Identity and Expression

I Was Thinking Aboot Canada’s Place in Virtual Worlds When…

Forget about business collaboration in virtual worlds, it’s all about cultural cross-over according to blogger Ari at Common Sensible who’s mystified by the Canadian dialect but says that we really seem like we mean it when we ask “How are you.”

In a round-up of national characteristics filtered through the lens of Second Life, Ari shares insight into how your nation’s personality shines through your avatar. In this view:

- Asians are perfectionists
- Germans are drunk
- Folks from the Netherlands are promiscuous and introverted
- and the French are “Stuck-up, rude, full of himself, thinks he’s God’s gift to the universe.”

Thankfully, Canadians are just too darn brilliantly awesome for words, in fact the quote is “Wow”. (Blushes).

Now, OK, it’s meant to be overly general, but there’s an interesting sub-text here, something I was talking about yesterday with someone from France and someone from the US. And the sub-text is that in a global melting pot like Second Life where the default language is often English, how the heck do you know whether you’ve bumped up against cultural dissonance or not? I’ve often found myself in conversation with someone and it was only after half an hour of befuddled chat that I realized their first language isn’t English (I’m barely understandable to other English speakers, so this just adds to the issues).

My friend said that these cultural friction points go beyond language. He recommended that avatars have some sort of little national flag option that you can toggle beside your floating avatar name, because it’s not just language, its cultural context, and within a virtual world there are no cultural markers to hint that not only might you be speaking in tongues, but that your context might be the kind of chat you have at the side of a hockey rink, while your friend is acting like he’s in a beer garden in Berlin.

As for Americans, they’re friendly too, but according to Ari:

“Lots of folks in the U.S. are friendly, caring people, too. Really, really good people. Oh, but those might be Canadian transplants, though.”


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