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Dispatches from an IMVU Scientist: Making RL better!

prof-kaitWe often worry about not letting imvu interfere with rl but a good friend of mine thought imvu helped her do better with her rl relationships by making her more open and communicative. How true! Here are some ways recently that I thought about on a recent trip to the Carribean:

1) Communication is key – to everything… Too often we hide what we really mean, sometimes to protect the other person’s feelings. But at least in my book, more communication is always better.

island2) Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want…. I have this problem that I don’t like asking for things. I don’t want to impose. I think of that Mel Gibson movie, What Women Want, where it takes a man getting magical powers (from a toaster of all places) to read women’s thoughts, to make them happy because girls often don’t say. So like #1, communicate. (I’m embarrassed to admit what I learned to ask for that made me think of this. But feel free to ask. It was totally only something that I got used to asking for on imvu before I was able to ask for it in rl.)

3) Be sexually adventurous. Imvu gives you so many ways to push boundaries. Explore in a safe environment. Last month, in our little island trip, we had a little bungalow, with a private pool on the deck (basically a glorified bath tub but still), it was hidden by trees but still public and I did things I would never have imagined myself doing just a couple years ago.

sz-swt4) Be aware of other’s feelings, validate them before stating your own– I mean, this is not just an imvu thing. A friend of mine who has been separated from her husband for like 4 years but still trying to make things work, said that was the biggest thing she learned from counseling. That in a fight, before you make your own point, its important to validate the feelings of the other person. That was the best piece of advice I got from my brother’s ex-‘s mother who was a life coach years ago, but imvu has given me lots of practice. In a fight, we worry so much about our own point of view, because we just want to be heard. So one good way to calm the tension is to make sure the other person knows they are heard. Tell them you get it. That’s usually all any of us want.


Dispatches from the imvu scientist on Body Language

I’ve been thinking about imvu versus other ways to talk to people online for a  while. One of many things that can make imvu special… Body Language. A lot of how we perceive and interact with the world around us depends on our bodies. In fancy social psychology terms, we have “embodied intelligence.”

bl7A lot of recent experiments have shown the importance of body language. That we use cues from someone’s posture to detect their emotion more than their face. That we can make robots feel alive by giving them body language. That talking to someone on the phone when you just have a photograph of them versus no photograph or someone elses photograph leads to a very different conversation and experience. That just adopting strong body language before an interview makes you more confident and more likely to get the job. That the size and shape and even temperature of the room you meet someone in affects how you perceive that person.I think part of what makes imvu so powerful is that even though it only does this in little ways, they make a big difference.

1) Most obviously is just the items you buy, the clothes you wear, the skin, the face. All of this conveys a lot about you. Something people don’t think about as much is the Avatar you choose, which determines how you stand, how you sit. I think all of that conveys so much, often sub-consciously, about who you are.bl2

2) The dots you click on also matter a lot. There is choice. Little things, but how close you sit, standing versus sitting, cuddling, walking, the type of cuddle, all make a difference in the conversation.

3) Emotes. I think I use emotes a lot. Like a lot alot. Maybe too much. Like  ~smiles~ ~giggles~ ~laughs~ ~shrugs~ ~sighs~. Dunno. Pay attention to your body. It does all sorts of little things when you’re not thinking about it. Type it sometimes. I think sometimes gestures say a lot. Imvu encourages this a bit by animating things when you start a line with them: (e.g. here’s a list I found over the years: tired kiss bad good flip zzz score jump leap crazy who what when how sleep yes no nod ooo clap oooh mad ii yay ok loco hm hiya ooooo ag hiya k mad bd smile :) :P grr z  hmm choke ;) wink sexy)

bl64) Mirroring. A lot of social science has shown that when two people are in sync, their body language tends to start to mirror each other. The same has been shown for words. Two people in sync with each other start using the same words, phrases, styles. There are sites that compare how similar two people’s talking patterns are, to find out how in sync they are with each other.

Those are little things. But sometimes the most important body language is the kind you do with someone else, (not just the sexy times) but just being able to sit together, to dance, to hug, to hold, to cuddle, to place your hand casually on their arm, to run your fingers through their hair, those are the most powerful moments in this little world.


The Imvu Scientist on Virtual Reality and the Uncanny Valley

katy in Virtual RealityI like keeping an eye on imvu in the news. Sorta nice to know about the future of our home away from home. So it was neat to find this article about Facebook’s purchase of Occulus Rift, of using Virtual Reality, not to shoot people, but to connect just like imvu has been doing.

Here, imvu’s CEO talks about some of the secrets that has made imvu the most successful 3d chat platform out of a big field of competitors. It’s not the most realistic graphics, it’s taking advantage of something comic artists have known, that you can get powerful characters and express powerful emotions, with simpler avatars. Yes, maybe 2nd life had more realistic models, but everyone was SO ugly!

