Posts Tagged ‘Second Life’

A friend recently asked me to have a look into what legal protections are available to someone who is being stalked online. Their query was complicated by the victim being in a different country than the stalker. I approached the issue by researching the relevant law in both countries, and then shifted my focus to any international law that might apply. Researching law covering the Internet is always both interesting and complicated since the relevant technology is always evolving, and the law is always necessarily a few steps behind as it tries to grapple with new ways that people come up with to abuse that technology. After a while the same themes became apparent through-out the literature, I’m going to talk about them in this post.

In the past I have written on the prevalence and personalities of Second Life stalkers, and on the relationship between law and technology. Feel free to have a hunt through the rest of my blog if you want further background on my views on such matters. This post though will primarily focus on what appear to be the current legal attitudes towards cyberstalking.

One of the biggest problems for law that should be able to cover cyberstalking, is that it’s working from the fundamentals of real life stalkers. So the focus is on people who have physical access to you and therefore pose a “real” threat – these people are of course in your own country and thereby covered by the same laws as you live under. This real world focus also means your stalker is easily identified – you know their name or the way they look. As soon as you move into the virtual world you lose two of those key elements required under stalker laws – even laws that have been modified or created to reflect the use of new technology: Those two elements being the idea that the stalker is in the same jurisdiction as you, and that they are not anonymous.

There appears to be a trend away from requiring the potential for physical harm from your cyberstalker; recognition that harassment short of fear for your safety (or your job loss in employment legislation), is an event the law should still be interested in. There are also steps you can take to help identify your stalker – through the assistance of the ISP of the offender, and the help of the organisation responsible for the service through which you are being harassed (such as Second Life).

The two main methods for getting help to stop the cyberstalker – whether in your own country or abroad – appear to be as follows:

1 Reporting them to the Police

Because the law has this nasty habit of frequently changing, and varies so much country to country, your best bet is to talk directly to your local police about the situation and ask what you can do about it. There may not be law to directly cover your situation, but you might as well find out, and at the very least they will be able to point you in the right direction for alternative options. If the police show no interest in your complaint or are excessively unhelpful, I have read some suggestions that you just go above their heads to the next policing level (whatever that may be in your specific country), and keep working your way up the policing system until you get some attention to your personal plight and the issue more generally. It will be very important that you have kept records of the stalker’s communications with you. It will also be important that you have on record that you clearly asked them to stop all future communications (only do this once though – I’ll talk about that further below).

2. Reporting them to the Service Providers

You should advise any organisation who’s service is being used to stalk you, that this is happening. Companies don’t want to be seen to allowing stalking or being party to such activities, and will generally be happy to help you out. In regards to Second Life, please use this link to view their requirements for reporting stalkers, and suggestions for dealing with them in-world. Their own suggestions mirror the self-help advice I’ll now go through.

I find it useful to separate the advice for how to cope with cyberstalking through self-help, into two categories: The before and the after.

1. The Before

There are certain steps you can take to protect yourself from attracting or assisting cyberstalkers. These include not making available personal information through any public forums or profiles, using names that don’t provide any personal information (gender neutral names are often suggested), and protecting and frequently changing passwords.

2.The After

Once you’ve got yourself a cyberstalker, it’s important that you tell them to stop communicating with you, and only tell them once. After you’ve done this, stop all future communication with them – mute them for example. Also tell your friends not to communicate with them and to mute them. Do not begin communicating with them again, no matter what they say to you and your friends – if they try to threaten you into action you have even more grounds to go to the police and get them to take legal action – keep it all on file including your own responses (which should be non-existent after you tell them to leave you alone).

Many sites I went to suggested you do everything in your power to make sure they cannot contact you, including leaving your old accounts, changing your name, your email address, etc. This will especially be the suggestion where the service is set up in such a way that the offender can simply create new accounts to stalk you from, after their old ones get shut down. You’re going to be asking yourself why you should be the one to leave your old accounts and change everything when you’ve done nothing wrong – it’s just further punishment for yourself. Whether you take those extra steps to get away from the stalker will depend on how badly the stalking is upsetting you and how persistent it is – if you’ve got to do that to make it stop, then do that you must. It’s a shame if it gets to that point of course, but considering just how bad stalking can get, you might want to cut it off by taking those steps before it gets any worse and ruins other aspects of your life.

