As writers, sometimes we have to suspend our biases and reservations to get the story out there.
This is my belief, and it is a belief I have practiced since my RL days as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. It is also this belief that cements my writing-related ethics as Editor of The SL Parade.
Though this is the case, this does not discount the fact that I do harbor biases. I acknowledge them, and study if they are warranted ones, and often wonder if I am merely being emotional and whimsical; either way I am okay with who I am in the scheme of it all, because I often take an extraordinary amount of time analyzing my own misgivings…sometimes to my own detriment.
I say all of that to say this: I recently published not one, but two stories where I had to suspend my personal biases and reservations because the message was simply too important to ignore. The first story was one I did while working at the SL Enquirer; that story featured some phenomenal women who overcame adversity–all so they could fully and unconditionally participate in a pageant. The most recent article I published was at my own publication, and I published that article because, in an SL world where the accomplishments of people of color are often overlooked, we have to vigilantly support those that shed light on those that have accomplished so much–despite adversity and institutionalized racism. That, to many may be considered a bias all in itself, but it is a bias that is supported with logic and keen evidence.
In both instances, the message was far more bigger than my reservations, hence the reason why I pursued both of these stories relentlessly. All reservations aside, I knew how important it was to suspend my biases and give exposure to something that deserves it, more so because that is what a good journalist does.
Yet all biases aside, I found that I still could not shake what I had found: when it comes to SL-based contests, people can elect candidates that may not necessarily be deserving of the awards they are giving out. Further, they can use these awards ceremonies as a means to cement the bonds they have with those they are already friends with, thereby suspending any attempts to thoroughly investigate the candidates elected for the awards in the first place.
This realization floored me, and I did not want to initially consider it, not only because of my own personal biases, but also because I did not wish to make waves in the community I serve. However, my realization could not be ignored because it is a warranted one. This is because, even with my personal biases in tow, it is still a valid realization that can be supported with evidence.
Mind you, rigging contests is not isolated to one SL-based group nor organization; this is a wide spread problem I have seen happen over and over again at various venues I have attended. It is not limited to race, social class, sex, gender nor ethnicity either because I have covered other awards ceremonies that have featured no people of color as contestants in their events, yet still relied on their personal connections and allegiances to cement winnings for their sl friends and families. With this in mind, I want my SL Parade readers to know that this editorial IS NOT necessarily targeting one organization or group; rather, it is targeting the SL culture that allows this kind of behavior to persist and continually manifest itself over and over and over again.
By nature, I am a talker…I talk about how I feel to others, and even share revealing details about myself, sometimes to my own detriment. However, I am strong enough to say this: I will stand behind every word I say. Some may say I am messy for it, but I want you all to be mindful that I am me, and I will continue to be me regardless of how ostracized I may become as a consequence of what I do or say. Because I am who I am, I refuse to sit idly by and not speak out about what I have noticed inworld. With that being said, I would like to do more than speak on it; I would like to relate a suggestion a friend of mine stated while we talked about the contest rigging epidemic going on in the SL community.
She stated the following:“…it would be really nice to have an ethical format within sl to hold all organizations to, but here it’s the nature of the beast because anything and everything can transpire here…there is no mainstream guide of accomplishments that holds everyone eligible, to the same standard of measurement….”
While my friend wanted to remain anonymous, she made an excellent point: There should be an ethical format within sl present…one that holds all organizations accountable in the way they award prizes, and who they award prizes to. This ethical format should be ushered in not by a secular based organization, but by Linden Labs.
To extend this idea further, all contestants–as well as those sponsors that support the contests–should be thoroughly researched to insure that the prizes being awarded are going to ones that are legitimately deserving of them. Their qualifications for deserving these awards should not be based on who they are friends with, nor who their family members are. It should be based on documented accomplishments, and proof that they are legitimately attempting to uphold the integrity and standards implicit within the contests.
In terms of the sponsors, those that sponsor these events should not simultaneously act as judges of the contestants. I say this because in one pageant I covered, the modeling agency responsible for training the contestants also doubled up as judges during the competition…the models were also responsible for paying for any items needed to enhance their avatar’s contest appearance. This was very problematic because these models were not only finalists, but had to make purchases based on the Modeling agencies feedback and suggestions. These pageant finalists were also often pitted against other contestants to keep any protests and questions they had in check. If money is being paid for skins, animations, and other avatar based items, and this payment is based solely on requirements established by the modeling agency that also doubles up as the judge and jury of the contestants, this can be deemed not only a conflict of interest, but also as unethical. This is because the modeling school administrators could be subject to bribery, not only from the models, but from the contest organizers and creators themselves.
To add on to this, I would also suggest that if the contestants are either friends with the judges, or even related to the judges, that they should not be allowed to participate in the contest. This is a conflict of interest as well, and fosters nepotism in a competition that should be about merit, not about who they know. In addition, those that are responsible for collecting monies in any competition or raffle should not be allowed to directly participate, nor win any contests because they are working directly with the contestant ballots, and have inside information on not only who has paid what, but how many ticket purchases someone has made, etc. as well. I say that because I have been a witness to this occurring at various venues and club settings. In fact, when I directly asked the club owner about it, I was told that the person collecting the monies had every right to participate in the contest, and that there should be no question about rather or not this person should have won because their winning was based on a machine-based selection–and not on a selection made by a person. When I asked the club owner to show me where the machine was, she was unable to do so.
Also, if a person has a reputation of cheating in any contests or events, they should thoroughly be investigated. If there is evidence out there that supports this alleged reputation, it should be presented to the contestant as grounds for disqualification.
Yet, in an effort to be fair, Linden Labs should set time aside to directly talk to SL community members about this…especially if RL money is at stake (like in the case of one modeling based competition I covered some time ago).
We all want to be winners, and we all yearn to be successful. However, I contend that a lack of honesty is not the way to go in accomplishing this. Nepotism, as well as glamorizing those that practice unethical behavior in SL by awarding them prizes and allowing them to continuously cheat—all to stay in their good graces—is something I cannot, nor will not support. I urge you to consider my position, and ponder on the validity of my statement…and remember, even with my own biases, there is truth in what I am saying.