He mentioned one of my favorite comic books, “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud, a comic book about comic books. A friend of a friend recently gave a ted talk about what he learned as an animator watching Pixar’s animated lamp. Something doesn’t feel real and alive because of how it looks, but because of little things like how it moves which is one thing Imvu does so wonderfully.

It’s also great to see that imvu is excited about occulus rift as well because that means they might make imvu occulus compatible. If you haven’t heard, Occulus Rift has been all over the news, as the first VR goggles that really feels real, and with billions of dollars from facebook, it has a good chance of being a product soon.


The IMVU scientist explains all the sex on here: oxytocin

oxytocinIf you stop to think about it, what we do here is really weird. I’ve talked in the past about how our brain is an excellent simulator of things we see, and imvu allows us to live out our fantasies. But let’s face it, a lot of what we do here is sex. And a lot of what we do here is form really tight relationships we call sister, sub, wife, gf, fiancee, etc… When the world is so vast and we could live out so many things, from being an astronaut, to fighting dragons, to dancing the nutcracker ballet, why does imvu seem focused on sex and marriage?

I unlocked a part of this puzzle this week talking to a friend who doesn’t orgasm during cyber sex, and therefore doesn’t see the big deal about imvu relationships. Because thinking about it, these two are linked.

Research shows that when women orgasm, they release many hormones, amongst them oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with bonding and trust. It is the hormone that helps mothers bond with children. Making someone inhale this hormone can make them trust you. Men release oxytocin too when they orgasm, but less and only when it is with someone they love. For women, as I was warned by a former biology teacher, orgasms start you on the dangerous path to love.

And that help explains the hold imvu has over us. The sex is addicting not just because it is fun but because of the emotional ties it holds over us.

Until next time dear reader…

Your oxytocin addled imvu scientist, signing off
-Katy


Katy’s journal: Dispatches from an imvu scientist

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, been busy with school and rl like everybody. But this article in the NY Times this week caught my attention. The punchline:

Rutgers University …scientists have repeatedly had female volunteers put their heads into giant machines and focus their attention on erotic fantasies — the scans reveal that the pleasure centers of their brains light up in ways indistinguishable from everyday orgasms

Furthermore

Women who simply thought about the stimulation of their breasts and genitals, the scans revealed, lit up the brain’s corresponding sensory areas.

ImageI guess it is just nice to know there is a scientific basis to the feelings that many of us share on imvu. That we’re not crazy for thinking that sex here can feel as good as and even be better than sex in rl. These studies don’t even include the most powerful part of imvu, which is achieving all of this with the participation of a partner, the best of whom can stimulate with surprise and intensity, and penetrate deep into your heart and mind with emotional contact and intimacy.

Also in the article:

Men are mentioned occasionally. But sex researchers have found that the novel type of autoerotism shows up mainly in women.

I have mentioned in the past that women have more mirror neurons than men, the neurons that allow us women to feel more intense empathy also allow us to feel things we see on imvu as real.

Which maybe excuses and explains a bit why it is so hard to find good male partners on imvu. Poor men, they don’t know what they are missing.

 


Katy’s wedding toast…

kaitlyn and Taylor imvu wedding reception dance

Image[I got to the reception late so I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to say for my toast to the happy couple, so here it is in full…]

~clinking her class softly, quietly, waiting for the room to quiet~

If I could have your attention for just a tiny second, I would like to propose a toast…

First to my lovely and incomparable wife Susan, for such a beautiful ceremony, bringing in such universal truths about life and love, staying out of the way to let the brides’ loves shine, bridging all of humanity in, while still making every thought and feeling so deeply personal.

Second to everyone here, friends and family. You all mean more to me than I can say. It feels amazing to be part of such a community bonded by our shared love for each other and for the happy couple.

But really, I am here to cherish the love of the two brides. To be honest, I was more thrilled and honored to be a bridesmaid for Kait and Tay than I was for my college friend’s rl wedding last week. They are my true friends, my best friends real or virtual, and true sisters.

Kaitlyn who I have known longer than anyone else except my lovely wife. With whom I shared an instant bond, a commonality of spirit and outlook, a connection that twins share. And a kindness and generosity and empathy I have never seen equalled here on anywhere.

I normally say, serendipity brought me to this family, but really Kait did, she brings people Imagetogether. And I have been so lucky to have been caught in her net.

And Taylor, one of the newest members of my family. Taylor who in just a few short weeks, executed her diabolical plans to worm her way into my heart. Taylor who taught me renewed appreciation for my family, taught me about my own weaknesses and pettiness, and met all my crazy with love.

