Shared virtual worlds such as Second Life privilege a single point-of-view, namely that of the user. When logged into
Second Life a user sees the virtual world from a default viewpoint, which is from slightly above and behind the user's
avatar (the user's alter ego 'in-world.') This point-of-view is as if the user were viewing his or her avatar using a camera
floating a few feet behind it. In fact it is possible to set the view to as if you were seeing the world through the eyes of
your avatar or you can even move the camera completely independent of your avatar. A change in point-of-view, means,
more than just a different camera point-of-view. The practice of using multiple avatars requires a transformation of
identity and personality. When a user 'enacts' the identity of a particular avatar, their 'real' personality is masked by the
assumed personality. The technology of virtual worlds permits both a change of point-of -view and also facilitates a
change in identity. Does this cause any psychological distress? Or is the ability to be someone else and see a world (a
game, a virtual world) through a different set of eyes somehow liberating and even beneficial?
This paper looks at virtual worlds such as Second Life7 (SL) as possible incubators of dissociation disorders as classified
by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition3 (also known as the DSM-IV).
Depersonalization is where "a person feels that he or she has changed in some way or is somehow unreal." Derealization
when "the same beliefs are held about one's surroundings." Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as
multiple personality disorder fits users of Second Life who adopt "in-world" avatars and in effect, enact multiple distinct
identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters). Select questions from the Structured Clinical Interview for
Depersonalization (SCI-DER)8 will be discussed as they might apply to the user's experience in Second Life. Finally I
would like to consider the hypothesis that rather than a pathological disorder, dissociation is a normal response to the
"artificial reality" of Second Life.