I’ve also come across the argument line that if you do things that allow, encourage or make it easy for people to stalk you, then you lose grounds to complain about the predictable behaviour that ensues. For example, if you put up sexually suggestive pictures of you on a public site and then get a bunch of sexual advances from strangers, you should have expected that reaction and can’t legitimately complain about it. That sounds a lot like the old rape law reasoning that women sent out sexually available messages by wearing short skirts, so men couldn’t be blamed for following through on them. Obviously there’s an enormous difference between being raped because you wore a short skirt, and being stalked online because you put a picture of you in skimpy lingerie on your profile, but the idea that you bring harassment on yourself and therefore lose a remedy against it, seems a tad off, no?

The issue of cyberstalking is further complicated by issues of what is considered harassment by one party, might be fine behaviour to someone else: Many jurisdictions appear to require an objective aspect, such as whether a reasonable person would feel harassed or fearful of the behaviour. It is exceptionally easy to accuse someone of cyberstalking you too. Every area of law has problems of evidence, policy and enforcement, and cyberstalking is utterly fraught with these.

After all my research – both through opinion pieces and legal materials – I come to this overall summary: If the stalker is in your jurisdiction and you have their identity, you have a good chance that your local laws will provide you some protection. If they are cyberstalking you from another jurisdiction, you can still make inquiries of your local police but are less likely to get a remedy. You still have available to you the options outlined above of taking the matter to the service providers involved, and self-help. It appears that the lack of a consistent international approach to the issue, in what is an ever developing area of the law, will often leave the victim with a confusing and distressing situation, but I hope this post helps some of you a little.

Read Full Post »

While reading the comments on a friend’s blog post about Freebies, I came across the standard comment (and from a Second Life resident no less), which goes along the lines of “it’s all just play clothes on virtual dolls, why do you all give a crap?”. I was going to reply to it but realised what I had to say had wider application and goes to the heart of trying to understand why people bother with a virtual world at all. So it’s getting its very own blog post over here instead 🙂 .

The first thing to realise is that that style of argument can apply to every single element of Second Life, “it’s just pixel pieces, why do you care that this sim is being destroyed..” “it’s just fake water, why does a view of it matter”, “it’s just toy bodies, why do you care who they have virtual sex with”, etc. So as Second Life residents we should always be suspect of this argument from anyone else who is a resident too – surely we know better than that by now. We might find it easier to defend why we value whichever part of Second Life we take part in, but struggle to appreciate someone else’s interest in something like Second Life fashion.

It doesn’t take a lot of reflection to put together the arguments though – the way we dress our avatars expresses our own style; some people write poems, some sing songs, some do pictures, others dress up. They are just all ways to say “this is me, this is what I am, this is how I feel”. Then there’s all the arguments about the fact that people make real money from virtual clothes, and spend real money on virtual clothes, there is livelihood at stake here and that is always going to be important to the people involved in it. Throw in the points about the art-form itself of creating virtual clothes – the precision and expertise involved – and all up it’s really not that hard to understand why some people care so damn much about it.

However, you don’t have to go through those sorts of in-depth or reasoned arguments if you don’t want to – because this whole discussion just emulates the exact same arguments we throw at each other in real life about real life activities. For example, I have no idea why so many of the men I know spend money and time following and caring about sports. I’ve heard their arguments and none have convinced me I should suddenly take an interest in it myself. You can push the examples to the edge of reason as well and try to appreciate the money and time people like MTG players put into a small pieces of cardboard that the rest of us would just throw out as rubbish, or stamps, or whatever – the examples are unlimited. All that matters though is that they do value those things – whether they can make you value them too or not is going to be irrelevant to their own desire and possible obsession over them.

