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What Came First?

July 31, 2011

Why haven’t I been around Second Life much lately?  In my last post, I tried to describe my feeling of Second Life being a place had shifted and I found my interactions had a different quality to them.  Sure, this has been a factor in my being around Second Life less, but it wasn’t just that.  Nor was it ever because I felt like SL simply became a glorified chat room as some suggested.  As I alluded in the last post, there is more to the story.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a rich imagination; dreaming vividly of worlds and lives that I could clearly see in my mind’s eye.  Almost in the first minutes of being in Second Life, I felt plugged into my creativity and  imagination in ways that I didn’t expect.  Moreover, I found myself excited by the promise of SL; that it gave me opportunities for exploration and communication and connection that I would never have imagined. For an idealist with some deep dreams, it felt like a limitless horizon.

The real story here isn’t Second Life, but of me.  I’m a dreamer for all sorts of reasons, but one of those reasons has long been a means of escape; when things got unpleasant when I was little, I learned I could build something favorable in my mind.  So while I was excited by the promise of SL, it also became an interest at a time when my first life was filled with stress.   While it was true that I was coming to SL because of the promise I felt it held, I also came to SL to escape and to fill needs that weren’t being met in my first life.   Here’s where my spiral began: I would log into SL to escape and deferred addressing some of my RL issues which led to more stress and nurtured the need for more escape.  Let me be clear about one thing, I am grossly oversimplifying this with the benefit of hindsight; there were lots of factors playing into my issues with my SL and my RL, but I would also describe this as the overarching theme.  The upshot of it all?  I’ve been away because I felt I needed to be away.  My time in RL has been well spent taking care of some things that needed attention; while things are far from perfect, they are much better than they were.

What does all this mean?    I’ve not given up on Second Life at all, the same holds true about my belief in the promise of virtual worlds.  I still love SL, but will simply be around less.  For those of you who know me in-world, you *will* see me again, but it is likely to be for moments here and there.  In a related vein, not that I’ve blogged much lately, but this also likely to be my last post; I would like to thank everyone for playing along so nicely as I’ve thought out loud about my virtual life over the years.  So, thanks again, and so long!   And, as Vera Lynn so beautifully sang,  “We’ll meet again/Don’t know where/Don’t know when/But I know we’ll meet again/Some sunny day.”

 

 

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Arc of an Avatar

May 27, 2011

In answer to my last post, nope, I wasn’t typing, sorry about that.  I’ve not updated my blog for the past six months for a variety of reasons.  Probably the biggest is that I haven’t spent much time in Second Life at all during that time.  The other is that I’ve simply not had anything  that I felt like saying about Second Life.  Lately, however, I’ve found myself reflecting on my experiences; wondering why I don’t think to log in much any more.  There are many reasons, of course, but I’ve broken them into two broad categories.  The first category is that *my* SL shifted and the second are my first life reasons for having a robust second life.  I’m hoping to blather some about each in this and a subsequent blog post.

The ways in which I interacted within Second Life changed for me.  One of the things that I felt when I started was an experience of place; that I was *there* through my avatar.  As time passed, I found that Second Life became more like a glorified chat room.  I would log in and my avatar would stay in one place while I would juggle conversations in IM.  I recognize that this is my own fault; I certainly chose activities that led to that sort of interaction.  While I chose those interactions, I can’t help but think that I followed some sort of arc of interaction with an avatar through the sorts of conversations I was having.  Like any context, I got to know people over time.  Where much of my conversation began as relating to the experience my avatar was having or interacting with the context of Second Life, with time more of my conversations were with friends about whatever we would feel like discussing.  In this case, much of the conversation eventually gravitated toward first life.   Talking more about first life reinforced those interactions and I realized that I was interacting through place and avatar less and less.  Not that this was bad, but it was different and marked significant shifts in my experience with Second Life.  The more I experienced it as a 3D chatroom, the less important Second Life felt to me as a place.

I can’t help but be curious if others have had this sort of experience.  So I put it to you, dear readers, have you felt your lives blurring together the longer you were in SL and got to know people in more real ways?  Did that lead to a change in experience for you?  Have you done anything differently as a result?

