Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Anonymity in Virtual Worlds

Anonymity in a virtual world means that a person can appear as an avatar without any connection to the real person. Currently, in Second Life, users have a wide variety of options regarding the amount of anonymity they would like to have. Each avatar has a profile accessible to other avatars where they can provide information. In fact, there is a section in the profile titled 1st Life where they can provide information regarding who the are in real life. But, in fact, almost no one provides any information there. There is also a web page tab where you can provide a link to your web page. However, most people leave that blank or provide a link to a YouTube video of their favorite band. Clearly, most people like the anonymity the Second Life provides.

There are good reasons for enjoying this anonymity. If you don't like your height, weight, gender, looks, race, age or social class, you can try being some thing else in Second Life. If you wish to experiment with bisexuality or master/slave relationships, you can do so without fear of reprisals. And, as some friends have commented to me, if you screw up your relationships, you can create a new avatar and start over. Anonymity provides a great deal of personal, expressive and creative freedom. Second Life would simply not be the same without it. Any yet, as with everything there is also a down side to anonymity. And that will be the topic of the next post.

considers the trade off between a person's right to privacy as they conduct themselves in a virtual world and that person's responsibility to be who they claim to be.

Certainly anonymity allows a person to be things or to do things in a virtual world that they may not do in the real world. This freedom of self expression may be important but must be weighed against the impacts that these behaviors have on other people.

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