Avatars out of Control. Gazira Babeli, Pose Balls and ‘Rape’ in Second Life

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That bodily, social, geographical or financial constraints play a less important role in virtual worlds like Second Life (SL) than in real life (RL) does not imply, as many of SL's inhabitants seem to assume implicitly, that it is a place much like RL only without any burdening constraints whatsoever. The simple transposition of everyday objects (car, house, etc.) and actions (driving a car, making love, etc.) from an RL to an SL context ignores the fact that every digital world has its own 'affordances' and 'constraints' (cf. Norman, Latour). I argue that acting upon the specific affordances and constraints which govern one's environment, whether it is in RL or SL, allows for a more mature and enlightened way of living. As an inspiring example of such an enlightened way of relating to one's digitally simulated environment the work of code-performer Gazira Babeli is presented. Moreover I argue that a heightened awareness of the affordances and constraints could also be useful from a legal perspective for two reasons. Firstly, because this heightened awareness allows one to go beyond the idea of simple transposition and move towards more accurate and productive ways of legally qualifying those behaviors within digital worlds which are perceived (at least by some) as being unethical or obnoxious (so-called 'virtual' theft or murder, consensual role-play rape in SL, etc.). Secondly, a law which is created in order to regulate the life of enlightened inhabitants, that is inhabitants who are aware of the affordances and constraints of their digital environment, will differ from a law that is aimed at users who merely live their digital lives based on the surface level.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputers, privacy and data protection: an element of choice
EditorsS. Gutwirth, Y. Poullet, P. De Hert, R. Leenes
Number of pages457
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-0640-8
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

S. Gutwirth, Y. Poullet, P. De Hert, R. Leenes


  • Virtual
  • Second Life
  • Affordances
  • Gazira Babeli
  • Constraints
  • technology
  • law
  • Latour


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