So anyway, while on the phone a few days ago with a journalist, we got to discussing the topic of voice in virtual space and how it would affect things. How would it change the way users interact in a place like Second Life, for instance? What impact would it have on their individual experiences and the world as a whole?
At any rate, much to my surprise, I blurted out the word “performance” during one of my off-the-cuff comments regarding communication inside virtual worlds like SL.
Let me explain. In the particular part of the conversation where I used the word in question, I was generally making a speculative comparison between text communication and voice. I told the reporter yeah, if voice was ever integrated into Second life, I would be generally highly enthused about trying it. But I also would be a little skeptical, since many users inside SL (perhaps myself included) have yet to even learn how to communicate and interact competently using text. Now we’re going to have voice? Then I said to her that voice was a totally different type of performance.
Holy shit, I thought to myself after I used that word. I mean, I was taken aback in part because I had just finished telling the reporter that I wasn’t a role-player inside Second Life. I had explained that my avatar was a genuine extension of the real-life me, and that I didn’t make things up while I was behind the keyboard. I projected myself sincerely as Cheri Horton. I explained that Cheri was basically the virtual incarnation of me. But there I went and used the word “performance.”
Why? Well, what sprang to mind while I was mulling the impact of voice in SL was how it would affect my BDSM business Dashwood Dungeon. I mean, I consider myself partly as a performer when I work as a domme. It’s true. Virtual BDSM is a performance, I believe. Heck, I think the same applies for real-life BDSM in a way, as well as for just life in general — whether it be in virtual space or real-world space. (All of life’s a stage and all that.)
Anyway, don’t get me wrong, there are sincere emotions involved when I domme in SL. For example, sadism comes naturally to me, and I express that when I engage in real-life BDSM. In fact, I am a natural born sadist, I‘ll have you know. I’ve been one for as long as I can remember. I think it may even date back to pre-pubescence. My point being, that the sadistic dimension of Cheri Horton is entirely authentic.
But at the same time, while virtually domming, it’s still important to take command of the ‘stage’ and orchestrate the experience gracefully and craftily in order for it to be immersive and rewarding for the client, namely the sub who is paying for the session. This is particularly important during virtual S&M, since there is an absence of pain in a virtual setting (unless you hook up some clever output device to your PC.)
So yeah, part of my concern about voice arose in light of the fact that I’m generally just becoming proficient at being a dominatrix using two key interface features: text and visual displays; it takes a skillful mix of both to truly rock somebody’s world. Even timing is important. So if voice were tossed into the mix, it could cause a setback for me of sorts.
Mind you, my concern does not stem from the fact that I’m genetically male in real life and my true voice wouldn’t fit my female avatar. No. Voice fonts would take care of that. The issue would be that voice would be something entirely new to master. Even if such a feature were optional, I’d like to be able to use it if necessary. And use it competently and effectively.
Which brings me to this thought: When I stop to ponder the issue of communication inside virtual worlds, I am really struck at how much more polishing up we have to do yet. I mean, many people still express themselves pretty primitively when trying to get across to one other using text. We’re still like cavemen and cavewomen in that regard. What’s going to happen when or if voice comes along? What was tantamount to grunting in the form of the written word now expands into audibility? Or is it the case that voice communication is more intuitive and it therefore wouldn’t be much of an issue?
Regardless, it’s weird, because we go through all kinds of schooling to learn how to communicate adequately — and even expertly — in the real world. Will there eventually be a similar educational emphasis aimed at grooming us to be socially adept inside virtual worlds?
UPDATE: Come to think of it, I think many people who engage in simulated sex in Second Life might be impacted similarly to what I anticipate for myself as far as my BDSM business, since role-play and sex are so tightly connected in SL. That is to say, much of the sexual activity seems to be rooted in role-play, which is a type of performance. Therefore, I think if voice were integrated into SL, the change would be felt pretty profoundly by those whose sexual role-play is an important part of their in-world experience. No? Just a thought that just hit me…
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