Just to clarify…

Someone was moved enough by my last post to write a response on their own blog; I think that’s only the second time that that has ever happened. Unfortunately Lillie Yifu seems to have misinterpreted what I wrote to some extent; specifically she thinks that I was agreeing with Prokofy Neva’s take on the Rheta Shan gender question, leading her to accuse me, somewhat unfairly I think, of being a publicity-seeking sexist bigot.

Ms Yifu’s blog does not appear to have a comment facility, so I’m posting my reply here in the hope that she’ll read it:

Hi Lillie,

Thanks for you interest in my post. I’m sorry that it seems to have annoyed you so much. You may want to go back and read it again, specifically the part where I describe Prok’s position on Rheta’s gender as “flimsy”. Just to clarify; I don’t agree with Prok’s opinion, and I think the arguments he advances to support it are entirely specious. I only brought it up to emphasise what a incorrigible troll he was. The main point of my post is that people are exploiting the story of Rheta’ life and death to advance their own agendas, in Prok’s case his ongoing campaign to be the most disagreeable person in the SL blogosphere.

On the mortality numbers question, I chose that particular age range because I happened to have that data at hand. You’re right that the age profile of SL is probably a bit older; that actually strengthens my argument, since the annual death rate would be more like 1400, the point being that AFK deaths are quite commonplace, not rare events as Prok and the other sceptics suggest.

Anyway, I hope this will prompt you to revise your opinion of me.

Best wishes,

Johhny S

It’s my own fault; I should just write what I mean, instead of dressing it up in overblown pseudo-intellectual rhetoric that is just asking to be misconstrued.

2 Responses to Just to clarify…

  1. I think I must have been spending too much time in real life because this whole Rheta Shan story is new to me. Clearly I need to get a grip on my Second Life!

    Virtual worlds are places of smoke and mirrors, where working out whether something is “true” turns out to be a slippery process. Even a person’s real-world gender is up for speculation. I can say that I am a man but I have no real “proof” of that – and frankly don’t care that much anyway.

    I guess my contribution would be that mortality in Second Life is as real a phenomenon as in First Life. Avatars are, after all, extensions of living people and living people do die. In fact, although residents on SL look fit, healthy, pneumatic, and positively aglow with energy, that’s not a reflection of their true selves, who may be older and sicker. Thus, we should, as you point out, expect folks to die. The particularly Second Life feature of death is that we may never know it has actually occurred! If I die in RL tomorrow, not one of my SL friends would ever know because they only know Sigmund Leominster.

    So SL death – based on RL death – is no more unusual that regular death, but it can make an interesting story; a narrative; a group sharing of a tale. I’ve always thought of SL as a co-constructed novel where we all add plot lines and characters – a sort-of extemporaneous theater. Stories such as of Rheta may, or may not, be “true” in the factual sense, but the STORY is what is important. It takes on a life of its own and folks use it as a vehicle for expressing their own thoughts, feelings, and desires. It’s similar to a Rorschach test without the blots.

    Hence the “discussion” surrounding the story. Its truth is now irrelevant because it is now a story all on its own, capable of being shared and commented on by all and sundry.

    • johnny4sls says:

      I was thinking that my familiarity with the story was a sign that I should get out more…

      You’re spot on when you say the attraction of this lies in the sense of narrative, and it’s clear that people are getting something out of playing their parts in the drama, whether it be the grieving friends, the iconoclastic sceptic, or, in my case, the sage observer.

      I do feel a bit uneasy about exploiting a real-life tragedy in this way, whether Rheta/Valerie really is dead, or if she has appropriated the story of that pregnant woman who got run over by a truck in New York a few weeks ago, but I guess it’s no different from the countless books, films and other cultural artefacts that are based on real events. People make sitcoms about the Nazi occupation of France, so a bit of role-play in SL is probably harmless.

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