Op/Ed: RL Press Needs to Respect SL Identities

by Pixeleen Mistral on 21/11/06 at 3:20 am

Is it really news when SL residents do not provide RL names?

Eloise Pasteur, European Affairs desk
Eloise_pastuerRecent weeks have seen an explosion of Second Life into the awareness of everyone in Real Life that follows the news. In the UK alone coverage snuck out from Newsnight, a reputable but not widely watched show in December 2005 to, in no particular order, articles in successive on Radio 4 Law in Action, a series of short films on Channel 4 just after their main news for a week and stories in the big newspapers. There have also been doubled up concerts: BBC Radio 1 doing things in Second Life and Real Life in parallel for example. Doubtless there have been many other examples I’ve missed.

As any mentor can tell you this increased coverage is not restricted to the UK. There are veritable (and all too predictable) floods of new residents from various countries including Italy, France, Germany, Australia and other countries as their national media cover Second Life. There are noticeably (and sometimes inaccurate) PR firms appearing in Second Life to rival our home grown publicists. There are even politicians sneaking in… there is a Dutch political campaign for RL elections taking place in here too, to go alongside our own, home grown, politicians in Neufreistadt and other places.

Second Life even has it’s own “reputable press” – the Herald et. al. – who are fighting with Johnny-come-lately Reuters. But, despite signing up to the same terms of service as the rest of us, Johnny-come-lately is causing a change in tone. The established Second Life press lives, clearly and apparently happily, well within the TOS, however critical it may be of things happening around us. Read the articles… it’s all Second Life names, very rarely any mention of any real life details. In fact a recent article comments on the subversion of Second Life reputable names by a new Second Life surname without a thought of real life details except for one former Linden.

Read the Reuters interviews and you get mention of real life details:

“Anshe Chung Studios, founded by Anshe Chung and her husband Guni Greenstein, [...] Since an appearance by Anshe – real name Ailin Graef”

Or the comment that X declined to give their name:

“Prototype is based in the UK, but declined to provide his real world name.
‘I’ll need to keep it that way till I can afford real-life bodyguards,’ he joked.”

Now, I’m not saying that Adam Reuter is doing anything wrong at all. He’s clearly not identifying real life details of people that have asked him not to. But, he’s pointing out that people are not giving him real life details as well. Is this a direction in which we want to go? Should we be thinking about it, and trying to stop it, now?

I think the answers are no and yes.

Second Life, since day 1, has incorporated the idea that who we are in here and who we are outside can be different. We’re not all surfer dudes and beauty queens in real life, I assume most of us are actually human, though. The points at which you tell real life details are up to you. In fact the vast majority of us leak at least some real life details to our friends:
How many of those you talk to at least once a week work?
How many are students?
For how many of them do you know what they do for a living, what they’re studying at University?

You’ll probably find the number of your intimates for whom you know the answeres there are quite high, close to 100% for the first two questions, and probably well over 70% for the next one if the small number of people I asked is at all representative. Now:
For how many do you know an email?
An IM contact?
Their marital status?
Their sexual preference?
Their country of residence?

The numbers here might well vary. Most of us tell, deliberately or otherwise, those we are close to things across real and second life. Perhaps that’s a reflection of just how long we spend together, how widely we talk in here. Perhaps it’s something that will evolve as Second Life, or whatever the 3D Metaverse is, becomes the norm for us all and society catches up with the changes of this new technology.

I’m not saying our real selves should be unaccountable for our Second Life actions. In fact I think griefers are an excellent case in point for strengthening Real Life accountability within Second Life. However, now is the time to fight for the idea that, until guilty, it’s the norm that we choose what we tell people about our meat life selves. Does the story about Anshe and Guni have any more weight because it says who they are in real life? Does the story about Timeless have any less because he doesn’t? No and no, not at all. So, why mention their real life names at all? More particularly, why mention that they won’t provide it?

