I am currently reading bell hooks’ Where We Stand: Class Matters (review coming soon). In one of the book’s essays, “Class and the Politics of Living Simply,” I came across this passage:
Propaganda in advertising and in the culture as a whole assures the poor that they can be one with those who are more materially privileged if they own the same products. It helps sustain the false notion that ours is a classless society.
I was surprised to realize that it made me think about Second Life—the “3D online digital world,” as the website has it. If consumer culture and the belief that owning the same products as the upper classes gives people the impression that they are part of the ruling class, how much more in an online environment where everyone can—without too much effort—have pretty much equality in body, clothes, houses, etc.? Why would I ever leave Second Life when my first-life body isn’t perfect, my clothes are old, my house is a run-down apartment, or worse? Seems like Web 3.0 could make the illusion of a class-free society even more virulent. Or is it, rather, that Web 3.0 will actually have a democratizing effect? But, only if there is equal access for everyone?
There are, of course, a host of questions one can ask about Second Life and other online environments, and most of them have probably been asked before. Perhaps these are the musings of an aging book lover who likes the feel of paper in his hands and is needlessly worried about the loss of in-person human interaction that the web is creating. (For example—and I realize some people feel differently—no matter how much online chatting I do, I can’t call someone a “friend” until I’ve had at least some fact-to-face interaction with them.) I’m sure I’m ridiculously retrograde, a veritable troglodyte. Meanwhile, I think we as individuals and as a society need to be thinking about the impacts of the internet and its evolution on issues like race, class, gender, and more.
I’d love to hear what you think. Enlighten my dark mind.