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Saturday, November 24, 2012

SL Ethics? Jaded Exonar Reporting...

Ethics. We all live by them, using them as a guide to help us negotiate our actions and responses in life - But how do they apply to our Second Life? Do they even have a place there, or do we simply render them as inappropriate or unhelpful in SL?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ethics as 'moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity'. If we use this as our definition, they should be an integral part of our Second Life experience; but are they really the same as in RL?

There are a few very general guides of conduct that the long term SL community at large tends to adhere to as rule. These include -

# Changing your avatar's appearance or clothes in private

# Using private voice chat to talk about personal issues

# Not asking strangers for Lindens

# Talking to child avatars as though they were children (Until you are asked otherwise!)

# Keeping conversations as purely Second Life until you know it is Ok to discuss RL (From someone's profile, or if they tell you they don't mind)

 Linden Labs has a clear set of guides relating to behavioral ethics laid out in their knowledge base, citing their main 'rules' as 'the big six'. In fact, they feel so confident that these should be adhered to, that to break one or more will result in suspension....

Combating intolerance is a cornerstone of second life's community standards. Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the second life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in second life.

Given the myriad capabilities of second life, harassment can take many forms. Communicating or behaving in a manner which is offensively coarse, intimidating or threatening, constitutes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or is otherwise likely to cause annoyance or alarm is harassment.
AssaultMost areas in second life are identified as safe. Assault in second life means: shooting, pushing, or shoving another resident in a safe area (see global standards below); creating or using scripted objects which singularly or persistently target another resident in a manner which prevents their enjoyment of second life.

Residents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their second life experience. Sharing personal information about your fellow residents without their consent -- including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, alternate account names, and real-world location beyond what is provided by them in their resident profile -- is not allowed. Remotely monitoring conversations in second life, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants' consent are all prohibited.

Adult regions, groups, and listings
Second life is an adult community, but "adult" content, activity and communication are not permitted on the second life "mainland." such material is permitted on private regions, or on the adult continent, zindra. In either case, any adult content, activity, or communication, that falls under our adult maturity definition must be on regions designated as "adult," and will be filtered from non-verified accounts. Other regions may be designated as either "moderate" or "general." for more information on how to designate land, events, groups, and classified listings, please carefully read the"maturity definitions."

Disturbing the peace
Every resident has a right to live their second life. Disrupting scheduled events, repeated transmission of undesired advertising content, the use of repetitive sounds, following or self-spawning items, or other objects that intentionally slow server performance or inhibit another resident's ability to enjoy second life are examples of disturbing the peace.
It all seems straightforward enough. But what about business? Stuart Barwick, Ralph Drabic III have written a detailed and comprehensive guide to ethics, raising many questions sure to be of interest to those who have more business savvy than I! It's available to read at

Perhaps an area relevant to all of us, is the difficult and often hotly debated area of ethics within SL relationships. For those that choose to lead SL lives that are extensions of our RL, the answers are fairly obvious. Treat people as you would in your RL, do not promise anything you are not willing or happy to share, be honest and upfront about yourself and what you are hoping for and so on....

  Yet there are many of us who also enjoy SL as a true fantasy experience, extension of our hopes and personality - And this is where the waters become rather murky! Unfortunately there are no hard and fast guarantees or rules for ethical behavior in this area! It really is person and situation specific. For example, beyond the rules and suggestions of specific RP areas, it is up to us as individuals to find out if an avatar is a RL extension of the user, or an individual personality of its own. Are romantic liaisons purely between avatars, involving real feelings, or perhaps a mix of the two? Those of us who need to be particularly careful, are the ones in RL relationships. Is a second life romance separate to that, or would it count as an affair? Would your partner be hurt if they knew? Do they know and want to do the same? Would that hurt you? Despite the lack of solid all encompassing answers, the questions themselves are important.

On November 16th 2012, one of the first cases of divorce based purely on Second Life was reported in the Daily Telegraph. The 51 year old man reportedly spent over 25 hours a week in SL, and claimed to be addicted to his relationships within the grid. His wife now has full custody of their children. A sobering thought - It seems possible that the people he was involved with in SL may have had no idea about the situation he was falling into.

Perhaps all we can hope for is to be as clear as we can about what we feel and want, and hope that others can do the same. Profiles can be a huge help here, and adding a line or two in your own can save an awful lot of confusion and possibly hurt later on. Even if you yourself are unmarried and single, others may not be...and perhaps may not tell you the whole story.

We can only be responsible for ourselves in both SL and RL alike. If we are honest with ourselves and others, that really is the best we can do. Mistakes are made, and hopefully learnt from - And that is what any life is all about.


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