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Charlanna Beresford is typing…

December 9, 2010

By my reckoning, Linden Lab owes me an hour or two of my life.  Not because of the time I’ve spent in Second Life, but because of time waiting politely due to the SL bug  in IMs where it will tell you that “so and so is typing…” when they really aren’t.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of loooong silences that have happened as a result.  I usually sheepishly follow up with “are you typing or is SL lying?”  The person then tells me they aren’t and we follow it up with a giggle, of course, but only after we’d been scratching out heads and wondered what happened.  A couple of minutes here and a couple of minutes there really do add up!  Anywho, just throwing this out there, dear readers, it is a bug that drives me up a tree and who knows, maybe some day Linden Lab will fix it…

 

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Message in a Bottle

December 1, 2010

Who doesn’t love a good time travel movie?  They can raise so many questions that seem challenging to answer.  So much is possible in Second Life, but sadly, time travel is not (And you know what I mean, so please don’t remind me that you can time travel with RP, k?).   But what if you could really travel back in time in Second Life?  I found myself asking this question, which became, “What would you tell yourself if you could travel back in time and give yourself advice as a new Resident in SL?”

Curious what I would say? Set your Wayback machine and look after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Your Cheatin’ Heart

October 8, 2010

I love Hank Williams.  He’s one of these people who displayed such a prolific genius so young, you can’t help but wonder if he somehow knew that he had a limited time and was rushing to create while he could.  I’m not normally what you would describe as a huge country music fan, but his songs have a stark passion and emotion that is so hard to resist.  Recently, a few things in SL have reminded me of one of my all time favorite Hank Williams songs – Your Cheatin’ Heart.  The biggest one of these is a recent conversation with my friend ChatBrat Pippita, in which we talked about how many people cheat on their SL partners.

This post isn’t about the question of virtual relationships and first life infidelity, but instead about infidelity within virtual relationships themselves.  (First, a very important caveat: This post is not about you or your partner.  I know there is a tendency among people to read into blog posts that intimate the personal and let me say for the record, this post is not about any specific person, it is simply my musing on something that I’ve seen. )  One of the things I love about Second Life is that relationships take all sorts of forms.  Monogamous, polyamorous, open, partnered, you name it and SL has it.  Of course, the most important part to all of this is how the two people in the relationship have defined it for themselves; if it is an open relationship, it is hard pressed to define it as cheating.  All that said, among the monogamous relationships in SL – partnered or unpartnered – it appears to be relatively common for things to go sour because one avatar has been unfaithful to the other.

I’ll be the first to admit that my evidence for saying virtual infidelity is “relatively common” is purely anecdotal.  But between stories from friends, observing some relationships break-up, and my own being hit on by avatars admitting to be cheating (either as an alt or more blatantly), I feel pretty safe to say that it does happens with some frequency.    It happens in all sorts of ways, of course, but the most common appears to be through alting.

My big question is why does this seem to be so prevalent in Second Life?  In a world where trust is the most important currency of all, why is it common for people to try to circumvent that trust?  I have some partial answers; I think one is that I believe people do it because they think they can get away with it.  Another is a belief that a little dalliance isn’t so bad, they still love their partner and this is better than breaking up.  Finally, I think that it also has to do with why people seek other relationships in any world; they’re trying to address some unmet need.  But as I mull over it, none of these seem to fully answer all the whys.

So I put it to you, dear reader, do you believe cheating on virtual partners is a common occurrence in Second Life?  And if you do, just *why* do you think this is?

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Linden Lab: Come Talk To Me

October 5, 2010

If someone were to ask me, “Is Second Life progressing?”  Sadly, my answer would be, “I don’t know.”  Why?  Although I’d like to think that I’m a regular and somewhat well-informed customer, I’d have to say that I don’t have the slightest clue where Linden Lab is trying to bring Second Life. Yes, Linden Lab has been busy, but with a recent  run of what appear to be disconnected business decisions, I can’t exactly say at what.

