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This post explains what an “SL resident name” is.

My friend Kit Meredith brought up a problem in a recent blog entry: since many people blog, correspond, comment, and otherwise have public lives using the versions of us that exist in Second Life (which if you haven’t heard of it is a virtual environment in which people build, socialize, exchange information, play, and spend leisure time), we often will sign messages with the names we use in Second Life. Those names correspond to a virtual version of ourselves, one that may or may not match our physical appearance, gender, age, species (!), or even personality. Many of us keep our legal identities private and don’t publicly associate them with our Second Life identities.

I call the name my virtual self uses a “Second Life resident name,” or “SL resident name,” because individuals in Second Life are called “residents.” Some people might use the term “avatar name,” but since a single avatar can change its build, height, skin color, hair, clothing, or gender within a few seconds, this can be confusing: the word “avatar” can mean either a resident’s virtual self in any form or a particular version of that virtual self. For instance, in Second Life I am sometimes white, sometimes black, sometimes Asian, and so on, and sometimes someone would call each of those an avatar, and sometimes they’d call all of them my avatar, singular. So the term “SL resident name” might be less confusing than “avatar name.”

What Kit pointed out is that there may be confusion about the names we Second Life residents sometimes use in correspondence to people who are using their legal names. For instance, I might be interested in quoting someone on my blog and e-mail them to ask about it, signing the e-mail “Kate Amdahl.” But since “Kate Amdahl” is my SL resident name and not my legal name, I might worry that the person reading the message would be misled into thinking that was my legal name. So in future, I’m going to have the following line after my signature in some kinds of messages, linking it to this entry:

Kate Amdahl is my Second Life resident name.

If you’d like to do the same thing, you could link to an explanation of your own, or you’d be welcome to link to this post, which as you can see, I’ve tried to set up to explain things to someone who doesn’t know about Second Life.

And if you’re a person who has questions about Second Life residents or identity, you’re welcome to post them in the comments to this message, which will make their way to my e-mail account and usually be answered promptly.

Of course this post is continuing my vampiric little habit of turning my blog into an extended comments section for Kit’s Blog, but Kit’s posting regularly and I’m posting at whim, and further, I’m not doing any grand social experiments in Second Life at the moment (whereas I usually have been, in the past!), so it seems only appropriate that I should be stirred to thought by Kit’s posts and surf, as it were, in her wake. 🙂

^^^\ Kate /^^^