The way that the news is reported matters, sometimes more than what is actually in the news. “Blonde Bombshell Britney single again lads, Wahay!” or “Troubled singer separates: Britney’s marriage ending in divorce” are equally irrelevant to most of us but have rather different impacts. We need the journalists to be reporting the news that’s fit to print and worth printing, yes, but we need them to report it in a fashion that makes us all expect that our second selves are the people in the news, regardless of our real life.

22 Responses to “Op/Ed: RL Press Needs to Respect SL Identities”

  1. Tateru Nino

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Absolutely, Pix.

    I’ve wasted a lot of time with media interviews, only to get the clincher. “I need your real name, otherwise my editors won’t run this.” – This has happened to me now more than a dozen times.

    Well, thanks. Can I have the last two hours of my lives back?

    One reporter from the New York Times Wire Service had to relegate me to a background character, removing me from the focus of her article. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being written out, too. I feel sorry for her having had to do the work twice is all, and to shuck a story she felt satisfied with.

    No, I’m not willing to expose myself to a few million readers via the rocky roads of syndication at this stage, and I don’t think any of us should be required to, unless we’re comfortable with that.

    What is – after all – in a name? You’re either interviewing me, or not. Does my outworld name matter? I’d rather you went and interviewed someone else, if it does, because otherwise you’re wasting my time and yours.

  2. Cardie Mahoney

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Hear, hear, and seconded all the way.

    Hold on dear Reporter, I’ve given you my name. Okay it’s my SL name, but it’s my name. In SL (or even RL) if someone hollered that out over a room, you can be sure I’d respond to it. Also, let’s say I do give you ‘a name’ and then you say as a reporter ‘we won’t use it.’ Doesn’t matter. You still know it. SL and RL has seperation. For some people (such as those dastardly Crayonistas) they have it as a title above their heads. For some of us, including myself and Tateru, our Second Life is just that. A Second Life. And that seperation could be for many reasons. Thankfully in the press requests I’ve had, they’ve always acknowledged the anonimity and respected it. If everyone sticks to their guns and doesn’t reveal, and we all let reporters know in comments and emails to the writres and editors that RL is not required, then we can create a prescedent.

  3. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I totally reject this concept. RL newspapers are RL newspapers of records because they don’t get sucked into the game of unreliable, shady alts, nicks, stage names, alts, etc. etc.

    The New York Times is a leading newspaper of record, and if Tatero wants to get on every wire service in the English speaking world, she can damn well put up her RL name and do what others of us have had to do — take responsibility.

    I love how these people who are never griefed or threatened in Second Life tip-toe around fretting about how they need bodyguards and can’t possibly give their RL names. They get very precious and coquettish about it too, and now whiney about the RL press dissing them.

    Not on your life. If you want anonymity, it’s yours. But don’t prance around demanding parity with RL people who have identities and reputations and demand parity as a nick-name and drag RL press into the maelstrom of SL-type alt madness.

    Don’t expect first-life credentials like being in the mainstream media if you are not willing to take responsibility and step up and give your RL name linked to your SL name.

    I’m here to tell you that when you do that, you become vulnerable to the worst kind of fuck-tards, people in v-5 like Gene Replacement or people like FlipperPA who drag your RL pictures into SL, or hunt around the Internet to find your RL lectures and put snippets on to forums to try to taunt you. It’s infantile and pathetic.

    Still, there is no substitute — you want RL press coverage, you give your RL name. Otherwise, go back to being grateful when the Herald covers you and your antics.

  4. Tateru Nino

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Woohoo! Not giving your real name makes you vulnerable to (what was the word?) ‘fucktards’?!

    I’ll keep mine well hidden then, then I know dear sweet Prokofy will continue showering me with his love. :)

    *mwah* Ever faithful, always attentive, and slavishly devoted. You charmer you :)

  5. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I don’t stalk people in RL, and I don’t have any need to reach them in RL or comment about their RLs — it’s one of their fake victim-likep poses that they will “need bodyguards” against people like me who criticize their SL personas and activities, or that I will come after someone like Tateru who gets a lot of her energy for lording it over others and taking on a hundred little people-controlling projects precisely because her RL is hidden from view and she can lob little nasty comments at others without EVER having to take responsibility for them. Nice work if you can get it!

