Divisions of Self
I have seen people destroyed by their approach to this question, as well. One of my best friends fell into the online avatar pit and never really returned. He was a nice guy, affable. Former employee of Netscape Communications. He is now completely paranoid, alone and hiding out somewhere. And IMHO he drinks way too much. You can talk to him and he just riffs on about things like "star wars" at random times. "Hey, what do you think about Chewbacca?" from out of the blue. So I guessed right on the topic - early on. I would warrant that to be from my abundance of those skills endemic to all good programmers: arrogance, laziness, and honesty. He just wasn't lazy enough. I am totally lazy. I will spend seven hours working on a script to do table load so I don't have to take 15 minutes to do it myself.
The dividing line between an SL avie and yourself seems really complex at first, if you take it in the context of human connection. You generally make two investments, one in your real world self - the other in your online self. For a shapeshifter, the lines could theoretically be even more complex. Because in one form you can have multiple forms. The Kool Aid Man (oh YEAAHH!!!). Sorry. Ahem. A Dark Firstborn Unicorn. Wolves. Furries. Dragons. In the first iterations, believe it or not, the Representations where more abstract than this. Almost any graphical image was suitable for representing yourself. There were some wild ones. >:)
About twenty years ago, studies were done where researchers presented subjects with cartoon characters and imbued the characters, with some element of their lives. IE. they tried to measure how you felt about Snoopy or Linus or Charlie Brown, if the context of the comic had some partial relevance to your life. They found that people became attached to the character.
Also, research was performed on baby spider monkeys and social interaction during phases of rapid brain growth. Little baby spider monkeys were separated from their mothers early on. The control group was well fed, given a comfortable cage, but no avatar of any adult monkey was to be found. The spider monkey was isolated, in this group. The same was given to the other group, except that simple a cartoon version of their mother - almost a line drawing in metal, with round eyes and a bit of shag carpet to hold onto - was put into the cage. The control group ++ died ++. be careful what you wish for that you may get it. a rapidly growing brain is nice. imho the other spider monkeys died due to storming
Taken together, this shows that we are innately social animals ; human beings have complicated systems of interaction - gestures, tonal patterns, a full and complicated language system, and an almost innate sense of hierarchy. And like language patterns, we are willing to fill in the gaps if necessary. Like a baby spider monkey is willing to overlook the fact that his mother is not actually +real+ - in fact, they could likely have put a picture of Linus up, with fabric security blanket and it would have worked. The difference of whether or not we have the ability to feel as if we are with another of our own kind is important.
Amber alerts, that are now misused by TV news media entertainment companies, were meant only to protect children but it activates the alerting instinct. This instinct is a prey animal instinct that is meant to protect us from a tiger sneaking up upon us. (we detect the possibly dangerous motion of a sabre toothed tiger moving towards us - out of our peripheral vision). The news media entertainers picked up on this almost by accident. The first screen crawlers were meant specifically for lost kids, to help people find them. And they found out that people had retained them somehow. So we have message persistence when it comes to alerting instinct. And we likely have emotional persistence as well with the other types of things above. I literally have to black duck tape across the bottom of the screen to ignore them. Fortunately I don't really know anyone named Amber or I would probably have to use black tape on her too. >:)
(see, in real if I would go AFK for about 10 seconds at this thought and it would be awkward because I couldn't speak for a while. but here ! like magic ! nothing happens and I keep right on going ..)
So we all might agree that everyone has a spirit , an essential character higher than simply your conscious self. You may think of yourself, for example, as a hero with a cape. (I never wear capes. They can get caught in jet engines). You can think of yourself in several different forms of spiritual ideal - integrity, loyalty, honor - even in separate forms - and also darker forms. So in addition to whatever color you can bring to the chat line (ie. colorless text, keeping you free from built in lie-detectors (which is why so many people have so much trouble RP from anything other than text chat)) - you can also be the Kool Aid Man. drink me.
SL is a tool to enhance human communication. The strongest players, from what I've seen and can gather, invest specific, focussed aspects of their selves. Some of those aspects are repeatable and scaleable and persistent. Others change from time to time. But mainly they are able to explore things with SL and we don't always find them in the raw and steamy quarters of this online world. myrady muse rocks
This dividing line question becomes really fun, when it goes to its next logical progression above tribal - which is Where do Nation-states end, and the Nation-states of the online world, begin? The anonymous internet still gives government fits. Metaverses can answer that question (maintaining of course, they are open, scaleable, community based, traversable, and networked ... sorry world of warcraft.) In places where democracy is struggling to survive or grow such experiments can have new meaning. Places like, for example, America .
I buy into a "Dune" -like model (cf. Frank Herbert). In these models, technology +seems+ old and but its really ++useful++. (I want to fold space to get to work!). Theocratic power wrests in an ability to accomplish things for the state, in real terms (ex. the Guild, or the Bene Gesserit are all institutions as well as sects). For example, potential rulers can be administered the Gom Jabbar. The feudal trouble in the Dune series, you see, IMHO is based largely on the governments inability to accurately allocate resources (ie. the imbalances in the spice trade, or the disease ridden state of geidi prime, etc.) So, sort of Dune + democratic ideals would work IMHO. Aristocracy is natural whenever people have more power than mass production facilities. But, I really don't buy into medieval times as throw-back solution.
Just thinking about simple forms of spirtuality, what about telepresence, right where you are right now? In the modern world, for example, Cellphones in public can be just.. strange - I have had someone looking straight at me - an ATT customer service rep - just talk to me right to my face and say "Hello" and I said, "Hi!" and then they said something like "Right, so lets go to the soccer game" or something like that .. it was like they were possessed - they looked right through you. That is so weird. There is IMHO great expression of these sort of ordered forms of spirituality and, honestly , not only social and cultural direction but also prophecy - that could be really neat if it were a part of it all. I don't mean a specific religion, of course, for a world leader. I mean that candidates for public office should be tested by the Gom Jabbar. >:) To heck with questions for the candidates from YouTube. Lets see if they can survive psychic warfare.
ko. Taken altogether where do you stop, and your avatar begin:
You stop, to the extent of your own imperfections that make you who you are , RL, including your own mortality*. Your avatar begins at the investment you can make of yourself to pursue a spiritual ideal that helps you to explore a part of you that you either wish to increase, acquire or diminish.
There is a certain amount of information and things that can go between the worlds. >:) Its better to keep the two worlds separate and have the most fun in the real world. The basic idea I use is ..
"Name. Rank and Serial number. Anything more than that, and you have to pay a quarter just like everybody else."
The most pathetic and scary part of all of this is that I felt I +needed to write an essay on this+.
* imperfection counts. +the girl+ had a point.