Let’s talk a little about the virtual world that is Second Life: www.secondlife.com
My first foray into Second Life was in 2008, when I had innocently signed up to “make friends.” I had originally heard about it many moons before, when my boyfriend at the time “Tom” mentioned someone developing a virtual world where people could fly (he was a pilot). I never thought of him as a gamer, or anything – but I remember him distinctly describing it as being in testing. That was back in early 2000s, when we were still speaking to each other. I looked for it for a while, but couldn’t really find anything.
As I mentioned in other blogs, Tom was a great influence on my life. He had also inspired me to take Improv classes at a local comedy club, referring me to the owner directly. Learning and performing Improvisation was an anchor for me for many years of my life. I met many friends and never felt more self-confident and happy.
In many ways, Second Life was simply another venue to role play, explore and experiment in theatrical fashion. There are a thousand things to do, and learn: sailing, languages, flying a plane, coding, graphic design, etc etc. However, one of the cornerstones of the virtual world is its sex sims. That is, virtual environments for avatars to engage in any kind of sexual fantasy you could imagine. Hey, if it existed in the real world, people found a way for it to exist in Second Life.
Recently, it has been reported that Real Life agencies also existed in Second Life (um, duh?) – http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/09/report-nsa-agents-spying-on-virtual-worlds-of-world-of-warcraft-second-life/ either for “recruitment” purposes or for “surveillance” – I had never knowingly come across any such avatars, for obvious reasons. However, I later found out that several people in my real life knew who I was. Probably because I ignorantly used my first name as my avatar’s first name. It’s quite unusual. For example, it would be like using the name “Petronilla” and then telling everyone it’s your real first name, and that you grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, vacationed every Summer in Iowa, and you currently attend the University of East Michigan. You would be the only “Petronilla” in all of those fucking states. Probably.
That single, solitary fact is one of those “little things” I wish my Grad School Professor, and Advisor, would have been more “advising” about. Especially after he recruited me to speak about Second Life to the class, and suggested we start a research project, and even design a course specifically to be held inside the virtual world.
My technical expertise was limited to grasping the user side of things rather quickly, and then sounding really professional about it. I had no idea there were so many ways to hack user accounts, interrupt IM messages, and even duplicate or manipulate your avatar whilst unaware.
It caused a lot of problems.
Oh, I’m not suggesting that I didn’t cause a lot of my own problems. I mean, logging into Second Life while at work was probably the most stupid thing I could have done. But I thought it was sanctioned, at least in part. I had told my boss (remember the Caligula rumour spewing lady?) that I was working on a research project with Dr. Dingleberry (my advisor), after she announced that our department had received grant money to support creating “Virtual Emergency Response” for large incidents. I had mentioned that I was researching a project in Second Life for grad school, and wondered if they were utilizing a virtual world for some kind of introductory training. I learned that indeed, there was funding for that, but our school wouldn’t be receiving it.
So, of course, my foray into Second Life was used against me while the University made its case for generically divulging results of the Dentistry exams on my Facebook account.
There were people who knew who I was in Real Life. They knew about my silly sexual escapades. They used intelligence tactics to get me to spill my guts, or pull me into the “darker” realms of the world. My computer was imaged and hacked remotely, my Skype was hacked, my WEBCAM, my email….everything.
To some, it was a way to get rid of me at the University without having to do any fucking due diligence.
Hell, maybe to others it really was a form of “recruitment.” But really? Based on their tactics, I still don’t know who was doing the recruiting, the good guys…
Or the bad guys.
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