Linden Lab’s lack of transparency and tendency toward miscues with the community are nothing new.  Effective communication with their customer base simply doesn’t seem to be in the organizational DNA.   Flawed as that communication may have been over the years, there was often a sense of collaboration or even belated responsiveness that helped create a feeling that things were moving forward.  I simply haven’t seen that in some time.  Philip Rosedale expressed the Fast, Easy, and Fun vision for Second Life at the end of July,  but since that time, little has come out since then to describe how they plan to get there.  To top it all off, the mood among Residents can best be described as anxious; it wouldn’t take anyone looking for very long in the SL blogosphere and associated forums to figure that one out.  I can’t help but think the heightened anxiety is correlated to lack of clear communication.

I may be an idealist, but I’m a realist as well; I get that Linden Lab is a business trying to maximize profits.  That said, I also believe communicating and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive.  So rather than guessing at how to glue all the random acts of progress together, I would like to make a simple request of Linden Lab.  (And I doubt any Lindens read my blog, but I’m all for putting it out there.)  And what is that request?  It’s:

If you would like us to come with you, please tell us where you want to go.

I’m not certain if anyone can answer that right now, but it sure would be lovely to hear something.  Thank you ever so much.

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What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?

September 27, 2010

“Before you speak, think: Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba

/me steps up on her soapbox and clears her throat.

My mother always taught me, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all.”  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to realize that what she taught me is only partially true; sometimes we have to say things to people that aren’t so nice, but I’ve found that those moments tend to work well if done with respect, grace, kindness and desire to be constructive.

I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes am challenged in following that approach, especially somewhere like teh intarwebz.  But as I’ve looked around the SL diaspora on the web, lately it has felt like someone poured a big bottle of mean into the SL blogosphere and Plurk.  There has just been way too much nasty going around.  Of course, there is nothing new about people being cranky with each other on the internet; I think the first flame war started within weeks of the creation of the web.  I’m not even going to touch the whys and hows or psychology behind people being mean-spirited on the web, but I believe we have choices about how we respond.

This is one of those instances in life where I think the very vocal and small minority dictates the tone of the conversation.  Yes, some people are mean.  Or have different opinions.  Or something that just rubs you the wrong way.  Yet we consume it.  We read it.  We share it.  We talk about it.  While we might find some titillation in the drama of it all, I believe much of it makes us uncomfortable, too.

We’ve got amazing and unparalleled power in our ability to communicate on the web, but I’ve always believed that with power comes responsibility.   There will always be people who get their jollies out of being hurtful, but I believe that most of us care deeply about how we treat others.  It is up to us to take responsibility for how we communicate.

I believe we *can* do something to help change the tone.  So dear readers, I’m asking for you to think about doing two simple things.  What I’m going to suggest is nothing new or all that difficult.  For one week – just seven days in a row of your choosing – actively decide to:

  • Stop consuming content you know will annoy you.  This list is different for every person, but you know which blogs, discussion forums, Twitterers, Plurkers, Facebook friends, etc., make you go from calm to irate in seconds flat.  Choose to go cold turkey on this content for seven days.  See how you feel living without it.
  • Avoid generating content that pours gasoline on the smoldering fire. For seven days, take a moment to pause and ask yourself the Sri Sathya Sai Baba quote from above any time you put your thoughts out in the web (except maybe the improving on the silence part, otherwise we might see nothing posted :P).  We can choose to be civil and still get our point across, even difficult ones.

Even if these don’t resonate with you, I hope you’ll think about the role all of us play in the civility of our little corner of the digital world.  Finally, my readership is tiny and have no illusions that this will do much; hell, I’ve been to baby showers with more people than typically read one of my blog posts.  If this resonates with you at all, I hope you’ll find a way to spread these thoughts in ways that work for you.  Write your own short blog post, retweet a link, whatever, just help spread the idea that we can create a more civil tone.

So, let’s hear it, who is in?

/me smiles, thanks you for your time and steps off her soapbox.

(Finally, props to ChatBrat Pippita and Harper Beresford.  ChatBrat has long had the  Sri Sathya Sai Baba quote in her profile; it was our discussion about this that helped get me thinking.  I’m stuck using an older computer while mine is out for repairs and Harper snapped the picture for me; thank you so much!)

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