happy people stretching hands across the sea and all that, there are some really major cultural clashes, and frankly, IMHO, the clash of civilizations is winding up to take place in the Metaverse. There aren’t enough forces to homogenize or take off the sharp edges clashing, and with the emotionality, the acceleration, the instability, there are plenty of opportunities for worsening of the international conversation, not improving.

    I’ll leave aside the routine anti-Americanism on the forums. That’s normal for all forums. And it’s fueled by the far leftists and other sectarians who happen to invest time in forums posting, who make common cause with anti-Americans overseas. All normal stuff, and not as bad as it could be.

    Where the friction really takes place is when it comes to different economic views. There is a giant slider from East to West that goes from communism to capitalism, from collectivism to individualism. Where a country/person is on that slider can depend on their nationality, location, experience, and political party. But that it’s a factor for SL is indisputable.


    o rabid hatred of yard sales and a call to eliminate them — here a mixture of Europeans and Asians who hate tacky American culture and second-hand sales and commerce in general make common cause with a few lefty technolibertarians like FlipperPA of the “no business but my business” school of economic policy.

    o rabid hatred and zeal for ending second-hand sales in general — Europeans tend to find value in unique craftsmenship, apprenticing to guilds, having quality and uniqueness, this is the Old World. In the new world, everybody’s having a garage sale. The ebay culture is brought to SL by Americans. They want to sell, sell, sell, especially stuff they bought yesterday. Europeans and Asians hate this, by and large, as do some Latin Americans.

    o rabid hatred of commerce in general — those on the more collectivist side of the aisle, some Asians, some leftist North Americans, etc. just hate business period, want capitalism to be hung up by the nearest lamppost, and want to “give each according to his need” and have “from each according to his ability” and some utopian barter or village co-op.

    o malicious hatred of people who stand up — those who dissent, who criticize Lindens, who stand up to be counted, who show themselves — again, this is the slider on the individual vs. the collective, and Asians can get angry at those kind of show-off Americans, and Latin Americans can get very angry at people who don’t seem to want to fit in with the family, the group, the church.

    o accusations of “racism” against anyone who brings up these really blatantly cultural features; Americans in the melting pot don’t tend to be as quick on the draw accusing anti-Americans as “racism” because they perceive themselves to be “of many races,” whereas other countries where nationality/race/identity are more homogenously defined find *any comment whatsorever about race or nationality* to be “racist*. They’d prefer it not be discussed at all.

    o conformity — here you will see Asians and Americans of certain classes or belief systems making common cause to follow the leader, keep up with the Jones, etc. and you’ll see Europeans who treasure uniqueness willing to support quirky but interesting characters, builds, etc.

    o hatred of politics in general and disbelief in political parties — you’ll find this actually with non-Americans, since Americans, as unhappy as they are with Bush, view the system as fixable, whereas Europeans may have become more depressed.

    o work ethic — this varies greatly by nationality, and you get people either saying you must learn to create and create stuff in SL or die (creator fascism) or you should shut and up let it only be a game (entertainment fascism).

    o attitude toward authority and governance — Europeans tend to love anarchy as a political concept and/or leftist political parties, and Americans tend to be more moderate, and Asians more conservative still. Even the tekkiw wiki non-Americans are not at all impressed by the antics of the Bush Guy.

    If you think this is false, bring in a sociologist. Let them make up a questionnaire. Let them track national attitudes. Compare them to national surveys on RL topics even. You’ll find that my very rough and ready chart on the slider between individual/collective is a good way to understand the fault lines in SL.

  2. Max Headroom

    May 27th, 2006

    “You’ll find that my very rough and ready chart on the slider between individual/collective is a good way to understand the fault lines in SL.”

    What a load of stereotypical bullshit.

    There is soooooooo much more to it than your simplistic narrow framework implies…but that would be par for the course in the prokofy school of journalism.

    Try reading for a primer on some of them, einstein.

  3. Fiend Ludwig

    May 27th, 2006

    Long live the happy little trees.

  4. Prokofy Neva

    May 27th, 2006

    Um, look, dumbass, all I did was articulate what many people perceive and think in SL about different nationalities/regional-specific ways of thinking.

    And your idea that this well-known book says something somehow obliterating what I’ve said (it doesn’t in the slightest) or that this book provides some deep and nuanced study whereas I am “stereotypical” is a load of horseshit. I didn’t write some long nuanced essay, I’m responding to an article with a blog comment, but I’ve said essentially the same thing. You’re just saying it to be obnoxious, Nolan, it’s clear. Now, look at what Scientific American has to say about this book on

    “Nisbett, a psychologist and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, used to believe that “all human groups perceive and reason in the same way.” A series of events and studies led him gradually to quite another view, that Asians and Westerners “have maintained very different systems of thought for thousands of years.” Different how? “The collective or interdependent nature of Asian society is consistent with Asians’ broad, contextual view of the world and their belief that events are highly complex and determined by many factors. The individualistic or independent nature of Western society seems consistent with the Western focus on particular objects in isolation from their context and with Westerners’ belief that they can know the rules governing objects and therefore can control the objects’ behavior.” Nisbett explores areas that manifest these different approaches–among them medicine, law, science, human rights and international relations. Are the societal differences so great that they will lead to conflict? Nisbett thinks not. “I believe the twain shall meet by virtue of each moving in the direction of the other.”

