Steven Warburton has an interesting blog post about Loving your avatar: identity, immersion and empathy. In it, he traces the relationship between a typist and their avatar as the typist invests more time and energy in their online presence. At one point in the graph he observes that may want to create an alternative of second avatar. I responded with the following comments:
Let me second the kudos for the fascinating work. I would love to see this expanded upon with some detailed empirical research. (Perhaps you have some details on it.)
It is the last Sunday of Epiphany, a season in the Christian calendar where we reflect on the Epiphanies we receive about our relationship with God after the celebration of God coming amongst us as a newborn baby at Christmas. The readings were about people heading up to mountaintops to experience God; Moses when he received the Ten Commandments and Peter, James and John when they experienced the transfiguration of Jesus.
Father Peter has spent time with the Lakota Indians and compared these experiences with those of Lakota’s going on a vision quest. It made me think of the monomyth, or hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In the monomyth, as well as in the stories of vision quests and other trips to mountaintops, the story starts with a call to adventure, leads to some experience of the divine or transcendent, and then the hero returns to share the results of the experience in one way or another.
The season of Epiphany ends on Tuesday, as everyone cleans out their larders with a Shrove or Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or carnival before entering into a period of fasting and prayer called Lent. This year, for 22 states in the United States, there will be a primary on Fat Tuesday. I could go off into a long digression about the primary and Fat Tuesday, but I have something else to write about today.
You see, over the past several months, friends of mine from a mailing list of group psychotherapists have been encouraging me to attend the annual meeting of the American Group Psychotherapist Association. Years ago I hired a management consultant to help me navigate some of the political waters of a large matrix managed international bank I worked at. Her training had been in the psychoanalytical study of groups, particularly within the Tavistock Group Relations tradition. I’ve been to a couple Group Relations conferences and several social dreaming matrices that have grown out of these. While I’ve seen the power of groups to be destructive, I do believe in the power of groups to heal, to provide insights, and, well, we shall see what else this coming month.
My whole experience leading up to attending the AGPA annual meeting has felt very much like the beginning of a monomyth. It has started with the call to adventure, friends urging me to attend the annual meeting. I tried half heartedly to find some way in which it could happen. I am not a group psychotherapist. I’m not studying to become one. I don’t have the money to afford attending. Were there volunteer opportunities, scholarships, chances to be on a panel, or media credentials possible? Each option, along with various interesting side diversions ended up in a dead end, so I finally ended up sending out a message that I wasn’t attending.
Then, at the last moment, I received an email from a dear friend that included the address of the public affairs director for the AGPA. It was like the magic amulet a hero often receives on his journey. The next thing I knew, I had a press pass, dinner plans and several people to meet with.
So, now I am on the journey. I don’t want to go in with expectations that are too high. It is an annual meeting. I’ve been to many different types of annual meetings. There are experiential components and I’ve been to large and small experiential groups before. What is different is that I am attending as a blogger. How will I fit together the role of an experiential participant with the role of an observer and reporter? Will this be a vision quest or monomyth, or just another chance to blog and see some friends?
Perhaps a lot of it is in the approach. Perhaps too many of us too rarely look for the opportunities for transformational moments in our daily lives. So, following the old political adage, I will hope for the best, be prepared for the worst, and take what I get.
Continuing on with my journal from 1983…
January 8, 1983: A lazy day of anticipation. Anticipating Kate’s party tonight, and travels in April. Prairie Home Companion. Speaking of fear of failure. Belief in things that don’t exists. I believe in Unicorns, elves and the like, and Powder Milk Biscuits. I believe in imaginary manifestations of hope. How is that different from believing in true love etc.?
January 9, 1983: Theology changes at Crace, talk with Fritz. Last night, long talk with Shirley. Talk with Ken. Travel plans being laid. I sit, smoke my pipe, drink my scotch, listen to violin concertos and read Tolstoy. I look forward to drinking scotch with Ken. Bob is starting a class on wealth and poverty. The old covenant provided for great wealth, provided the poor were taken care of. I could enjoy being a great philanthropist. This marks my struggle. Yes, we are to enjoy God’s creation, but not at the expense of others. I too often am concerned with the troubles of others and myself to be joyful.
January 10, 1983: Nicholas Nickelby on TV. That dark depressing Industrialized England of Dickens. I find I long for physical contact. Also work, nothing interesting going on. Hacking around, I think I want to learn PLS and write software. Writing continues to be dry. Good night.
It is a Saturday, and I was figuring I would spend a bit of time with my family today. However, there were meetings galore in Second Life. I came into the day with an interesting new perspective. I’ve received press credentials to cover the annual meeting of the Association of Group Psychotherapists. I’ve long been interested in group dynamics online, and whether they could be used for therapeutic purposes. As I spoke with friends who will be at the AGPA annual meeting, I got into a couple side discussions about the possibilities of different types of group therapies in Second Life.
The day started off with fun and games as a friend who is playing Tiny Empires in Second Life contacted me about various changes going on. We spoke with a few others and reorganized some of the feudal hierarchy that we were part of. When this was done, I figured I could devote more time to family life.
However, Gentle Heron of the Heron Sanctuary contacted me. There was a gathering of people from different groups in Second Life that provide support to others. Gentle and I agreed that real life took priority, but I figured I could teleported in and pay partial attention to the meeting as I played Yahtzee with my daughter. As the main part of the meeting wound down, I left to go swimming with Kim and Fiona. I had hoped to write about the meeting when I returned. However, there were a lot of other things going on.
I received a press release that Tyrian Camilo’s SL International Business (SLIB) had entered an advertising and marketing agreement with Codename Denmark. Spontaneous Rich IMed me to fill me in on a meeting of Second Life Creations (SLC). I received an IM about a meeting of the Second Life Business Network Slbiznet and from there went on to a meeting of Central Grid.
Now, over eight hours later, I finally get a chance to sit down and write a little. The various developing stories will have to wait a little longer before they get written
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Another month starts off, another opportunity to hope for better days to come. It is the time of year when everyone is trying to figure out which conferences and events they will be going to. Freedom to Connect, Take Back America, Personal Democracy Forum, Netroots Nation, the Democratic National Convention. For me, there are other events not on most people’s radar, like the AGPA annual conference or the NCSL Spring Conference and Falcon Ridge.
So, I’ve now updated my list of upcoming events to provide time, place and notes about each event and whether or not I’m likely to attend any of them.