To the same extent it becomes pointless to constantly ridicule people about the things they value – in any world. We all take joy from different things, it’s part of the beauty of the diversity of humanity, why would anyone want to destroy that, and make us all like the same things? What an incredibly boring world that would be.

There is a line to be drawn of course: If someone is spending time or money on something to an extent that they are endangering their own or their family’s lives, then we say enough is enough. But we call that an obsession, or an addiction, and we generally understand that just about any imaginable (legal) activity becomes dangerous at those extremes. However most people don’t live at the extremes of addiction and obsession, and the chances of you being able to figure out if they do or not from some brief blog comments they make, seems very low. So even with this line of concern there is little ground to dismiss what someone else values as “stupid” or “unreasonable”.

What is considered “valuable” changes from individual to individual. And even when two individuals value something equally, the reasons for them ascribing it that value are likely to vastly differ – whether those reasons are monetary gain from on-selling the item later, emotional ties, rarity, beauty, or historical connections. Some people will mount arguments for “objective value” – but that’s usually at the fringes of philosophical debate, where we try to make the argument that everyone should value life, or happiness or other things which are rarely on the market anyway. The ways in which we achieve happiness or our versions of the good life are reflected in the rest of the items and activities we try to surround ourselves with; trying to tell someone they are “wrong” for valuing stamps or sports or pixels when in fact they help that person achieve one of these higher goals (of lets say, happiness), is to miss the point entirely.

Within certain communites we can have meaningful discussions about value. For example in the Second Life fashion community there can be meaningful discussions about the value of a well-made dress with fantastic unique textures. But if you don’t value Second Life fashion at all, trying to jump into that discussion and tell them they’re all morons for thinking it matters who designed a dress or the details of the texture, is a waste of your time and a waste of theirs; go get involved with discussions about things you do actually care about, instead of focusing so much effort on bringing down what makes other people happy.

There are a lot of thoughts I’m trying to get out here, that require more space than a single post rightly allows. But the point is an important one: Why we value Second Life at all – why we value what we do there, why one person values clothes and the other values snail races – is as much a discussion as to why one person values collectible playing cards and another spends their time drooling over Ferraris. Just accept that what makes you happy might not make your neighbour happy, but that as long as you’re not addicted or obsessed to the point of destroying lives, just live and let live. You’re not going to convince me to stop valuing everything Joss Whedon creates, and I’m not going to convince you that following sport is pointless (even though it is :p ).

Read Full Post »

It is exceptionally easy to destroy things, it is a lot harder to create. One of the things that used to annoy me about the post-modernist movement I had to study as part of my Arts degree, was how so very ready it was to destroy other theories, and yet provide nothing in its place – like knocking down a building and then standing back proudly looking at the rubble.

When you really got down to it though they’d usually knocked down a fake version they had erected in its place – with weaker foundations. There are lots of fancy terms you can use to explain the fake building – for example it may have been an ad hominem argument (attacking the person instead of the argument), or a straw-man (setting up a weaker version of a stronger theory then attacking the weaker one and claiming you’ve destroyed the stronger one). The problem is the person still standing there shouting to anyone who will listen “look what I destroyed, look how very great I am that I have taken down this strong monument!”

And that is the point – they do not have the ability or talent or desire to create something themselves, or at the very least to create something in place of the rubble they think they’ve now put in the place of the building.

There is value in attacking a weak or bad argument – definitely, don’t get me wrong. There is surely a place for strong clear reasoning that reveals flaws in an argument – it helps strengthen the building instead with its corrections, or it shows how we might proceed to find the right answers. If someone has attempted a proper argument and you can show them where their reasoning has fallen foul – and you know they are adult enough to listen, learn and respond – then you’re both doing well out of it: They have shown you how to strengthen or clarify your argument and you have shown them where they have gone wrong. But again – the strong and worthy attacks are the ones which inevitably seem to show a way forward – a way to progress to an improvement and truth. Which reinforces what I’m trying to say here: If you must destroy, make some effort to in turn create or shine some light on the better way forward. Which brings us to griefers and trolls.