    So…in other words, he said there’s a slider between individualism and collectivism, West and East. He adds on to it a notion of convergence which used to be popular in the 1960s and 1970s, but has been junked by many who have seen that far from converging, these modes have only grown more antagonistic in many settings, and there is only managing the conflict, not eliminating it or synthesizing it. SL is one of these settings!

    The particularist/generalist concept is summed up by an oft-told Russian-American joke.

    An American and a Russian agree to a vodka-drinking contest. A line of vessels containing vodka are lined up across the table, going from a tiny shot-glass to a big bucket.

    The Russian starts at the end with the big bucket, downs it in one big gulp, and thirstily moves down the line to the smaller bottles and glasses, until he gets to the last shot-glass and says, “No, that’s it, I can’t do it,” and passes out without drinking it.

    The American starts at the shot-glass, works his way up methodically and slowly, but when he gets to the bucket, he stops, takes a sip, then says “I know my limits,” and passes out.

    Neither win.

  5. Maxx Monde

    May 27th, 2006

    Good ‘ol prok – part of the ‘Typing Inner Core’…TIC, TIC, TIC…all that time wasted on those loooooong posts, LOL.

    So much typing, so little results :)

  6. Prokofy Neva

    May 28th, 2006

    >So much typing, so little results :)

    Still not getting any Maxx? You need to try harder.

  7. Max Headroom

    May 28th, 2006

    ah…so you gain all your deep insight from reading book club of the month summaries?

    It all makes sense now.

    yep..TIC TIC TIC…

  8. Prokofy Neva

    May 29th, 2006

    Um, no, I gain all my insights from learning 2 foreign languages, spending most of my RL studying foreign cultures, and living abroad for many years. Looks like you gain yours from googling and amazoning LOL. Do you even possess a valid passport for foreign travel?

  9. Max Headroom

    May 29th, 2006

    You are a such silly old woman.

    As IF living abroad gives you an enlightened viewpoint. I’ve met so many expats while living abroad [and in fact I still am you ignorant cow] who never gain any insight except to reinforce the superiority of their own culture…east and west. All they seem to do is whine about the locals, and how their own country does this better and that better.

    Seems to be a common cross-cultural trait….shove that one up your individual collective.

    And when they go home…boy, are they ever the “expert”.

    You seem to fill that category perfectly.

    Travel certainly does broaden the mind…but only if you let it.

  10. TrannyPet Barmy

    May 30th, 2006

    Wait so just let me get this straight Porky, you suppose that every one here, and on numerous other forums, should all bow to your ‘superior’ knowledge of all subjects, when ever you speak, simply because, you feel you’ve mastered 2 foreign languages(‘teach yourself french’ & ‘teach yourself german’ i’ll bet), have lived some place else other than your home land for a while, browse through travel brochures, and because you possess a valid passport ? These are the qualifications you possess that should have us take your 10 ream long rants as gospel and fact ?

    LMAO god are you even qualified in any field ? (before you answer Porky, highschool grades dont count as qualifications)

    Hey Porky i have an idea, perhaps you should enroll into night classes, and get qualified in typing, lmao, you’d be able to graduate that with flying colors i’m sure !! …….. TIC TIC TIC ……….

    Maxx – congratulations on your outstanding acheivement of creating your own SL acronym ‘TIC’, watch it though, you’re competing with Porky now, remember ‘FIC’ is the ultra SL acronym, and Porky made it !!!! Watch out for the flying keyboards now LMAO

    TrannyPet Barmy
    The REAL ONE

  11. Prokofy Neva

    May 30th, 2006

    re: “Travel certainly does broaden the mind…but only if you let it.”

    It doesn’t seem to have done that for you. You remain the same timid, narrow-minded asshole, hiding behind alts and nicks, screaming about something that is beside the point and has nothing to do with what the OP posted or I replied, that is based only on an undying hatred of me, not any love of the topic or interest in exploring it. It’s just plain stupid. And calling people sexist and agist names um really displays your um urban sophistication, worldly-wise demeanor and uh wisdom.

    Tranny, you’re looking even more stupid than usual, by inventing some fabrication involving an expression of my views as some call to impose them or describe my insights as universalist. They’re just my insights. You have done. You’re an ass, and also unable to get through a post without name-calling and assorted idiocies.

    God, the Herald is such a waste of time!

  12. Keith

    May 30th, 2006

    Interesting argument. I don’t SL, but love the L and F and am curiously amused by the historically necessary systemic assault on the TK oligarchy by TS/SK separatist resentistas learning how to tolerate each others’ agendas. The aggressive expansion of surveilance and violence capacities into every nook and cranny of life has corrupted the will of K’s (pictures, prejudice and power OH MY!) to uphold the honor and integrity of any given system of human community (humanity, anyone?)

    FWIW, my indelible opinion lies along a ballpark logic of communist needs (when wanted) and capitalist wants (where necessary). The vulgarity of vaguarities…


  13. Walker Spaight

    May 31st, 2006

    > God, the Herald is such a waste of time!

    I guess you won’t mind if I close the comments in this thread then.

  14. Ampersand

    Feb 23rd, 2007

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    Mar 12th, 2007

    Second Passport

    While its impossible to know exactly how many Americans have an