Second Life: Interview with Ayca Shan

[This student blog entry is part of a PWR 2 assignment that is discussed at greater length here]

For my research, I will be investigating consumerism in the virtual world of Second Life. For those unfamiliar with Second Life, users from across the world can through avatars in a virtual grid that is similar to Earth. The realm of Second Life has many features of the reality that we live in: an economy which is built on the Linden dollar, communities with shared interests, relationships amongst users, and most impressively and endless array of things to buy and sell—from wardrobes to houses, to actions and even body transformations.

Second Life is such a new innovation—it was released in 2003, but only recently gained substantial commercial success in 2006—that there is a lack of research and data available. Thus, much of my investigation will be based on consumer research. I decided to start off with an interview of a randomly selected user. I met Ayca Shan at Avatar Island, usually the first destination on the grid for new users. Avatar Island is composed of a main building which houses education rooms for users to learn the functionality of Second Life. I found Ayca at a booth where users could submit a photo and have their avatar transform to look strikingly similar to the photo—for a fee of course. Ayca’s first statement to me was “Are you going to buy a new face?”—a rather uncommon way to start a conversation.

I learned a little about both Ayca the avatar and Ayca the user during my interview through the Chat feature. Real Ayca is a 22-year-old student in Europe, who splits her time between schoolwork, shopping, friends, and work at a retail store. Virtual Ayca has been a resident of Second Life for 3 months, now owns a property on West Coast, and is waiting for real Ayca to purchase more Linden dollars in order to being building a house. She was visiting Avatar Island to pick up a new face for herself—one that looks more similar to the real Ayca. When asked why she wanted a change, Ayca replied “i like this face but i wanna look at it and kno it is me…i wanna see me in this world.” I spent the next few minutes asking her about shopping in the virtual world, what she owned, what she wanted to purchase, and if she could compare shopping in this world to shopping in the real world. “i luuv shopping for anything” she replied. “[In this world] evrythings sooooo cheap! i can buy anything and pay nothing…its like a free shopping spree!”

Ayca was able to give me great insight into her reasons for joining Second Life, her desired experience, and why she is so drawn to shopping in the virtual world. It seems that she really loves the ability to basically buy anything she wants for very little money—something she is unable to do in the real world. She makes a conscious choice to escape into a world of materialism and consumerism when she logs on. I hope to conduct interviews with many more users. I know that each user has a unique experience and set of goals, and everyone has an interesting set of stories—virtual and real—to tell.

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8 Responses to Second Life: Interview with Ayca Shan

  1. Evan Romero says:

    I think that this topic is so interesting. When you first began explaining what Second Life was, I immediately thought of ‘The Sims’. I loved playing that game throughout grade school. I would love to see some of your research on the topic and may want to even see if it would be a good idea to join this Second Life community. Best of luck with the research!

  2. Lleyana Jack says:

    I must say that I really like your research topic. Second Life seems like a very interesting concept, yet for some reason it is not publicized much. I like that you didn’t do an interview in the “real world” of someone who uses Second Life but instead did an interview using Second Life of someone in the “real world.”

    I find the comment that your interviewee made very intruiging, the one about being able to buy so much. I have always wondered why people would spend real money on a fake world. But after reading that, it makes sense because in the real world, she can’t buy much with her real money, but in Second Life she can live like she has always wanted to, with the same means.

    Very interesting interview…

  3. Christine Alfano says:

    In terms of research methodology, you get the gold star for the week! Your primary research in Second Life is really innovative and shows that you’re really thinking outside the box with how you’re approaching your topic.

    Your discussion of consumerism reminds me so much — believe it or not — of Barbie doll culture. As a recovering Barbie doll owner (I had quite a few dolls when pre-teen), and now the mom of a Barbie-player, I see this sort of rampant consumerism played out all the time with Barbie townhouses, outfits, accessories, cars, not to mention movie tie-ins. I’ve always associated Barbie — and the Sims, for that matter — with a type of American consumerism. How much of the Second Life community is composed of Americans, and how much can we attribute this emphasis on consumerism to some sort of U.S. capitalistic virtual influence??

  4. Dan says:

    First, I need to agree with everyone else in that this is an incredibly interesting topic. Why would people escape a materialistic world with a materialistic virtual world? I like your research method of going into the world and interviewing the people in the world. Was it easy to just go up and talk to someone? This sort of reminds me of those online gamers who spend hours upon hours shooting up aliens with their friends. I remember one other game where you are awarded for all the aliens or monsters or whatever you kill, so that people – Westerners I assume – were actually paying Chinese teenagers to “beef up” their accounts and go around killing things for them just to gain points. This whole realm of the virtual world is very interesting and I imagine quickly growing every year. What other sources do you plan to use? Are you going to psychologically analyze the people who use this program? Great research topic 😉

  5. Giovani says:

    I agree with the fact that this is a interesting topic because this is a very actual theme. I think that could be also interesting if you consider the ways in wich the people that use this kind of channel start to share common interests, I mean you could observe if some roles like the genders or the nationality can stimulate the formation of spontaneus community inside the net or if the people follow others different ways to enjoy a group. Good luck

  6. Nick says:

    What an interesting topic to research. I think it is interesting that you are getting all of your facts independantly and first-hand. This should make for a much more interesting research process. Are you trying to show that this is the next step in modern social interaction? Because, I feel that you could make a very convincing argument to support that. Personally I don´t see the appeal of creating an electronic alter-ego, but it’s very interesting to learn why people are so drawn to it. Good luck with the rest of your research

  7. Caroline says:

    I also think that your topic is really interesting coz of its actuality and its immense spreading since just a few years! I think it is worth finding out people`s intentions to join such Second Lives. (If it is just for fun or if they cannot cope with real world and therefore have to escape in this virtual world?) How much time do people spend on an average doing this? And it might be also interesting to compare different ways of how to “escape the real world” and maybe to find out which way is most poular among students… Good Luck with that paper and I an looking forward to reading more!

  8. Tom Finnegan says:

    Online gaming is just in its infancy. There is so much happening and it’s only going to get more interesting.

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