Griefers and blog trolls exist to destroy or ruin other people’s creations. When you’re trying to build something in a sandpit and someone cages you – sending you flying, unable to progress with your project, or when you’ve written a well-thought out post and the best someone offers up to counter it is “you’re a bitch”, we need to understand what they are actually achieving.

I’ve heard the arguments pro the trolls which go along the lines of “freedom of speech” and “hearing all sides of an argument” and “non-censorship”. But giving them space to purely destroy – without coherent argument or any suggestions for improvement – only destroys the spirit of the writer. It detracts their attention from dealing with meaningful discussion and creating new interesting (improved) posts. There is no value in loud screams of “you’re a self-centred moronic cow!”, and even less value in replying to them. In the meantime allowing such comments through lowers the tone of the blog and encourages the troll due to the attention it gets them. I’ve struggled with deciding whether to let troll comments through or not, which is part of the motivation behind this post, but for the reasons I’ve given so far it’s less of a struggle for me now – after some reflection I better understand why it does not make you a better person or writer to allow those comments through.

Griefers are cut from the same cloth: You will hear arguments about how very clever griefers are – see how they created this physics-defying trap! See how they totally ruined your avatar that you spent months perfecting! See how they created a fish to follow you round the sim so you can’t take any pictures with yourself in it! Wow! Such brilliance and talent and such a load of bullshit. All they have created is to ruin others’ ability to create, or to ruin what others have already created. Like the trolls and the typical post-modernists, all they’ve done is knocked down something and provided nothing better or interesting or enlightening in its place. They make you spend your own creative time un-doing their destruction – making you report them or attack them, and either way feeding them the attention they so clearly crave.

How many hours, days, months of your life would you have back if not for having to un-do or address these sorts of people – people who seem to purely do what they do to (1) get attention and (2) destroy what others have created? Too many. So do yourself (and everyone else) a favour and don’t let the troll comments through, and don’t reply in person to the griefers, save your time and energy for creation, not destruction.

Read Full Post »

I have had Second Life friends who frequently suffer anxiety attacks – I can think of four people off the top of my head but there may be more. I always encouraged them to be open about the way they were feeling so I could reassure and comfort them. I did this primarily out of friendship, but I also did it because I understood what they were going through: I’ve suffered anxiety attacks during my life that would incapacitate me with bodily fear, shaking, my heart racing, and often without anything at all to have brought it on (well, nothing I was aware of anyway). The worst of these attacks occurred when I was on antidepressants about a decade ago – they put me on the wrong medication and it almost killed me.

The problem with virtual worlds is that they lend themselves to paranoia. Usually we use facial expressions, body language, eye contact etc, to figure out what people think of us and what’s going on around us. Without any of this in Second Life we look for other cues – eg long silences, unexplained disappearances. The number of times I’ve had perfectly calm rational people ask me if I had a problem with them just because I took a few minutes to reply to an IM or because I TPed away when they arrived somewhere, is more than I can count, but somedays would happen many times over from different people, reading unintended messages into my behaviour because they lacked other cues I’d normally provide in the real world – like a smile or eye contact to quickly let them know that we were all good.

As humans we naturally look for patterns in the behaviours of those around us – especially in the people we think we know well. We establish expectations and when behaviours and words from others start varying from those expectations we want to know why, and when it happens with a lot of people all at once we get rather paranoid. This looking for patterns and trying to understand them is a survival instinct and perfectly rational – we need to identify and respond to threats before they become something too big (or too “real”) for us to deal with.

When you try to verbalise what’s bothering you though you will more often than not get the response of “oh you’re just being paranoid”. Well, yeah. But that response doesn’t help, what is required is proper and meaningful reassurance or a possible explanation for the behaviours that are causing the concern. When people aren’t open about the reasons behind their actions, your mind will try to create an explanation in its place. And being only human we will often think the worst because we need to be prepared to deal with threats – both emotional and physical – as they arise. As you try to sort out in your head why things are changing around you, you start to doubt yourself, you start to wonder if you’re seeing patterns where there are none, you start to wonder if you’re going “mad”. And while those around you brush off your concerns as “paranoia” or refuse to communicate at all, the paranoia and anxiety feeds into itself and becomes a monster in its own right.

