ENG 4U 2012: Second Lives?

Yesterday, we examined the relationship between the signifier and the signified. Recall that:

  1. Signs lead to other signs, meaning that we understand new signs only the context of ones we already understand (think of our experiment with creating logos, or with the word Bildungsroman)
  2. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is somewhat arbitrary. This relationship can be manipulated to elicit laughter, challenge authority, or lie.

Today, we will examine clips from an unusual documentary about a man who abandons his real life in favour of virtual reality. He discovers that this Second Life allows users to recreate themselves any way they wish;  this environment allows its participants to redefine the signs associated with them.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Second Life is a virtual community that serves a wide range of clients. For example, you can create an avatar and participate in lectures delivered in virtual classrooms by top lecturers from universities around the world. In fact, you can buy a home, start relationships, and completely recreate yourself. It is, indeed, a second life.
  • Some members of the Second Life community are willing to pay real money for virtual benefits.  According to Business Week, one company owns property in Second Life that is worth $250 000.
  • Most of you were appalled by Super Columbine Massacre RPG. I wonder what you will think of the virtual selves of Second Life. Is breaking a moral/social rule in a virtual setting different from breaking the same rule in the real world?
  • Is the appeal of virtual worlds that “we can experience the real world without real world consequences?”
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