Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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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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Push Me, Pull You…

September 8, 2010
pushmepullyou

Image from saltairealpacas.com

If you know me in Second Life or have followed this blog at all, you’re likely to know that I’m prone to periods of reflection.   I’ve been nosing around one of these reflective times for a little while now; asking myself “what do I want from my Second Life?”  What has come of this latest round of thinkiness you ask?  I haven’t come up with good answers yet, but I have found myself asking “why am I here?”   If I’m being brutally honest when I answer that,  I would say that I’ve been a little like I’m Doctor Dolittle’s fabulous pushmi-pullyu in Second Life.  On the one hand, I’ve found myself affirmatively exploring all that Second Life has to offer; drawn like a moth to a flame by the creativity, people and potential of Second Life (and don’t get me started on the concept of the potential of SL at the moment, I might get ranty.  Perhaps a blog post on that will follow.)    Yet on the other hand, part of my Second Life has been about avoidance of some complicated first life issues; the sort where this is not really a right or wrong answer, but likely to have some different sorts of ache no matter the direction (and if you *really* want to know all of the details of this, go ahead and ask; I’ll share them conversationally.)   So I am in SL for multiple reasons, some good, some less good; I’ve flipped back and forth between the two several times, but am not really certain if I could articulate how or why it has changed for me.

Leaping from the personal to the general, I’ve noticed that the same is often true for others in Second Life.   In one camp are the people being pulled into Second Life; drawn to the fun and creativity of a virtual world.  The other camp are people being pushed; taking to the comfort of a digital life as a distraction.  Of course, like all generalizations, these distinctions can be fluid; one is not inherently better than the other, but certainly lines can be crossed into negative behavior and your mileage may vary.   So the question is this, dear reader, what is it for you?  Do you feel pushed or pulled into your digital life?

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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..

Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Avatars of Capistrano

July 27, 2010

Not terribly long ago, I had a minor disagreement with one of my friends in Second Life.  What was the disagreement about?   He claimed, “No one ever really leaves Second Life, they just close one account and come back as an alt.”   I, on the other hand, agreed that does happen but believe that there are also people who actually leave, never to return in any form.   To be clear here, we were talking about people about people who fit in the category of regular Residents, people for whom SL became a conscious choice for a period of time.  Now, I’ll admit that may be a bit of a Pollyanna at times, but I’m not that naive; I know people hide and start new accounts all the time.  Yet I argued that people do leave, that they might feel burnt out on SL or maybe their first life circumstances change or possibly a whole host of other reasons, but that they log out with the intention never to return.   He contended that this happens less than you would think.  We never really resolved it, but simply moved on to another topic, silently agreeing to disagree.

Flash forward a couple of weeks and an interesting thing happened, in the space of less than of a week, I had conversations with four different friends who had all but disappeared from Second Life and had decided to peek in to see what was going on.  Four!    One had been gone sixteen months, another a year, another seven months and the last for just three.  And while looking through my old groups to decide if there were any I should cull, I saw that another old and dear friend who had been away since August 2008 silently logged in just a few weeks prior.  With the third person peeking back, I found myself thinking, “hmm, this is odd.”  When I chatted with the fourth and fifth instance of seeing that someone else had popped in, I thought it was downright surprising.

It has been wonderful to reconnect with the four that I caught up with (and I’m peeved that I didn’t at least get an IM from the one who peeked in, but I understand and that’s another story altogether); I had been close with all in one way or another and it felt like old home week.  Some have decided that they want to come back to SL regularly, while others were just interested in peeking in and going away again.  Now, I don’t think any of these people have been alting, but they were all interested to see what was going on in SL these days.

This has gotten my brain working, of course.  Why would people who decided to leave SL peek back in?   While these were just random occurrences that all seemed to happen in short order, it does make me wonder what is going on.  I don’t believe it signals anything significant about Second Life or my Friends List.  They had some different reasons for peeking back, but mostly it was about curiosity.  What it got me thinking about, however, is the human need to return.  Second Life may be virtual, but it has a feeling of place and a collection of people with whom we connect.  So, much like our need to visit former workplaces or old homes or class reunions, it makes sense to me that people might get curious and want to see what has happened in their absence.  Or perhaps they felt some other need that drew them to SL in the first place, as if they somehow felt a pull to travel back to the same place.  So let’s hear it dear reader, alts notwithstanding, do you think people ever truly leave SL?  Or that SL ever truly leaves them?