So do me a favour, next time someone says or does something that you think reveals they’re just being paranoid, sit them down and ask them what made them get the impression that someone or something was out to get them. And if there really is something that grounds the paranoia, help them cope with the situation and the threat. And if there isn’t, then reassure them, give them a big huggle and tell them you’re there if they need to talk. Sometimes paranoia is rational, sometimes it is a mental illness, but always it is something that you should care enough about to help your friends through it.

Read Full Post »

Found this wonderful, and very funny little snippet today on YouTube, of comedian Louis CK being interviewed by Conan. I thought it was very apt to the sorts of things we complain about every single day in Second Life. So next time someone in whinging at you or you’re feeling a bit grumpy about current technology’s imperfection, watch the link and remind yourself of what is so very awesome about it all 🙂

Read Full Post »

Replies to my recent post about Virtual Illegalities, and reading this very entertaining item (“Vaginas with teeth and other sexual myths“), got me thinking about what we can learn from Second Life about sexual “perversions” and “deviance”. This post brings together a lot of thoughts I’ve expressed over previous blog entries, specifically as they relate to sexualities and adult freedoms in a virtual world. I find the more you write and get feedback on such topics, the more it helps you understand both the reality, and your own view of that reality, so as usual I’d love to get your feedback on what follows.

In Second Life adults find a safe outlet for experimenting with sexual acts and preferences they may have never followed through with in real life. In turn, it also provides a way to live out sexual preferences that you may have always had in real life but not been able to take part in due to your own or others fears and prejudices. Those may include acts which are still deemed illegal or immoral in the real world – the extremes being bestiality, paedophilia, and rape. What makes those the taboo extremes is the lack of meaningful consent by all parties involved. And that seems like a very reasonable and logical line to draw.

A world like Second Life though provides a way to overcome that moral and legal restriction, because the consent of the other party is either irrelevant (because it isn’t a sentient being playing the role of the dog etc), or because it is a consenting adult after-all who is going along with the act (the rape, for example).

The consideration that always feeds into this debate is whether allowing such things either encourages it in the real world, or stops the act being followed through in the real world. Beyond those interesting questions though, you have to be ready to ask if the answers even matters, since the virtual act itself is just that: virtual. And between consenting adults.

There are plenty of other sexual “perversions” though that people find sick and disturbing for reasons apart from missing consent – usually because they deem the act as degrading or mentally harmful. For example, the sub and dom culture that thrives in Second Life, is seen by many as a distasteful and disturbing pass-time that reveals either cruelty or deficient weakness in the participants. It is not surprising that those sexual cultures defend their activities, but at the end of the day it’s nothing to do with everyone else anyway since they are, after-all, consenting adults.

Another piece of the puzzle when trying to work out how we feel about and respond to such “deviances” is whether the people involved “chose” the preference. For example, the fact that many homosexuals didn’t choose to be attracted to their own sex, is seen by some as the “redeeming” feature that means we must learn to accept it. However this strikes me as completely the wrong focus. I have discussed in a previous post that whether you choose your sexuality is irrelevant – as long as the act is between consenting adults, everything else is people getting their sticky-beaks where they don’t belong. It is not up to us to criminalise or condemn people for doing what they want with their own bodies.

Which brings us to the question of harm. Most liberals ascribe to a theory of paternalism – trying to protect people from themselves. They either claim to know what is best for you and therefore deny you the right to choose it yourself (and that hardly requires me to point out how flawed it is, I hope!). Or they claim that the very fact you choose to do an act with is harmful (physically or mentally) means your consent is vitiated and deemed flawed in some essential way; that you have thereby already provided proof that you are not mentally sound or competent to make such decisions for yourself.

The beauty of Second Life is it degrades at least some of these paternalistic complaints – particularly in regards to physically hurting yourself (say through bondage). People will still try to tell you you are mentally damaging yourself but at least in-world  they can not stop you by physical force or by threatening your real world reputation. Second Life provides a haven from the do-goody paternalism which deems free consenting acts between adults as morally repugnant, which forces people in the real-world to live in denial and have unfulfilled sex-lives.

