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Monday, January 7, 2013
News and Commentary: Real-Life News Article on Avatar Clothing Isn't News
By Bixyl Shuftan
This is news? At least that's what I was thinking when I first heard of the study, featured in an ABC article (and other sources). Canadian researchers "stalked through" Second Life observing over four hundred avatars "for several weeks." Their conclusion: females wear less clothing.
"Well DUH! Thank you Captain Obvious."
Researchers have a way of spending a lot of time and effort confirming what the rest of us already ready knew, or in this case the rest of us online. Though given how real-life media has reported on Second Life since it ceased to be the technical darling of it's eye a few years ago, tending to focus on porn and spouses caught having virtual flings, perhaps the study also shows something of the attitudes of the research team. The reference to "female forms used by 25-year old men living in their parents' basements" certainly gives a hint of media bias to this virtual journalist.
If any of the researchers are reading this, it's been long obvious to this working stiff that men tend to be more concerned with something functional, some protection from cold in winter, scrapes from twigs and other objects on more sensitive places while working or playing outdoors, etc. Women can, and often do, wear something meant to be mainly functional as well, but often the main reason is to look pretty. And the real life results often show more arm and leg skin. And considering some of their soap operas and Prime Time dramas, well, one would think ABC and other media outlets would be more aware of that.
Iris Ophelia, the fashion writer of New World Notes put it another way, When was the last time you saw an actor walk the red carpet showing his bare chest? "Fashion is practically designed around women baring skin to varying degrees, while for men it's much more binary, either clothed or unclothed. That's just the way things are, and it's not news."
A better question might be "are women less dressed in virtual reality than real life?" Probably. Avatars don't feel the cold in snowy areas. And since people often come here to do what they can't in real life, some women do take advantage to be a little more daring. They still might have to deal with overly amourous males attracted to the least dressed female, but they don't have to worry about being physically grabbed and held. And of course there are the Fantasy role-play areas, of which the stories and artwork they're based on often have women in skimpier outfits that would be impractical in real life combat. It's my impression though that some are making an effort to encourage the girls to do away with the infamous "chainmail bikinis." Nonhuman avatars have their own set of issues. Might lighter clothing be a reflection of someone with a coat of fur less likely to be chilled by a cool breeze?
An article by Ciaran Laval suggested the study wasn't completely without merit. While a case could be made for more study, given the track record of those outside the Grid imagining the girls as males living in their parents' basement, such research should be conducted more intelligently by those more familiar with Second Life.
Sources: ABC, New World Notes, Ciaran Laval