    Yes, I sure am attentive to people peddling bullshit and demanding that RL press torque itself around your little games here in SL. No fucking way — you’re not going to get to manipulate the RL media the way you manipulated the forums and the SL media with alts, fake names, and anonymous SL avatars.

  6. Tateru Nino

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Does it get any better than this? Surely not.

    You’re just the *best*, babe. :)

  7. Caligula Independent

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I’ve been reading your publication. I appreciate the efforts you’ve made to date and the fact that you represent an established institution in SL. I due however find the very vocal criticism as everything “new” in SL to be a detraction from your reporting. While you and other early adopters certainly feel a certain degree of loss of the “way things were,” newcomers are not all instrinsically worth less than residents or businesses with a longer history. In an RL example, Google is the number one search engine – not Webcrawler. Keep an open mind and remember what Phil Linden’s original vision was – a blank canvas filled with nothing but opportunities for everyone equally.

  8. Bob the Tomato

    Nov 21st, 2006

    “Keep an open mind and remember what Phil Linden’s original vision was – a blank canvas filled with nothing but opportunities for everyone equally.”

    Worked out well, hasn’t it?

    Stupid damn new age hippy crap, although expected from San Francisco. Perhaps they ought to hire some businesspeople instead who know how to run a company instead.


  9. Tateru Nino

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I’m sorry, Eloise. I missed your byline on the post, and thought it was by Pix. No slight intended, of course. This issue comes up more and more frequently, lately – and it’s worth thinking about whatever your actual stance on the issue is.

    As for Prokofy, I should come clean. I don’t actually read what /he/ writes any more than he reads what /I/ write. Less, actually (if that’s possible). I get someone else to skim it and summarise it into a four or five words for me, on the rare occasion that I need him to tell me what I’m doing or thinking.

    But hey, keep on plugging. Surely /someone/ reads it – just not me.

  10. Eloise

    Nov 21st, 2006

    No offence taken Tateru.

    Ironically this was written last week, a bit later BBC news asked to interview me. They ended up showing what I assume were cut bits of interviews with three people. Two live in London and were shown RL and SL in one case, solely RL in another. They interviewed a third person, no real life indicators (unless you recognise the voice) and nothing to identify the avatar either.

    But obviously Prok knows better than BBC News the need to link avies to RL names.

  11. Szentasha

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I think its great that you brought this issue to attention, because its definately one of those areas where RL and virtual cultures clash. Those who have lived a virtual existance for many years understand that not revealing real-world info is the norm, not the exception. It should be treated that way. Otherwise people may be subject to RL stalking, harrassment, griefing. Anshe probably has an equal number of critics and admirerers.

    Ultimately though I don’t blame the news outlets, we have to do a better job of educating them about SL and the terms of virtual life during our interactions. In time, after a good deal of interaction with SL residents, I expect Reuters to learn the rules of the game and show greater respect towards individual’s privacy. After all, Adam has crossed over and is in SL with us. I hope hes starting to absorb some of the culture.

    With regards to Anshe, she’s been in the news so much, I would expect her name to have been outed some time ago, possibly by Newsweek.

  12. Szentasha

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Just as a response to Prok .. there is definately the option of giving your RL name and asking that your SL name not be used. Most business owners want the publicity though.

  13. Tad McConachie

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I totally agree Pix. As a very fledgling member of the SL press, I have no interest or really any need whatsoever for the RL details of SL residents that I talk with. In most cases those details will detract from what I’m writing.

    SL is surreal enough by itself. Having the RL press covering events that happen in a virtual world and then demanding information that links residents back to the real world seems to just be stepping over a line. What happens when slLib or whoever succeeds at creating autonomous bot NPC avatars that make news? Will the New York Times refer to them by their creator’s name?

    I’m of the opinion though, that if the RL continues to wish to cover SL they will eventually learn to abide by our strange rules and customs.

  14. Petey

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Holy shit.

    For once, Prokofy is right.

