I’ve been active in Second Life, where I’m known as Otenth Paderborn, for over four years, and I’ve only recently realized some of the effects of my participation on my use of technology.
First, some meandering backstory.
One of my favorite artists is Edward Gorey, who among other things created hand-drawn and ‑lettered books, some of which show “Ogdred Weary” as the author. What a fantastic anagram! It’s not just the use of the letters, but there’s a symmetry to the two names, Edward Gorey and Ogdred Weary. In moments of daydreaming over the years, I came up with an anagram of my own name that I thought approaches that aural relationship: Otenth Knutsen. Kenneth Sutton: Otenth Knutsen.
When I joined Second Life, one had to choose from among a list of surnames and create a forename that produced a unique combination. There was nothing even approximating Sutton available, nor anything that Kenneth seemed to fit well with (or where Kenneth hadn’t already been taken). So I turned to my heretofore unused anagram. But no Knutsen, either! On the other hand, I had no trouble with Otenth having already been claimed in any combination. I finally settled on Otenth Paderborn.
Eventually I discovered that I wanted to be able to communicate with my friends in Second LIfe outside of Second Life. I started using Google’s mail program, creating an email account for Otenth Paderborn. (This is very, very common among Second Life users.) From there I went on to explore and use several of Google’s tools: calendar and docs foremost among them. My personal calendar, which has been digital for years, went online in a Google calendar—which belongs to Otenth Paderborn!
Then when some of my friends were trying Twitter, I started that, too. Here’s the interesting part: I’m not really a cutting-edge technology user, and “Kenneth” is almost always already taken. So I signed up with Twitter as Otenth (it was my Second Life friends who made me curious about it, after all). One thing led to another, and soon I became reconciled to using Otenth as an online handle even for things that have no connection to Second Life.
So there’s the first and perhaps most obvious change in my relationship to technology: After using the internet for years, I’ve acquired a handle that I use fairly consistently (sometimes even without checking to see if Kenneth is available).
The second change is exemplified by my use of Facebook. I signed up for Facebook when it was opened to anyone, but I never really saw much use in it—most of my long-time friends didn’t use it much (or the internet in general). But then, as my circle of Second Life friends expanded, I discovered I knew lots of people who were using it. Once I was spending more time on Facebook, I began to find old friends and former coworkers, and I’ve actually reconnected with a couple of people because of Facebook. Which I started using because of Second Life!
The third thing is the oddest, and the one that I’ve only recently realized: I have been much more likely to try out new technologies as Otenth.
I’ve been using Dropbox for a while now as part of Radio Riel, the internet radio station I’m part of that has grown out of Second Life. A month or so ago I realized Dropbox would be handy for work—first just for my own purposes when I work from home, but then also for collaboration. And without thinking about it, I invited my coworkers to Dropbox—and they got emails from Otenth Paderborn! Well, I now have a second, work-only Dropbox account. But my personal Dropbox use is and will continue to be associated with my Otenth Paderborn gmail account. (I highly recommend Dropbox to anyone who wants to back up files in “the cloud,” to keep files synced between computers, or to share files with other people. If you use this link to join, you and I will both get a small bonus on the free 2G of storage anyone can get.)
In a similar fashion, I recently decided to pay less for telephone service, and I’ve shifted to Skype as my unlimited domestic calling solution. And of course as you will guess, my Skype account belongs to Otenth Paderborn.
Isn’t the Internet a strange place?