The deceptively potent cocktail of throw-away chit chat

When we teach dancers to entertain, we’re not only teaching them the skills they need to have fun and make more tips dancing. In addition to that, I believe we’re teaching them about how communication works in Second Life.

And, how communicating in Second Life carries with it the similar social mores – a society’s norms, virtues and values – that are experienced in First Life. (As an aside: while not a habit, I think I may adopt the use of the term First Life for when I’d normally say Real Life, because stating that there is a real life assumes by distinction that experiences in Second Life are in some way less “real”. I also like the connotation that one’s First Life comes first, while one’s Second Life is an augmentation of one’s first – but that’s another post!).

What’s really on my mind today is the idea of “conscious communication”. To me, that means that when one communicates with another person in Second Life, one isn’t speaking to an avatar, but a breathing, thinking, and feeling person within. In fact, the emotional experience that connects two people in Second Life are indistinguishable to a similar experience in First Life. Emotionally indistinguishable, but sensorily limited.

First, we had body language. Then, we developed tone of voice. And then finally, we developed words to communicate what we felt and thought more specifically. So today, a huge part of our communication comes from body language, a lesser part from vocal intonation, and then even less, words. I have no idea if this is the reason, but it seems to make sense to me that we’re better at what we’ve practiced – evolutionarily speaking. Like a blind person, we had to get really good at interpreting sounds – so we did.

What changed everything was the invention of written language. Just imagine! From one day to the next, you could communicate out of real time. I didn’t have to ‘hear’ you. Instead, I could ‘hear’ an interpretation of your voice in my head as I read your words. Whenever! I write these words now and you are reading them now – but “now” is not the same for either of us. And when we could write words on papyrus, we didn’t even have to be in the same location to experience the words of another! So now, we might be deaf, but we can ‘hear’ another words in our head – so we do.

The subject of hearing text communication has come up for me a lot. For example, I can ‘hear’ when my close friends in Second Life are tired, or distracted, or angry, or aroused, or upset, or excited – just by reading their words. It’s not an exact science, but there is a ‘body language’ to text in real time. What makes it? Response time, sentence structure, sentence length, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetition, and so much more I haven’t identified… it’s all there, if you look at it.

Maybe, it’s this hyper-sensitivity to real time textual communication that helps to make Second Life so intense? Maybe it’s this mental hoop-jumping that make time distort in such a way that hours feel like days, and weeks feel like months? I don’t know. But I do know that Second Life can be a deceptively potent cocktail of throw-away chit chat.

Sticks and stones might break my bones… but words can never hurt me? Who said that???

But it’s not all bad, because at the end of the day, we smile more than we frown and we laugh more than we cry. So on that note, have a laugh…

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