Oh my! I should have known better. It was clearly the
tip of an iceberg, yet for some reason I thought (to terribly mix my metaphors)
that I could safely only get my feet wet without falling over into the deep
end. There I was, reading a Regina Lynn column in Wired, Web
2.0 leaves Porn Behind, and I said to myself that this was the perfect opportunity
to sink my teeth at least part of the way into an issue that for
years I've wanted to examine. As I started to organize my materials for
this column, however, I found myself questioning whether, in addition (of course) to feeling somewhat uncomfortable
writing about it, there was really that
much to write. After all, in order to find additional materials for this
column I'd have to dip my feet into material that I ordinarily
try to avoid, or at least try to create the impression that I try to avoid.
In her column, Lynn makes what seems to me to be a fascinating observation - although porn sites have traditionally been in the forefront of web development, in the social networking environment of Web 2.0, these sites are no longer the ones that are pushing the technological envelope. She notes:
Community is all about interactivity and personalization. Given the interactive nature of sex and the personal nature of porn, you'd think adult sites would be all over Web 2.0. But with a few notable exceptions, they're not. And I think this is going to bite them in the ass not too far into the future if they don't catch up.At the same time that I nodded my head in agreement with that statement, I also found myself scratching it, and asking whether it's really true. I'll accept the claim that community is all about "interactivity", but is community also about "personalization"? It may be about finding "common ground", but that's hardly "personalization". Something doesn't seem right here. Putting those two elements together, rather than seeing them as contradictory, bewildered me. Sure, sex is "interactive" by nature, and I suppose that porn is unavoidably "personal", but Lynn claims that these two go together, while it seems to me that in practice they actually contradict each other, even cancel each other out. It would seem to me that when the surfing experience was a personal, individual, experience, porn was logically in the forefront of web development, but when social networking became the norm, porn couldn't compete, for the very simple reason that its very nature kept it behind closed doors.
Targeting 21- to 49-year-olds, RedlightCenter.com said the Internet and technology enables women and men to live out sexual fantasies in a safe environment. The site aims to become a "social experience within a 3D virtual reality" where avatars move about and experience interaction between animated characters.Is this porn? Not necessarily. It does, however, seem to be the sort of thing that we'd expect people to do behind closed doors - which may be precisely what having avatars permits them to do. But avatar-aided sexual activity, like what's apparently happening in RedlightCenter, or in large parts of Second Life, doesn't seem to be the only "community" direction in which porn might be expanding. Run of the mill social networking may get less headlines, but it's perhaps also a promising direction. Only recently Playboy opened a "community" on the social networking site Ning. It's a "private" community, so those of us not invited can't get in, even to take a look around. The best we can apparently do is read an article about it. Open or not, and worth the effort or not, simply the existence of such a community (and one press release tells us that RedLightCenter is "the second most populated virtual world") suggests that if, in the past, people were hesitant to do this sort of thing in "public" (and "online" can often be "public"), that may now be changing.
The site allows users to control avatars that can dance to music and interact with each other. Characters also live out fantasies, such as being an erotic dancer in "The Night Candy Gentlemen's Club," the company said.
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