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Everyone beautiful in their own way?

By Moneo in Internet
Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:39:53 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I just got back from watching Cyberworld 3D and I'm reading Stephenson's Snow Crash...so I got to thinking about what the code of conduct might be like in the Metaverse.

I was thinking, in particular, about Avatar choice. In the real world, we are pretty much stuck with our bodies...we can work out (or not), dye our hair or even wear colored contacts, but that's about it. With an Avatar, that's not true anymore. Actually, it's not even true on IRC.

There's another story about online relationships and a lot of people seem to like the idea, since you have a chance to interact cerebrally before all the physical stuff gets in the way. In light of that, is it OK to misrepresent oneself online?

So, what do k5ers think? Are some things OK (eg, changing height or hair color) but others definitely not (eg, pretending to be a different age or gender)? If the relationship is purely online, does that make it OK? One note, before I tell you what I think -- go ahead and be creative! Think ASCII on IRC, but also imagine full body VR suits (a la Lawnmower Man) or direct neural stimulation (a la Red Dwarf, Snow Crash, etc).

The key factor, IMHO, is whether the two people will ever meet in person. If you're sure you'll never meet, then go ahead and be anything you want. If I like what I see/read/hear, we'll get along and it doesn't matter what the physical you looks like, since I'm only interacting with your Avatar. OTOH, if you're likely to meet in person, I think it's important to be honest from the onset, to avoid complications later.


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Everyone beautiful in their own way? | 36 comments (28 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
MUCKs et al (3.81 / 11) (#2)
by fluffy grue on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 05:55:37 PM EST

I find it amusing that you had mentioned IRC but made no mention of MUCKs, such as FurryMUCK, where the whole intent is to roleplay and escape the reality of being stuck as you are RL - and in fact, even being human is frowned upon on many of them.

In any case, I think that any sort of roleplaying and self-image is okay as long as it's not with the intent of actively misleading others. What difference does someone's real age or weight or gender or sex or the like make if the relationship is conducted only in the virtual world anyway? Bits are bits. ('bits' meaning 'electronic representations of ones and zeros', you pervert. :)

Now, if it's for the express intent of actively misleading others, such as a 40-year-old male FBI investigator pretending to be a 9-year-old girl for the purpose of entrapping supposed child molesters, then that is certainly not okay.

Of course, where can one draw the line between active deceit and an honest misunderstanding? ("I thought you knew I was roleplaying," etc.) That's a hard question to answer, unfortunately, and there's no clear good answer.

(More later, maybe.)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

misleading child molesters... (1.60 / 5) (#8)
by daystar on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 07:33:07 PM EST

Now, if it's for the express intent of actively misleading others, such as a 40-year-old male FBI investigator pretending to be a 9-year-old girl for the purpose of entrapping supposed child molesters, then that is certainly not okay.

Jeez, how do you figure?

There is no God, and I am his prophet.
[ Parent ]
Entrapment (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by fluffy grue on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 10:53:54 PM EST

It's called 'entrapment'. Let's say that this 40-year-old male does a really shitty job of impersonating one, and his target can tell that it's not a 9-year-old girl and figures it's an adult into ageplay (hey, they do exist - personally I find that sexual kink to be sick, but who am I to judge?) and proceeds to roleplay with this obviously-ageplaying adult. Then this federal investigator goes, "Ah ha, we have a live one," and does whatever it takes to get the hapless victim's real information and then does an arrest and all that fun jazz, even though no crime was committed.

However, this seems like exactly the sort of thing the FBI would love to do in order to take down someone they see as a threat (after all, kiddie porn - which this isn't - and child exploitation - which this isn't - are the only convenient ways that the FBI can meddle in a private citizen's affairs unless interstate commerce is involved).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Evidence? (none / 0) (#24)
by PresJPolk on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:03:48 AM EST

Do you have evidence that people get arrested for just roleplay? The stories I hear about are always cases of distributing child pornography, and trying to meet up with a kid for sex.

Those two acts go beyond role playing.

[ Parent ]
whose info (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by h2odragon on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 07:11:41 AM EST

in the ones you hear about, who issued the press release? "Distributing Kiddie porn" may be "he emailed a picture of his neice to somebody".

I can't give examples involving this subject, bu I could point you to other actions where various law enforcement agencies have slandered a suspect who was later proved totally innocent. Just because the accusation is "pedophilia" doesn't imply they don't use the same tactics.

[ Parent ]

Trying to meet up with a kid for sex. (2.00 / 1) (#26)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:22:11 AM EST

No, trying to meet up with the person they met in the chat room. If you posit that they saw through the disguise, then they went to meet a 40-year old male, not a nine-year old girl. And, either way, no nine-year old girl is involved, which makes the whole thing a little weird. The only victim of the crime is ficticious.

As a father, I think child predators are vile, but I find these tactics questionable. A sex crime with no sex and no victim is fairly bizarre.

[ Parent ]

A similar situation (3.00 / 1) (#27)
by squigly on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 09:57:11 AM EST

This happened in England about 5 years ago -

A man was suspected of murdering his wife. The police set up a female detective to seduce him. After a short romance, she asked about his wife. He claimed that he had killed her and destroyed the body. This was recorded. He was arrested and the recording was used as evidence against him.

The thing is it was quite likely that the guy had killed his wife, but then he might have been lieing. This was the only evidence and it was thrown out of court because it was entrapment and unreliable.

Example 2 (Hopefully this link will work. The electronic telegraph is a tricky site)

People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
[ Parent ]
yes (none / 0) (#31)
by mikpos on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 04:20:38 PM EST

One of the big wheels at Sun (one of the creators of Java I believe) was recently caught in something like this. Apparently, he was into the little-girl roleplaying thing, and would sometimes spend time on IRC channels with other people who were into that sort of thing. An FBI investigator went on there too and started to develop a relationship with him. The dude (whose name escapes me) claims that the investigator was so bad at acting that he just assumed that it was a woman who was roleplaying.

Anyway, some time passed and finally the two and them decided to meet each other IRL. The FBI sent a young woman (23 years old or somewhere around there), posed as a 13 year-old girl (they say that she looks younger than her age) to meet with him. Upon seeing this 23 year-old, the dude doens't react strangely at all. She leads him down the beach (where they met) where's met by a bunch of federal officers and charged with crossing state lines with intent of trying to do a minor.

Now I believe it's basically come down to a he-says she-says type of trial. He says that he knew he was dealing with an adult the whole time, and that she was just into roleplaying (which was supported by the fact that the IRC channel he frequented is, by convention, adult-only). Also, I don't believe that they ever discussed the possibility of having sex during their rendezvous.

It does showcase how entrapment can go wrong, though (assuming that it can ever go right).

[ Parent ]

This is amusing.... (3.50 / 8) (#5)
by blixco on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 06:52:20 PM EST

If only because it happnes so damn often with me...when I meet people IRL, they tend to run screaming. I think you really can twist who you are here. You wouldn't believe how many people think I'm not what I am (I'm being vague on purpose here).

Fact is, I like it. I knew only one actual Girl on the internet...verified she was a Girl and everything. She was a hacker (maybe still is) back when I used to be on #hack. Her name is Ophie. She was really VERY good, and was kinda' pretty to boot. Knew a lot about DG/UX, which intrigued me.

Anyhow, it occurred to me that I only knew she was female by rumor. I finally saw her at a Con. I didn't endeavour to meet her, though, since she thought I was someone / something else, and that was who she knew and *how* she knew me. I didn't want to screw with that. She would have treated me much differently, and I wanted her to treat me the same.

So yeah, I think people should be whatever object / species / whatever they want. I believe this to a certain (cosmetically possible) sense offline, as well.

"On the internet, no one knows you're a dog."

The root of the problem has been isolated.
Loser. (1.13 / 38) (#6)
by buzzbomb on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 06:53:46 PM EST

Get a fucking life. Get off the computer from time to time and go out into the world you live in. Trying to pick up chicks on IRC...how geeky can you get?

Heh. (2.72 / 11) (#9)
by simmons75 on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 07:40:40 PM EST

Naturally, cutting others down in a pathetic attempt at making yourself feel better is much better.
So there.

[ Parent ]
Question... (3.00 / 1) (#20)
by eskimo on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 11:44:52 PM EST

Would he do it in real life? Being angry is no different from being amorous online.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

my lovely older daughter (none / 0) (#35)
by anonymous cowerd on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 08:15:04 PM EST

...first met her (real-world) boyfriend on line. Lucky him!

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

Cognitive stratification... (4.22 / 9) (#7)
by daystar on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 07:24:26 PM EST

You can fake a lot of things in life, but intelligence is different. IRL, people are drawn towards the intellectual stratum that they are most comfortable in. We like to surround ourselves with (rough) equals. People almost always marry someone with about the same level of intelligence.*

On the internet, you're pretty much stripped of decoration and identity. You can portray yourself as almost anything you want. You can't really pretend to be smarter than you are, though. Well, sure, you can BOAST of unproveable accomplishments, but no one is really fooled. Now, the Metaverse takes this a step further: Identity and decoration are put back into the equation, but without any MEANING. Your portrayal of yourself is just that: a portrayal. And everyone knows it. I think a lot of people will be unable to see this as different from real life, but I don't think those people read k5.

I think that as citizens of an online world (jeezus.... can't believe I said THAT...), it is up to us to assume no more about a person's identity than we can reasonably assertain. It's a little paranoid, but if you go into an environment where everyone's identity is self-defined, and you assume people are telling the truth and you get hurt because of it, who's fault is that?

* this idea of finding an appropriate stratum for your intellectual self is what has turned me into a brutal opponent of public education, as it is implemented in today's US. My life would have been SO much better if I'd spent less of my education being exposed to idiots. It didn't even give me empathy for those less fortunate. Just made me bitter. Grrr.

There is no God, and I am his prophet.
The rule I live by (4.16 / 6) (#14)
by theboz on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 07:49:03 PM EST

Never lie.

Now, that doesn't mean you have to give all the information. I don't chat much anymore, but I always was honest whenever someone asked what I look like. Also, as I tend to focus on other things, (political discussions, technology, etc) when I talk to strangers on the internet, I don't really care about appearance. Yes, if I am talking to a female I wonder how she looks, but I have no intent of actually going after her so it doesn't bother me not to know. And, I have quite an extensive photo archive of myself online so if someone was curious about me I'd just give them a URL to one of my pictures...although most are of both me and my girlfriend.

There is a lot to be said about the purpose of talking to someone on the internet. If you are discussing C++ programming, it doesn't really matter what the person helping you looks like. If you are looking for a date, then appearance will matter. However, in either case I would say just tell the truth. If someone doesn't like you for that, then they are stupid anyways.


Cool stars... (none / 0) (#29)
by Chakotay on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:02:00 AM EST

Hehe, cool blue stars on your wall. I've got greenish ones just like that all over my ceiling :)

PS: Yes, this is off topic. Sue me.

Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]

The stars (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by theboz on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 11:26:35 AM EST

Actually, that was my old apartment that I lived in until 6 months ago. I had blue stars in the living room and computer area, and green stars in the bedroom. Right now I live in somewhere nicer but I haven't put up the stars, blacklights, etc. and kept it more traditional.

Here's a picture of it: http://sol-boz.virtualave.net/images/living1.jpg

Yes, I do have a "highlander" sword above my fireplace. I'm that dorky. :oD

[ Parent ]

Everyone Beautiful? (2.40 / 5) (#10)
by AdamJ on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 08:01:40 PM EST

If everyone is beautiful in their own way, why would they have to lie about what they are?

If both parties know about it, I don't think there's anything wrong with 'roleplaying'. If one party doesn't know about it, it's lying, plain and simple, and after past experiences I know just how much a 'little white lie' - or even just not fully telling the truth - can effect things.


Why lie??? (none / 0) (#28)
by Chakotay on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 10:55:44 AM EST

People lie about who or what they are because General Popular Culture (tm) makes them believe it's Cool (tm) or Correct (tm) to be a certain way.

Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]
Okay, why do smart people lie then? (none / 0) (#33)
by AdamJ on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 12:09:13 AM EST

I think the subject says it all. Why would you lie about something superficial if you're smart enough to realize that "General Popular Culture (tm)" and being "Cool (tm)" isn't worth compromising who you are?


[ Parent ]

I don't. (none / 0) (#34)
by Chakotay on Tue Dec 05, 2000 at 06:37:22 AM EST

When I'm online I'm me, basically. No lies or changed identities involved at all. Yes, I use nicknames, but that's as far as it goes, really.

Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

[ Parent ]
Avatars will be used in appropriate contexts. (4.25 / 8) (#11)
by vastor on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 08:11:14 PM EST

I think it'd depend on if you were representing yourself as the real you or not. It'd just come to an issue of appropriateness.

If the avatars are walking about a themed area then it'd be reasonable to expect that the people are in theme as well. If it's supposed to be representing reality then you'd expect people to be representing themselves too.

Most likely people will just have different avatars just the same as we have different sets of clothing today. People might view you in a suit/uniform doing official work quite differently to how they'd view you slouching in a chair at home in t-shirt and shorts with a beer in your hand.

So in "recreational" type areas people would probably have their customised avatars and everyone would kind of expect that. In business/legally binding areas you might find that they have to be reality based.

It'd be little different to the IC (In Character), OOC (Out of Character) situation on RP mushes. You start off interacting with the character which has a visual description of however the fictional character looks and you can end up talking outside of that about the real you (and maybe even exchanging photographs or whatever).

Thus I'd expect that avatars will have various flags associated with them, one of which says if they're a real representation or a fake one. There would probably be a number of flags just the same as on some RP online environments you can set flags about the type of activities you like (which vary from everything to being interested in RPing sex to custom flags where you might say you hate coffee).

Misrepresenting yourself with those flags would be an issue however I wouldn't be surprised if eventually there were legal penalties for that kind of action (like using a stolen credit card or creating a false passport). But once again, it'd probably depend on the context - visiting the legal tax office in a false avatar with false flags might be illegal but hanging out in a hackers tea parlor in false stuff might be trendy/cool.

People will probably just know... walk in the shady parts of a city and you won't be surprised to come across a mugger. Hangout in the laxer virtual areas and you won't trust the avatars so much.

If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are. The more things change the more they stay the same - all we're going to do is see a translation of real world issues migrate to the virtual (and migrate from text virtual worlds to 3d/total immersement virtuals worlds).

I'd be more concerned about people mistaking AI/computer controlled avatars for real ones ;-).

(Someone just got me thinking about the AI doors on my BBS I used to have a few years ago, amazingly enough a couple of the less bright users actually thought they were talking to real people - it's people like that which will have the most trouble getting confused with avatars).

Real v. Online (2.60 / 5) (#13)
by Signal 11 on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 08:36:26 PM EST

Well, having just gone through a recent spat of problems regarding the online v. realworld versions of myself, I just want to venture a thought forward for others to think about -

How would the online world change if accountability was put back into the system? For example, if everybody was known by their real name and it was relatively easy to locate any avatar in an online forum.

I feel that an ineffible quality would be lost if this form of anonymity were compromised on a large scale. The question is, is this anonymity just a thin veil of security, or is it something that needs to be instantiated and made easily available?

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

representational significance (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by mircrypt on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 11:37:07 PM EST

Scanning through the comments posted on this piece, three things struck me. One was that it's pleasantly reassuring to know that one is not alone in occassionaly using the electronic avenues available in the interests of establishing new relationships, be they friendly or romantic (note that I'm not suggesting the latter precludes the former...at least not at first). The second thing that struck me was that while most comments were willing to acknowledge the good points of meeting online, they were all too quick to come in with the "real means person to person" bit. At least from my experience, more often than not seperated by thousands of miles from those whom I care about, the distinction made in the context of conversation between person-based and electronically based is minimal at best. I'm not trying to say that reaching out and shaking my friend's hand or sharing a cup of coffee off Telegraph is equivalent to chatting on AIM, IRC, or ICQ, but the susbtance of the interaction, physical presence aside, is indistinguishable. This rather off-base rambling leads me to mention the third thing that I took note of after reading through the piece and the comments. Why does it matter? However someone chooses to represent themselves is their business. Someone suggested a structuring of avatar employment wherein the fake and the real were designated, but that in and of itself defeats the purpose. We all adopt personas when getting to know people for the first time, and even later on into relationships whether we like it or not. The fact that the option exists to present oneself as what one wants, rather than what one is, at least in my opinion, should be touted as one the benefits to interacting online, as opposed to in person. For what it's worth, those are my two cents.
"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you". - Aldus Huxley -
Virtual Lies (3.25 / 4) (#21)
by AEtherean on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:08:18 AM EST

I personally don't see how so many people can believe that lying about yourself online is any different from lying about yourself in person. I fail to understand why the fact that you may never see someone's face should change the morality of misrepresenting yourself.

Some may feel there's nothing wrong with lying about yourself in general, I happen to disagree, but I have to think there's more validity in that view than in the hypocritical, situational morality of believing it's OK to lie online but not OK in "real" life.

Your words may be conveyed differently, but life is life and you are who you are.

Its a matter of need (2.50 / 2) (#22)
by maketo on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 12:35:53 AM EST

Those who think that they are faulty -> will lie. Those who do not -> will not. Those with ample time on their hands will indulge in wasting time on reinventing themselves. Those who do not....errhhh....you get the picture.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Depends - what are you looking for? (3.66 / 3) (#32)
by Kunstwerk on Mon Dec 04, 2000 at 06:05:28 PM EST

I think that whether you lie about your appearance or not depends on what you are looking for.

If you're looking for a serious relationship - friends, lovers, whatnot - then you have to ask yourself the question: do you want to build a serious relationship upon a deliberately skewed representation of yourself? Do you really want to be involved with someone who cares that much about the superficial details? Do you really want to be appreciated as someone who is not you?

I'm sorry if this sounds corny, but there's a part of truth in this - I'm basing myself on personal experience. This is not just moral theory.

If you're simply being a flirt, then the initial approach (seduction) is more of a thrill than the relationship is. The idea is more to make an impression and live for the moment than to build anything lasting. Since you are indeed playing a sort of game, then the rules are relaxed compared to RL - you don't care... so you might as well enjoy it and 'tweak' your persona a bit. Note: That is, of course, if you consider flirting to be an honourable pastime; many people would not consider it so, and I remain neutral on the issue. I'll say that if the other party seems to really care a lot about you - then you're toying with them by being such a flirt, and I think that's bad.

Lastly, if you're roleplaying (MUD/whatever), then fine - be creative! You have every right to be playful with your appearance. That is the whole point of it - fantasy! In that case, I don't see how manipulating your appearance could possibly affect anything, since everyone knows you're creating a character from scratch.

--KW [Diary] /* Do all humans pass the Turing Test? */

LambdaMOO experiences (none / 0) (#36)
by sera on Wed Dec 06, 2000 at 11:56:00 PM EST

I used to be a pretty regular LambdaMOO resident, and by the time I arrived there was a pretty well-established ethos about avatars. Your MOO persona is text-based, of course, not graphical or VR or whatevah, but a lot of the ethos will probably emerge once we get the whole Gibsonian thing up and running.

Anyway, the first rule is this: Only a newbie sees your online persona and assumes it's representative of who you are in real life. Disregarding the players that are cats, or Chtulhu, or clouds of gas, even if somebody describes themself as a normal-looking college-age guy in jeans and a t-shirt, you can't assume anything.

Once you actually get to know people, you often learn more about their real life, though different people are more or less guarded about their identity. (I was an active user for more than a year, and gave out my RL name to maybe two or three people.) Generally, at that point the ethic is that if you do reveal something, that you're not just making up some fake life story for kicks.

I should note that Lambda was a pretty twisted community in some ways -- for one thing, it seemed to value writing ability over most other qualities, including human understanding and consideration. But I think a lot of the questions you deal with in the initial lo-fi versions of a new technology often resurface in the newer, shinier versions.

firmament.to: Every text is an index.

Everyone beautiful in their own way? | 36 comments (28 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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