Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sexy Pixels v2.0

A nice pile of pixels told me that I don't write enough on this blog....

I am gearing up for the Spring 2007 ACHUB conference being held inworld on March 16, 17, and 18. I will be unveiling the riveting results of my 30 day exploration as an undercover adult entertainer in SL.

Oh, stop. It wasn't that bad.

I felt a wee bit like Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street. Well, ok, he has a lot more money than I do, but, conceptually, it was kinda the same. For 30 days, I watched text chat to see if gender discourse patterns could be connected in any way to the communication theories of Jurgen Habermas (see...I told you...once a nerdy chic...always a nerdy chic).

I hunted around SL to find one club that was adult but not TOOO TOOO adult (if ya know what I mean). And, after careful "research" (um, breaking rules to see if the club enforced them) and watching the chat for a few weeks, I finally selected Aerolite Dance Club.

I was actually interviewed for the job (it was entirely too much like applying for a position in a college...there was a committee...can you imagine?). I received training. I had scheduled hours. I had specific duties. I had to tip the house 20% of my Linden.

In a vacuum, it might seem like it was a silly escapade, but, I certainly learned a lot. I wanted to know if better text chatters received better tips. This was true. I wanted to see if women chatted better than men with clients and with one another by relying on Lifeworld communication strategies. Seeing as I couldn't verify REAL gender, this point was hard to prove from the start. I also didn't see a connection to Lifeworld strategies. It was, really, the same old-same old system style.

The Barbie with Brains project taught me some things I hadn't set out to learn. For example, I had always assumed that the "dumb blond" myth was perpetuated by the working class; inworld, I discovered that no one in the virtual working class ever treated Desi poorly (one of two customers, but that had less to do with hair color than their view of women playing that role). In fact, the only ones that treated Barbie (Desi) poorly or "stupid" were professionals (shop owners, academics, etc.). While I am not credentialed to say this...and certainly this exploration isn't grounded in standard research theory is that the Barbie myth is perpetuated by the affluent class...not the working class.

So, my 30 day study ended, and I didn't want to continue it. I don't have the resources to turn that exploration into real research, but I do hope someone can. If you want to learn more about the project, come to the ACHUB conference or watch the movie presentation.

I officially resigned at Aerolite, and now my wee little avatar has come to a place where she has to choose. Do I keep the Barbie avatar? Do I ugly her up?

Any thoughts?


Paul Decelles said...

Maybe you can find some way to do Barbie with a twist...bulk her up a bit so she looks powerful...dress her up in leathers and beat the c**p out of those academics. I bet somewhere you can find some scripted whips.

Or heck just leave her as she is and have some good put downs ready. :-)

Beth Ritter-Guth said...

Woot! Does this mean Desi can go shopping?

Anonymous said...

I think I must have missed a step, here; you posit that it's the affluent in SL who perpetuate the Barbie myth, but just as you can't determine real sex of the person behind the keyboard, you can't determine real economic status. Is there some other way you're calculating this? --CV

Beth Ritter-Guth said...

This is an excellent question!

You are right that it is not really possible to verify income or education, but I believe I am using this term in a more broad sense. In my use of it, I mean intellectually affluent. One can be poor but intellectually affluent (living proof right here ;-0).

However, I should point out that academics in SL do break all the rules. We tell each other all of our RL secrets (name, rank, serial numbers). So, it is easier to check up their data.

While it is certainly possible that people lie in SL, it is a little to determine the educators from the rest.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, ok.

The book discussion group story was interesting; I've only been to two of them, and they were in Caledon, so that's somewhat abnormal, and I shouldn't extrapolate too far from it.

It sounds like the people at the discussion were applying a bunch of real world stereotypes about dress habits to SL avatars, which is pretty short-sighted of them.

Interesting topic, though; thank you for posting about it. I found you via New World Notes -- Cyn Vandeverre

Adrea McKay said...

Here's a thought: Why not keep a few avatars on-hand, ready to go, in seperate "drag & drop" files?
I have the interesting dillemma that although I made my avatar as identical to my RL persona as possible, I'me a bit of a "Barbie with a brain" IRL. Well, more of a bonny Gaelic lass, but the concept still applies.
On days when I don't "feel pretty," I simply slap on a different avatar. Some days, I look like my beautiful self, some days I look like a giant cobra, or an HR Geiger abomination, or a cute "tiny AV" kitten. Half or more of these avatars are "freebies," picked up in my random travels, and occasionally augmented to suit my quirky desires. It's low in cost, and the forum for creative expression should not be overlooked.
As the Lindens used to be fond of advertizing: "It's Your World." I say: keep the Barbie, and diversify the portfolio too. You may be surprised what you come up with.