This week, MTV will introduce Virtual Laguna Beach, where you can create an avatar in a tank top and hang out in a made-for-TV prefab world. Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash and MTV's Laguna Beach, together at last.
As bizarre as that pairing sounds, Stephenson knew online environments like the one he imagined (in 1992!) would be prime territory empty-headed teenagers in generic avatars:
As Hiro approaches the Street, he sees two young couples, probably using their parents' computers for a double date in the Metaverse, climbing down out of Port Zero, which is the local port of entry and monorail stop.
He is not seeing real people, of course. This is all a part of the moving illustration drawn by his computer according to the specifications coming down the fiber-optic cable. The people are pieces of software called avatars.
Judy McGrath, head of MTV Networks, hit the nail on the head when discussing MTV's particularly excellent positioning to compete with MySpace:
"MTV speaks uniquely to a group of people who are endlessly fascinated with watching themselves."
Don't worry though, if overtanned teenagers aren't your self-absorbed subculture of choice, MTV will also be launching a gay version–it's called LogoWorld and will allow participants to create and (surprise) decorate their own virtual environment. A third environment will be called VMTV, "a music destination where visitors can club-hop among hip neighborhoods, buy music, watch videos, sing karaoke or even start their own bands."