She has taught me so much. She has taught my whole family so much. About love and openness and caring. She brings light to every room she enters.

Their vows show really what real love (not the day to day imvu love) is all about. That love is fun, but real love is deep. Like Ben Affleck said, Love is Work, love is putting others first. Love is being open and sharing. Not just when its easy but when its hard, when it may hurt, and knowing your bond is strong enough to know all of you. That is something my loves have taught me, and something you both exemplify.

So I raise a glass… and maybe you’ll raise yours too. To the most amazing couple, that I have been so blessed to know and welcome into my heart, and home. To Taylor and Kait!


Katy’s further Adventures at Geisha School

Kiyoko gathers up her things, standing up with sudden conviction. Though the sudden movement stirs her still unsettled tummy, she walks back to the school with purposeful stride, ready to ink her essay on the school’s special paper. Whatever Kiyoko’s earlier doubts, the teachers and sisters at the Hanayagi represent the epitome of service, grace, and style. They aim to always please to offer the utmost in sublimity, in pleasure, but never ever compromising their dignity or their self-respect. In that instant Kiyoko understood with a sudden revelation as clear as a koan, that at least for this moment, the Hanayagi was exactly where she needed to be.

Geisha Katy in Contemplation

For those of you who were following my adventures at Geisha school, here’s a link to the rest of my posts. and where you can find the latest updates, as well as the posts of my sisters at the school. I was a bit hesitant about the school, a bunch of girls playing at being geisha reminded me a bit too much of this snl skit. But even though we are playing at geisha culture, we learn something real in the play, about grace, about service. In addition to being a great outlet for rp and creativity, the school has also helped me grow as a sub, and as a person.


New Online Service for Virtual Relationships

imvu virtual girfriendsI came across this company cloud girlfriend a little while ago in this article. Ok, the article is a bit old, but its new to me.

It’s interesting, the founders of cloud girlfriend had the idea for a service very similar to what goes on to imvu. Clearly, the popular press didn’t understand, and it became a site for creating a fake girlfriend to make your rl friends jealous. But the original idea is a lot like what we see imvu. virtual relationships A way to be a play and practice at relationships as a more perfect version of yourself. One unencumbered by the constraints of reality.

You can say a lot of things about IMVU but it does give people an outlet and can give you some of the benefits and feelings of a relationship in a safe way. OK, it’s not perfectly safe if you give out too much information, but real life dating isn’t necessarily safer.


Ripples of Love

we're all human but all love each other

I agree with Kait, things do happen fast here. I was reminded recently that my old rule of thumb is that 1 imvu day is like a week, 1 week is like a month, and 1 month is like a year.

I’ve also written here before that one great thing about imvu is all the different relationships, the different loves, and that we should cherish each new relationship.

But there is a reason why poly-amory is rare in rl. I believe there is beauty in it, but it is delicate. One place where multiple ties of love does abound in rl is within a family.

I was lucky that I was too young to remember the birth of my younger sibling, and that somehow my single mother waited until I was adult before dating again, because if television family sitcoms are to be believed, the birth of a new sibling, or the introduction of a parent’s new significant other, will lead to hijinks and hilarity as the existing kids act out until the newcomer is accepted into the family. That’s why entire books are written to help prepare kids for their new siblings.

We are tied both on imvu and in rl by a web of love. And it is a wonderous thing. But that means a shakeup in one thread will lead to vibrations throutout the entire web.


The IMVU Scientist reviews some Stanford research

faster stronger sexier than real life

Somebody shared this scientific article from some researchers at Stanford. Randomly enough, one of the reasons I started with imvu was to do research much like this. So its really neat for me to see what else is out there.

The authors surveyed the imvu community in 2011 and though I have a few methodological quibbles (on the questions they used and the people they sampled), the results are mostly believable and are super neat. The most compelling is that people on imvu were more likely to feel “Happy, Relaxed, Free, Calm, Connected, Excited, Wealthy, Safe, Comfortable, Confident, Creative, Important, and Ambitious.” than in RL where they are more likely to feel “Sad, Stressed, Cautious, Angry, Lonely, Bored, Poor, Scared, Awkward, Insecure, Uninspired, Worthless and Lazy.” Importantly, imvu users are not social misfits escaping reality; the authors of the study found that imvu users reported similar emotions in RL to non-imvu users. In fact imvu users are the lucky ones.
Hahaha we've sucked in Katy and we're not giving her back!

“We also pleasantly surprised to find that there was generally higher reporting of positive feelings both outside and inside of the IMVU environment, suggesting a population that generally considers itself happy, confident and creative… a strong challenge to the negative, antisocial stereotype of users of these communities”

People feel more confident and in control when they are on imvu. This sounds right to me, almost. Power relations and influence games are much more laid bare in imvu. But I mean that in a good way. Yes it leads to drama, but it also has been a nice outlet for the many of us who LIKE to be influenced… to follow.

