Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Talk on Facebook, Second Life, and Neil Gaiman's Fiction

The next set of panels included my own, so I went to that one. I was speaking about Neil Gaiman's fiction, Facebook and Second Life, trying to elucidate what attracts participants and what keeps them coming back. When I started looking into it I thought it was world-building in a literal sense; people like the imaginative work Gaiman required of them in co-creating his fictional world and they like being ab;e to actually create fictional, often magical, spaces and objects in Second Life. But as I went along, it became clear that actually, people are not in Second Life that much. It seems rather dead most of the time and I really wondered why. At the same time, (as some readers will have noticed) I gut sucked into Facebook, and so did lots of my friends.

It began to seem that the attraction is not about material world-building, but social world-building, and the the way these social worlds feel not quite real encourages transgressive, that is to say, naughty behavior, which of course make them seem really fun. I will post a link to the actual presentation later, but anyway, that was the gist of it and the audience seemed pretty receptive. --Now we'll see how many who said they would have to check out Facebook really do!

Also on my panel was Ed Chang who spoke about World of Warcraft and racial stereotypes. I thought his analysis was right on target and would like to see him take it further to look at how users try to subverts the game's conventions. Paul Youngman did a close reading of a German novel (have to check the title later) and that was good, but a bit dense for the time we had, and maybe for an oral presentation of any length. Also, Ed and I gave these kind of freewheeling talks and audiences always respond more readily to that--it doesn't make them work so hard. But anyway, good questions afterwards and everyone seemed to like my riff on foam and membranes. Thank you Mirko and Bernhard for doing that work so I didn't have to!

By funny coincidence, the panel chair was Paweł Frelik who, it turns out was at Remediating Lit in Utrecht this summer, and even at some of the same panels as I, but we never met. I'm glad we met now because a) he's really cool and smart and good to speak with; b) he loves and teaches SF and I'm glad to meet a fellow traveler; c) he convinced me (like this was soooo hard) to join SFRA. (I spent an f-ing hour on that this morning, thanks to the primitive condition of the Holiday Inn's so-called business center) Anyway, I've been on the verge of joining them for some time and now I have. Maybe I will apply to their conference for next year; the other SFRA-ers I met here are also nice people, so probably I will. Depends also on timing and funding of course...

Now, I must go back to the conference. Probably I will post a little tomorrow from the airport (one of them) But then I'll catch up this week.

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