    Acknowledging a disparity between your second life account and your actual person is necessary, for without such recognizance your rationality is diminished.

    That said:

    The last thing y’all want is the Feds to come in and regulate SL. I know thats what Linden Labs thinks they want, but that’s just stupid.

  15. Pixeleen Mistral

    Nov 21st, 2006

    Hey everybody… Eloise Pastuer wrote this Op/Ed piece, not me. I just happened to be the editor who posted it.

  16. Hiro Pendragon

    Nov 21st, 2006

    I’m of a different opinion. Media agencies have a resposibility to readers to provide fact-checked, reliable information. They simply can not assure that without having the information (published or not). If you want the press, be prepared to be transparent with the media.

    As a side note, I find a strong correlation between people who let drama get the best of them in SL and people who don’t like to provide their real identity. People who are more easy-going and transparent with their identity tend to be regularly far more professional than those who don’t.

    As a business, I flat out will not hire anyone who can’t provide real info. (though, there are additional legal reasons for that as well)

  17. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 22nd, 2006

    >But obviously Prok knows better than BBC News the need to link avies to RL names.

    yes, I do, because that’s how most newspapers of record behave, including the Times and the Post. Perhaps BBC was massaged into this position by Justin Bovington of RRR, and perhaps in their tech section they could get away with reporting on the silly game antics, but serious articles will want to have your name.

    Of course, you can have the option of not linking the avatar and RL names with some newspapers if you give them your real name and say, I wish not to have it used but my avatar’s name can be used. But that means you may not be used. Most journalists will not want to use you. The Times will be one of them.

  18. Eloise

    Nov 22nd, 2006

    Prok: Mr. Bovington of RRR was shown in the flesh and apparently quite happily. Although I don’t know who the third person interviewed was, the voice was clearly not the same one. The report was on the main evening news and run by the business affairs correspondent. Most of the world consider BBC News to be a reputable reporting organisation. Perhaps the media aren’t as clear cut on this as you are.

    Hiro: I think being employed by someone is different to being on the news. I’ve done both IRL, although admitedly my appearance on the news was ages ago, during a visit by the Queen to my then home town when I was a child. I expect to have an ongoing relationship with an employer, and a very fleeting relationship with the news. As you’ve said there are also legal considerations about employing someone that may require full real life names.

    I’m not sure I want the press to be honest. I’m never going to be the “shock, horror” exposé writer, because I don’t write the hyperbole and don’t ever read it. We do, however, seem to have the press appearing, and starting to trample the TOS.

  19. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 22nd, 2006

    >Hey everybody… Eloise Pastuer wrote this Op/Ed piece, not me. I just happened to be the editor who posted it.

    Hey, Pixeleen and Eloise — Prove that you are not merely the alts of somebody’s main, whom we do not know the RL name of *shrugs*.

  20. Tateru Nino

    Nov 23rd, 2006

    One of the interesting things is that quite a number of the journalists suggested I just make an RL name up – because nobody would check it, and everyone would be happy. Well, everyone except me, I guess.

    Feels kind of like having a ‘porn name’. I fail to see any actual increase in credibility from being encouraged to provide a pseudonym on top of my SL name.

    “In real life, Tateru Nino is really Jerk Harder, a fifty-five year old hermaphrodite trucker from Virginia, with a body-hair problem.”

    Actually, that might have a little mileage in it.

  21. Eloise

    Nov 23rd, 2006

    Prove I’m not Pix? Well no. You’ve spoken to me enough over the years, and I suspect to Pix too to have a strong opinion that either I’ve got MPD, I’m actually out to get you personally and have undertaken a two year+ campaign to do that, or that we’re different people.

    But… just for the sake of argument, just how would you suggest we do it? Even getting two people into the same room claiming to be Pix and I IRL could easily enough be faked. Anything short of that is even easier to fix.

  22. Percocet.

    Sep 3rd, 2009

    Percocet dependency.

    Difference between percocet and vicaden. Side effects of percocet. Percocet. Pictures of percocet. Percocet for anxiety.

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