19 December 2006

Virtual Privacy

The little RL gestures and such that we bring with us fascinate me. The desire to seat our avatars during long conversations. How we space ourselves while conversing, and how we handle facing. The methods we use to suggest a desire for privacy.

I've got an Impractical Tent on my park. I've had someone apologise for "appearing in your house" after a sour TP, and a friend who pulled a conversing group "inside" for more serious talk. Into an unenclosed virtual building with no door that's made out of what looks like translucent cloth. Apparently it has enough of the symbols we use to suggest a desire for privacy. I wonder if a gazebo would have the same effect. If I had a more substantial looking structure there, would people perceive the tent like they do now?

I'm tempted to do a "Language of Privacy" build. Put up a bunch of spaces and builds with a mix of "privacy" symbology in them for people to explore. Doors/doorways/curtain or bead door hangings, walls, windows in different states, roofs, caves, sound effects, room contents ( beds, sofas, sex pose balls and other sex-activity related items?, toilets, pictures of different things ), a tiny 4x4 parcel with its own ban lines, signs requesting privacy... What if obvious vendors are added to those spaces? Or a growling dog on a chain?

How many of the symbols used are culturally specific, and how will expressing a desire for privacy change as virtual spaces become internationalized? Is there an international symbol for it? The only thing I can think of is a red ban circle-with-slash with a stick figure inside it. Will the concepts of "Private by request" be handled distinctly differently from "Private by force" in future virtual worlds? How will our expectations of privacy change?

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