My hope is that through Second Life we can come to accept the huge variety of sexual acts and preferences, and realise that what matters is the consent between adults. That we can reflect on the really very large numbers of people who do what we have labeled perverse or deviant in the past (be it masturbation, sub-dom, scat-love, etc), and start to realise that it is too wide-spread to be given such labels, that in fact it is just part of our repertoire of sexual experiences that help us explore and enjoy our own and others bodies.

We’ve come a long way from seeing sex as something dirty, and masturbation as something that will make your palms hairy and make you go blind. The anonymity from our real world selves that we find in virtual worlds, helps us explore and discover not just our true selves, but others too. We don’t have to personally like and partake in the huge varieties of sexual acts out there – allowing such acts doesn’t mean anyone’s going to force you or your child to become or do something they don’t want to. Taking part in what we currently may still view and label as deviant acts, doesn’t make you different or evil or stupid, and as we interact and talk openly with such people who have different tastes than us, in the international adult universe of Second Life, that becomes clearer. One hopes.

Issues such as how we feel about Linden Labs cleaning up the adult world in Second Life – sanitising it to accord more with our dominant real world morals and laws – forces us to think about where we stand on these issues. So what about you, where do you stand on such issues, and how has Second Life changed your attitudes towards sexual perversions and deviances..? Has it perhaps cemented your hatred and intolerance of such deviance and perversion? And either way, why has that change in attitude happened..?

Read Full Post »

One of the great joys of Second Life is the ability to try-out and live-out things that you can’t do in the real world. It allows you to safely experiment with activities that you might otherwise be too afraid or unable to attempt. And it lets you do things that might be considered illegal in the real world. In the virtual world – since you’re not actually “doing” them – they aren’t illegal activities, right..? Maybe it’s not quite that straight-forward. I’m going to approach the issues of virtual illegality through three test cases: Drugs, Prostitution, and Paedophilia.

Let’s start with prostitution – one of the most wide-spread and well-known occupations in Second Life. Prostitution should be legal in the real world when it is the consenting transaction between two adults. So I find it beautiful that its presence in Second Life reflects so well what we should be seeing in the real world: An acceptance that it exists and happens and that it’s not morally wrong to the point that we must wipe it off the grid. People don’t like it being shoved down their throats (um, so to speak) – in their faces and in “inappropriate” places like the centre of a pub floor, but neither do people like having anything for sale shoved down their throats all the time – sex or a car or a plot of land. That’s not anti prostitution so much as anti rude behaviour. So prostitution is a good starting point for the discussion; showing that the virtual world can help us live in the free and ideal society that we still struggle to create in the real world.

Paedophilia pushes the boundaries, but at the same time clarifies the issue of virtual illegality. Despite the fact that it is not “real” – it is actually two consenting adults with at least one playing as a child – there is still strong and wide-spread outrage at it’s practice in-world. The concerns leak-into and are reflected in the varying attitudes about people playing as child avatars at all.

So why do people not tolerate it in a virtual world? Perhaps it is because the virtual world allows the limits of legality as the real world should be – that is to say, that things like prostitution and drugs should be allowed in the real world because they are actions between or by consenting adults, but paedophilia is something we would never allow because a child cannot give meaningful consent. Or perhaps it is because we think things done in the virtual world might encourage or normalise those actions for the real world, so despite the fact that it is not “really” paedophilia, we are concerned about it becoming such in the real world as a consequence (and that we feel that much more strongly about pedophilia becoming a reality than drug and prostitution use becoming realities).

My personal view on allowing paedophilia in-world should align with my view of pornography in the debate against the feminist movement which says it “encourages” people to treat women as mindless objects, and thereby encourages real rape. The facts go in the other direction – that the increase in pornography online has coincided with a drop in violent sex crimes (I’ve done a previous post on that point). Maybe because it satisfies the desire in the person safely at home so they don’t go live it out in the real world. So can’t we follow the same reasoning with sex crimes against children – that by living it out in the virtual world with people who are actually consenting adults – they are relieving the otherwise destructive fantasy that might have got lived out in the real world..?

