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We Can Build You: Identity & Fashion in Second Life

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Based on my dissertation for the MSc in Innovation Management & Technology Policy (2008, Birkbeck - University of London) …

Based on my dissertation for the MSc in Innovation Management & Technology Policy (2008, Birkbeck - University of London)
* Growth & notoriety of virtual worlds
* Commercial opportunities within virtual worlds (legal & illegal)
* Difficult access to RL creative industries/ easier in virtual worlds
* The identity problem: Who is the creator, Who is the consumer?
* Innovation in products, sales practices, marketing etc.

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  • Data: SL Metrics Jan 08
  • Additional Features: SL fashion products have additional features to RL fashion products. Examples include skirts that have movement and shadows, jeweller that sparkles, shoes that have their own sound (like the sound of heels or even music) and products that make the avatar move in a specific way (like in catwalk or dancing) Variety of Tastes: There seems to be a vast variety of fashions for different tastes. Examples include office wear, evening wear, vampire and goth clothing, futuristic and sci-fi based products, hip hop clothes, risque and erotic fashions etc. Variety of Eras: Fashion styles don't seem to die in SL. We used in-world searches for items from the past such as ‘medieval dress’, ‘armour’ and ‘science fiction’ and they all yielded results
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    • 1. Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org MSc Innovation Management & Technology Policy March 09
    • 2. The Creative Industries: Do they really count? The creative industries are those that are based on individual creativity, skill and talent. They also have the potential to create wealth and jobs through developing and exploiting intellectual property. Department of Culture, Media & Sport Creative Industries contribute to a country’s GDP but not always visibly. Creative Industries require management, planning, innovation etc. like any other business (although arguably, of a different kind) New kinds of creativity with the advent of new technologies (creating new sources of business & potential wealth across industries) Is IP the only way that Creative Industries may create wealth? Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 3. Route to a research project
      • Growth & notoriety of virtual worlds
      • Commercial opportunities within virtual worlds (legal & illegal)
      • Difficult access to RL creative industries/ easier in virtual worlds
      • The identity problem: Who is the creator, Who is the consumer?
      • Innovation in products, sales practices, marketing etc.
      ...it is crucial to remember that these economies are not designed with the purpose of studying real-world business. As a result, the lessons we can take from them have limits. Bloomfield, 2007 Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 4. Research Questions & Activity
      • How SL Residents express their identity
      • How their creation and consumption patterns might reflect that identity
      • Areas for observation, research & questioning:
      • How the SL fashion industry operates
      • How designers start a business & operate within the industry
      • Do designers gain transferable skills?
      • Phenomenological paradigm, using qualitative methods
      • Observation
      • Questionnaires
      • Group interviews
      Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 5. Second Life
      • online persistent 3D virtual world . A metaverse.
      • own Economy (Linden Dollars)
      • Entrepreneurs & products (because it allowed users to maintain copyright of everything that they created?)
      • “ Residents” are the users of Second Life, and their appearance is their avatar (often abbreviated to av, avi or ava).
      • The avatar will be created automatically but the resident may change their appearance dramatically.
      Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 6. Second Life
      • 65.000 acres of virtual land
      • 12,765,680 Residents (but one user does not necessarily equal one resident)
      • only 92,096 Premium Accounts
      • US$1 to L$270
      Welcome to SL – orientation for new residents (captured Feb. 08)] Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 7. Is SL an MMORPG? * MMORPG: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 8. Fashion in RL
      • Difficult to break into
      • The design problem needs to be solved – don’t produce something that will not be consumed. To solve the design problem, consumer demographics need to be understood
      • Fashion cycle – styles die and are replaced
      • Gatekeepers (press, media etc.)
      • Goods as communicators of identity and/or class
      Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 9. Fashion in SL Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org Types of fashion products Skins, Hair, Clothing, Shoes, Jewellery, Accessories, Make-Up Notes on fashion products Additional Features Variety of Tastes Variety of Eras Shops Standalone, Shopping Streets, Shopping Malls Shop structure Branding, Products, Live models, Marketing tools (freebies, voting booths, group invite, greeters etc) Shopping experience Avatars as greeters/ PR, Music/ Video, Decoration according to brand style, Areas for sitting and socialising PR & Marketing Fashion Shows, SL groups, Freebies, Sales, Submissions to blogs & magazines
    • 10. A model presenting a Sintimacy skin in the Sintimacy store. Photograph author’s own. September 21 2008 Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 11. SL Outfit 5/27/08 by Juushika Redgrave; Model is Juushika Redgrave Clothes by Artilleri, Veschi, Schadenfreude. Body by Nora, Sin Skins, ETD. Accessories by L.A.M.E., ETD, Caroline’s, DEEKS, Persenickety, Gritty Kitty, Anisa, Hybrid, Reel Expressions. http://www.flickr.com/photos/juushika/2532161199/ (last accessed 21 September 2008) Moon- StilettoBoot’s with Heel sound by Cookie’s - Stilleto’s CC Desinz. Photograph author’s own 21 September 2008 Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 12. AC Creations SL store. Specialising in Gorean, Vampire, Roman etc. Photograph author’s own 25/09/08 Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 13. Skins at Sintimacy main store. Photograph author’s own. September 21 2008
    • 14. Advertisment from the Harajukubox Fashion Fair http://www.flickr.com/photos/21088562@N06/2848896298/ (last visited 22 September 2008) Screenshot from the SL Fashion Police, http://slfashionpolice.com/?p=114 (last accessed 21 September 2008) Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 15. Designers & fashion related professionals No answers to demographic questions, only engaged with their aliases/ avatar names (I was an unknown quantity/ no trust)
      • Designers
      • Clothes, accessories, shoes
      • Combination of computer graphics and/or programming
      • No background in fashion, some education in design/computer skills
      • Groups, contact with customers, participation in fashion shows, freebies
      • Transferable skills on design, customer service, managing a business etc.
      • Fashion related professionals
      • Model; model – photographer – blogger; a photographer – wedding planner – furniture designer; moderator of an SL fashion group.
      • Generally positive feelings towards the SL fashion industry but note instances of stealing or sloppy work.
      • Some income, emotional satisfaction, additional skills
      • SL classifieds, notecards, participation, blogs etc.
      Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 16. Fashion Consumers
      • Fashionistas
      • SL fashion industry as a mix of true creativity and simple copying from RL
      • Some innovative designs might work as haute couture in RL – not at prêt a porter
      • Eccentric choices: 1) Multiple identities, 2) Comfort, 3) Changes in body/ appearance, 4) Safety, and 5) Price
      • Shop groups, fashion groups, notifications and social media like blogs, photography websites etc.
      • RL companies erroneously think that they can transfer their RL products in SL
      Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 17. Fashion in RL & SL Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 18. Key findings
      • Fluidity of identity
      • Tend to use fashion products to a great extent to express some facet of their identity
      • Parallels to RL consumption theory of goods as communicators (Douglas & Isherwood, 1979). We would even propose that in SL goods act as more honest and open communicators of an avatar’s (not necessarily a user’s) identity.
      • Freedom to create in ways that are not necessarily possible in RL
      Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org
    • 19. Questions for the future How might this fluidity and difference in creation/ consumption patterns affect business in metaverses? Is art created/consumed differently in online worlds? How can it be monetised? Can corporeal boundaries in relation to art be expanded? What can we learn from that. Is digital art still art? Who gets to decide? Who will be the gatekeepers in metaverses? Sofia Gkiousou www.digital-era.org