Archive for August, 2010

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Where the Heart Is

August 20, 2010

I’m a bit of a virtual nomad.  Yes, I’ve moved my home again in Second Life.  In my almost three years in Second Life, I’ve had six different locations that I’ve set as home.  No, this post isn’t about owning virtual property but more about what home means to me in Second Life and why I’ve grown to love moving around to new sims. (As much as anyone owns land in SL; I like to think of it more as a long-term lease like the United States has with the military base at Guantanamo Bay but that’s another post altogether)  As time has passed, I’ve grown to enjoy moving more and more.  Why, you ask?  Part of it is about creativity and expression, but the other is the simple reason is that in a world where we can live anywhere and have any sort of home, I don’t want to stick with one option all the time.

I very much enjoy having a virtual home.  I find that it is another way to express myself and enjoy the creativity that Second Life has to offer.  Part of it is that I enjoy all that goes into setting one up; I like shopping for homes, furniture, and other digital goodies for my house that seem to match the feel of the property.  Yet I also buy into the feeling of place in Second Life.  Having a place I call home feels comforting to me and my virtual space becomes a haven that feels safe and cozy and mine.

One interesting thing about  my tendency to move is that at first blush, it counters my interest in building community in Second Life.  I’ve found this to not exactly be true.  While sometimes place and proximity matters in building community while it is also possible to have a network and community of friends scattered around the grid.  As I’ve moved around, I’ve made new friends in each new sim; often developing close friendships with new neighbors I wouldn’t have otherwise met.  Yet as I’ve moved to new locations, these relationships have often (but not always) grown and developed further.  Ultimately, I’ve found that my nomadic tendencies has built virtual community for me more than detracted from it.

I know my approach to homes in Second Life is far from universal.  I’ve got friends who have lived in the same sim during their entire Second Life experience; becoming rooted in place and declaring their property their homestead.  Conversely, there are also those opposed to having a virtual home at all.  They prefer squatting or popping from place to place without the additional expense of paying tier.  So, what about you, dear reader, how have you approached your home in Second Life?  Do you stay put or move about?  What does have a place you call home mean to you?

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Donna Quixote?

August 13, 2010

Image by Bettina Tizzy

I thought it only fair to take up the challenge I put forward in my last rambly post.  Among other things, I asked if it was possible to describe the value of a virtual world to the uninitiated.  There were really some great responses to the questions, both in comments and in posts on their own blogs.  So, to be fair, I thought I would tilt at windmills and attempt a description of the value of Second Life to the unitiatied.  Here’s my brief try:

Virtual worlds offer an ability to interact with that allow for a projection of self while having a sense of place.   Within these worlds, a person can find community, interact within a three-dimensional context and have an unparalled opportunity for expression.  What one chooses to do – and how they choose to do it – is entirely up to them.

Okay, so I’m going to completely honest and tell you that I don’t love my description.  Writing a pithy description of the value of a virtual world is a challenging prospect; there is so much that simply cannot be captured by mere words.  Like a number of the commenters on the original post, I don’t believe that it is possible to describe the magic of Second Life to the unitiatied.  Yet. One needs to experience it to more fully get a sense of what it means.  We’re still in a period where the idea of a virtual world either resonates instantly or it doesn’t.  I’m sure we could have some very long discussions as to why this is, but I think there are multiple factors.  The first is the shortcomings of technology; we’re simply not yet at a place where it can look and feel viscerally real.  The second are the shortcomings of Second Life (and to be fair, let’s say all of the current nongame virtual worlds); the interface isn’t terribly intuitive and operational issues can magnify the shortcomings of technology.  Finally – and perhaps most important – is the “you say tomaTOE, I say toMAHtoe” factor; let’s face it, people all enjoy different things and the use of SL is a choice (perhaps with the exception of some business and education applications).  Just because Second Life gets my synapses firing and I find it very enjoyable, doesn’t mean that is true for everyone. (Take my sister, for example.  I once tried getting her engaged in SL and she just plain did not like it and would rather spend her time in other ways.)

I also asked if Second Life has a broader purpose that appeals to the masses or was something that resonated with a smaller section of society.   As I’ve thought about that question, I haven’t strayed very far from what I wrote in My Tammy Faye Bakker Moment post last June.  In it, I wrote that “I’ve grown to believe that the best uses of Second Life are the ones that strive to take advantage of the ability to do things that would be prohibitive or not possible to do in real life. ”  I still believe this to be true, but with a couple additions and caveats.  The first is that I would also add that it’s really okay to simply have fun in a virtual world.  The other is that the applications and usages will likely evolve over time and become more resonant with people in general.

Easy, right?  I still would love to hear more people make an attempt at a definition; the more we can articulate what we value and what we want, the greater the chance we’ll be able to help others see our vision as well.  We’re at this funny moment in time where language doesn’t entirely capture the experience and that there are gaps in experience that can’t be covered with language.  Maybe we should all try tilting at windmills a little more to try to fill that gap.

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The Missing Link?

August 3, 2010

One of my biggest sins in either life is that I’m pretty much thinking about one thing or another.  Churn, churn, churning about this or that.    There are myriad reason why I do it, of course.  Part of it has to do with how I’m wired, but there is also part of it where I yearn to understand things that aren’t making sense to me.   The good and bad thing about Second Life for someone like me is that there is so much that doesn’t make immediate sense.  While Linden Lab has often been nonsensical in some of its actions in the past couple of years, I couldn’t escape the intuitive sense that there was some huge disconnect occurring but I was having a hard time wrapping it into a pretty package that made sense to me.  Between the fodder from Philip Rosedale’s recent town hall meeting and the SL blogosphere, my brain has been churning overtime and just maybe I’m starting to get an idea of that missing piece that I haven’t been able to put my finger on the past months.  So what is it, Lanna?  What seems to be Second Life’s missing link?  Read on after the jump to find out..

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