Even if it did not have that flow on effect for the better, isn’t it just adults playing around with other adults, and since when did we (legitimately) put a limit on adult fantasy play?

It’s a difficult topic for me, because my “gut” says it’s disgusting – even between consenting adults in the virtual world, and shouldn’t be tolerated. But I think that’s exactly that – just my gut talking. I should be able to step back and assert the position I assert for other almost-crimes (in the real world too): If it’s not an actual crime – people doing something that is not actually illegal since it’s in a virtual world – then don’t punish them as if it was.  Murder is the most serious crime imaginable but people can “kill” each other in Second Life, so why can’t we allow all other role-playing too..? I suspect my gut reaction is in large part a reflection of my view that Second Life is the closest I’ll get to my libertarian utopia – where the only things we are not allowed to do are the actions which do not accord with our legitimate rights, and to me paedophilia (unlike prostitution and drug use) could never be OK in such a society.

Drugs is an interesting area that I think beautifully reflects the idiocy against drug use in the real world too: Let’s be clear at the out-set, drug use in Second Life is silly to me because it is in the same category of eating and drinking which I’ve never taken seriously in-world either. I don’t really get into pretending that my avie is hungry or thirsty or on drugs – if real me is hungry or thirsty or on drugs then I might say so. It’s not like dancing or sitting in a well structured animation which is aesthetically pleasing and (very importantly) doesn’t create constant green spam about how you sip the drink, chew the food or wobble from the drugs. Those other activities also don’t create huge puffs of marijuana smoke, lagging the sim and ruining your view. So my initial annoyance at drug use in Second Life is purely an anesthetic and superficial one. Beyond that – like in the real world – I have absolutely no desire to interfer with your personal drug use.

There are plenty of people who think drug use in Second Life is distasteful though and don’t like its presence in their bar or on their sim. More wide-spread is the very typical allowance and provision of legal drugs – caffeine and alcohol – in places like bars, but not the same ready provision of the drugs that should be legal in the real world: Conforming to the limits of real world legalities when they don’t have to. Of course I understand that to an extent they’re trying to recreate the feel of a real world bar, but then why allow alcohol but not provide toilets, why provide food but not a kitchen area, etc. If I was setting up a bar in-world I wouldn’t bother with the whole fake food and drink thing, but if I did I would go further to my ideal and also make available all the other drugs that should be available over a counter in the real world.

When you ask people why they don’t like seeing or allowing virtual use of illegal drugs, you get the same lines of arguments as those I mentioned above for paedophilia, but without the logical foundation behind them: It encourages or normalises drug-use, and drug use is bad… but wait, why is it bad again? Paedophilia is bad because it’s not done between consenting adults, but why does drug use fall outside those bounds? The arguments for making drugs freely available to adults in the real world are very strong ones, all the way from personal choice down to the crime drug lords that would lose their hold over the black-market if it went legal. In fact people are so blinded by what governments label “legal” and “illegal” drugs, that they overlook the immense amount of harm that alcohol for instance (as a legal drug) causes. The focus on whether you’re abusing drugs or not is just that – are you abusing them, not are you simply using them. Anything in excess can be bad for you (you’re all familiar by now about my attitude towards Second Life in that consideration).

So here’s where we end up on the topic of virtual illegalities: Trying to understand what we tolerate and what we draw the line at, as legal and allowable in a virtual world, does not appear to simply be a recognition that it is “virtual” and therefore not real. It appears to reflect the ideal society where basic rights and freedoms are allowed but we want to draw the line at things that should be illegal in every single society of the world (such as paedophilia). Some of the bad reasoning and thought-patterns of what should be legal and illegal in the real world, gets dragged into the virtual one too. Trying to understand the three examples of prostitution, paedophilia and drug use, helps us examine and understand where we draw the line and why. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on all this as well.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »