<I posted this on my tumblr account, and decided to post it here for a couple of reasons (in addition to just being lazy.) For one, I’m probably ripping this idea off from Jeff and Shaowen and not even realizing it. Other reason, this is a sort of critique of the social context in which we use and view live-action role playing.>

I spent some time today with a student in one of my labs. We talked about an upcoming project in which the student will need to compare a digital and analogue version of some thing in society. He wanted to focus on the RPG “Second Life” for his digital component, but did not know what would appropriately compare to it in analogue.

I introduced him to Live-Action Role Playing, or LARPing, as a comparable social exercise. Found a couple of videos online, such as this gem:

It’s a quick and dirty way to spell out the differences between just living life in analogue and living a second life in analogue, so I used it with the student so he could understand what I was talking about. However, even though we laughed (pretty hard) at this example, it’s important to remember that we’re possibly less removed from this type of behavior than we’ve ever been in the past (facebook, twitter, etc.) The feeling I have is that we have all moved into a era where we deliberately construct an external representation of ourselves which highlights what we choose to highlight, and subdues that which we wish to suppress.

One could say that this is just the same as it’s always been, and I’d be inclined to agree. However, this tendency to exhibit a certain perspective of ourselves has evolved into a representation which is completely physically separate from physical bodies. I believe this separation is significant.

This separate form of ourselves is a living thing. It lives and breathes. It interacts with other beings like it. It speaks its own language (ever try saying LMAO to someone in person?) If this separate form stops functioning, the community moves on without it. It essentially dies, like my myspace profile. There are times when some of us have “friended” or “followed” someone we’ve never met (in “real” life,) and they’ve done it back, in turn. At this point, this is one external representation of ourselves accepting another, and choosing to interact with it. How different is this from “Second Life?”

I personally believe that we are in a stage of era in which external representations of ourselves are not only accepted, but considered a social norm. I believe that while these external representations (avatars) only slightly deviate from what we consider our “real” selves now, they will deviate more as we continue into this era. We will be just as attached to these future representations of ourselves as we are to our current ones.

So as I was saying before: when we laugh at LARPers throwing lightning bolts at ogres, we’re essentially laughing at our own behavior. Which is awesome, as long as we know that’s what we’re doing.