Second Life mirrors “Real Life”: Prejudices

30 07 2009

As I broaden my experiences in Second Life, it’s fascinating to see ways in which Second Life either mirrors “Real Life” or diverges into another dimension entirely where the imagination takes us beyond confines of the “real (human) world”.

The week in the amazing immersive learning experience I’m taking with ImagiLearning our group participated in a fascinating discussion with  Hydra Shaftoe, a Second Life Conference Community Leader who is also a social engineer and social media specialist in “real life”.  Hydra’s avatar is a “furry” (a sub-culture within Second Life) and at this meeting his avatar was a cat dressed in a tuxedo.  He also has fox and wolf avatars.  Hydra has been actively involved in Second Life for many years and has faced a number of prejudices in Second Life and “real life” based purely on his appearance and stereotypes in the human world about “furries” (from sensationalized representations on TV shows such as CSI).

Hydra has successfully participated in “real world” social engineering work with international companies such as Nokia which highly value creativity and differences.  However, he also mentioned the prejudice he faced in the “real world” when he applied for a position as a social media specialist and attended job interviews initially conducted in Second Life.  Once one of the company’s executives saw his cat avatar, she immediately made a comment about how the company’s reputation would be tarnished by someone representing themselves as a cat and the unseemly behavior of “furries” as seen on CSI.  Although the company’s president did not agree with his colleague, the perception about “furries” was enough for him to back away from further job interviews with Hydra.

During the meeting, Hydra made the point that he definitely does not have a “deviant” side and always acts totally professionally in Second Life and “real life”.  He mentioned a meeting he had facilitated in Second Life (as a wolf avatar) for US Army generals where he was asked for help to find a wolf avatar for one person so that the general could experience Second Life from a “different perspective”.   The general was definitely willing to be open-minded and to experience divergent views.

Hydra also mentioned that Second Life is all about a culture of “differences” in order to remain competitive.  This is no different from the “real world” where companies, individuals, and groups are always trying to differentiate themselves with new concepts, ideas, strategies, etc. in order to remain competitive.

Why then do some people want to continually perpetuate prejudices in both Second Life and “real life”.  This is an age-old question that will definitely not be solved in this posting.  Nonetheless, if we are prepared to be tolerant and treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves then perhaps every world can be a kinder and more inclusive place where prejudices fade away.

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