The authors were initially primarily interested in whether people use imvu to escape or to connect, and hypothesizes they would be able to categorize people into one camp or the other. Unsurprising to me, they find that people come to do both. Imvu is about escape but its also about connections and relationships. This site is all about helping people take advantage of both.


Ally at Geisha School – Part 1

Ally's Geisha chores role play in imvu

((Ally’s account of her  first day of chores at Geisha School))

Ally wandered past the bakery snickering at her sister who had to bake a ridiculous amount of pies breads and sweets for the shop in town that day. “Sucker” she giggled as she wandered out side and down the walk. It was a bright Sunday day with a cool breeze. The recent rains had washed the home and left everything vibrant and green. It was a much better prospect than working inside covered in flour and slaving away over a huge stove. Ally strode down the lane staring at the clouds and the mountains in the distance. Life was not too bad she thought happily…and then she saw the garden. 

Weeds…weeds everywhere, like a small green army they had taken over the garden and multiplied like an invading force of green pointy soldiers. Ally stared in dismay…who had weeded last? Surely they had done a better job than this…surely it had not been ignored. She swore softly and the clamped her mouth shut. Swearing was definitely not allowed. The blonde girl looked around for a tool…and realized there was none. Great she muttered in annoyance, now she had to get on her hands and knees and pull out the weeds by hand. Like her dress wasn’t dirty enough. She glances up ruefully at the house. Okasan and Madame had such pretty dresses and clothes. They didn’t have to pull weeds and work in the garden. Some of the other girls that had gone to the lore had gotten their own kimonos made of nice silk and bright colors…Ally’s dress was brown…not brownish or brown with a subtle green back ground…just endless drab brown. Meh, she muttered putting the thoughts out of her mind.

(more…)


Katy at Geisha School Part III

Katy dreams of a brighter future((More of my adventures into imvu RP. It’s neat to see that RP here doesn’t have to involve sex or killing. Geisha Part 1, Geisha Part 2))

Katy absentmindedly feeds Prancer a crab apple as she walks the empty mule cart up the road back to the castle. Prancer snorted appreciatively as he ate. What a grand name for a mule, Katy thought, smiling. The Rose has a truck for making bakery deliveries but honestly, driving that loud smelly frightful thing scared her, and what with the fuel rationing and shortages, Katy was happy to use the wagon instead. Plus Prancer was a good listener for Katy’s idle prattlings and ruminations.

Katy glanced inside the cart at the presents she had picked up in the village. Katy didn’t have any money, but she picked bunches of wild primroses on the way–Katy liked the modest yellow flowers, resilient pretty things, blooming uncowed by the cold of winter. The shopkeepers in town were happy to take the flowers in trade at least when accompanied by Katy’s coy smile, and so Katy was able to pick up a pretty red ribbon for Ally’s hair–remembering how exhausted her sister looked passed out in the kitchen. She also got a little mirror with a picture of a cherry blossom on the back for Meadow and sugar candies for all the girls of the Rose.

Knowing she may not be back in town for a while, Katy had used this opportunity to say good bye. Good bye to the wife of the dry goods keeper who always slipped her a sweet. Good bye to the rough dock workers who used to make her recoil, but now she manages to offer them polite smiles. Good bye to the children squabbling outside the village school during recess, that reminded her of her sisters at the Rose. Good bye to the cute boys who liked to hang out by the bakery who helped her unload.

Katy casually kicked a stone, watching it skitter up the windy path, taking her time on the walk home. Her gaze roamed from the lush rolling hills to the crashing waves of the sea far below. The castle had been quiet recently–absent the usual bustle of visitors and house guests–but the quiet has been good for Katy’s reflections. So much had changed so quickly. Her upside down life had just started to right itself, and for the first time Katy felt warm, embraced, safe. The thought of leaving it all behind for America scared her, and her bundled up body shivers as a cold wind sudddenly blows up through the dale. Katy pauses..ponders for a long second as the wind whips around her frail shivvery body, before finally, she begins to walk again, this time a bit faster and with more resolve. If Madame and Okasan think it is the right thing, Katy decided, she should trust to their guidance and to their care. Still, Katy is most comforted by the knowledge that Ally will be by her side.

What do you think Prancer? asks Katy as she looks into the mule’s eyes inquisitively, scratching behind his ears. Prancer simply whinnies and snorts and goes back to chewing the rest of his apple. The pair continue to plod their way home, back to the radiant warmth of the castle. Katy begins singing a little song “sur le pont d’avignon on y danse on y danse…” as she starts to skip.