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Train In The Distance

June 7, 2010

I’ve always had a weakness for two things: suggestion and potential.  They’re related, of course; bound by a latent promise of something better.  To me, suggestion is the journey ahead, filled with endless routes and possible destinations.  While potential is the engine you take down these tracks, hoping that it is sound enough and has enough fuel to get you there.   My favorite sorts of suggestions, of course, are ideas; I’m seduced by ideas.  Whisper something in my ear, and I’m guaranteed to think about it.  And as far as potential?  Let’s just say that I’ve bought the American cultural ethos that we can make ourselves into whomever we want hook, line and sinker.

Which brings me to this post.  For almost three years, with the exception of a few breaks, a large part of my Second Life has been all about suggestion and potential.  I’ve been fascinated by ideas like avatar identity, communities in virtual worlds, and the ways we could use virtual worlds as a important tools.  These ideas still resonate powerfully with me, but it also feels as if something has happened in the past few months.  In short, the suggestion and possibilities that had captured my imagination feels stale.  It may well be me, that it feels like the same familiar ground has been walked upon over and over.   (This isn’t entirely true, Grace McDunnough has recently fostered some wonderful dialogue on the concept of culture in Second Life.  These important conversations, however, seem by nature to be more about defining what *is* versus what *could be.*)

Intuitively, I can’t help but feel as if Second Life is entering some sort of transitional state.  Transitioning to what seems to be the question of the month.  My crystal ball is a little hazy on this point, I can’t seem to get a good sense of all the possible directions yet.  But my question is this, what do you see the new ideas of virtual worlds becoming?  Will they be more nuanced versions of existing ones?  Or new ones altogether?  So what is it, dear reader, what suggestions and potential of Second Life have grabbed you lately?

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Serendipity

May 14, 2010

The other day I was chatting with my virtual cousin, Harper Beresford; besides gossiping about family (you would not believe what Uncle Mortimer has been doing!), she shared that she was going to be working on SL7B (and, in case you don’t know, it’s Second Life’s 7th birthday celebration.)  I was happy for her, of course, but then she told me the title of this year’s celebration is Unexpected Collaborations.   Now, if I’m being entirely honest, my first response was to stifle a giggle, but the more I thought about the idea of unexpected collaborations and Second Life, the more I liked it.

Serendipity has long been one of my favorite words.  If you aren’t familiar with it, serendipity means making fortunate discoveries by accident.  As I reflect on my second life, it has been filled with it.  For starters, I can’t begin to tell you how many of my dearest friends in Second Life I met entirely by chance.  But more than just chance encounters, much of my second life has been about exploring in all senses of the word and being open to seeing where serendipity and chance might lead.   This has lead me down some blind alleys and a few painful errors, but more often than not has resulted in something positive that I could not have predicted.  Since SL is both a social and creative space, I hardly think I’m alone in my experience and in my approach to our virtual world.

Following a string of events that have raised the question of how much Linden Lab understands how Residents relate to Second Life, I was happy to see the official SL7B theme as a positive sign.   So, for the first time, I find myself thinking of trying to see if I could do something for this birthday celebration on unexpected collaborations.  Since I’m not much of a prim masher, I’m trying to figure out what that might look like.  So, how about it, dear readers, do you have any ideas that would celebrate unexpected collaborations?   And would any of you like to collaborate?

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Two Times One Minus One

February 12, 2010

No, this post isn’t an homage to that musical supergroup Three Times One Minus One, but about how we keep our first and second lives together.  People come and go from Second Life all the time; it is simply the way things go in a pseudonymous virtual world.  (Which I blogged about before here.)   To be sure, the reasons people leave are many.  Things get too busy in their first life.  They get bored of their second life.  The list of reasons goes on and on and on.  Yet despite what people cite as a specific reason, I have noticed one theme among a group of departures upon which I can make a generalization.  There are exceptions, of course, and it doesn’t cover all people leaving SL but it does address a large group of departures.  Here’s the general trend that I’ve noticed:

“The lifespan of an avatar is inversely proportionate to the distance one keeps from their first life.”

Or, more simply put, the more people have to work to keep their first and second lives separate, the shorter their second life.   No, I’m not talking about people who don’t divulge their first life name, because that is probably 90% of SL Residents.  I’m talking more about the avatars who avoid acknowledging that they even have a first life.  If you’ve been around SL, I’m sure you’ve met the type; these are people that avoid sharing they had awful day at work for fear that someone might ask them what they do.  This is more about being so cautious that the person refuses to share contextual information as friendships develop.  Half the people in SL have something to the effect of “SL is SL and RL is RL” in their profiles, but I would venture to guess that the majority of them share some of their RL with people they’ve grown to trust.

But this doesn’t just apply to keeping your first life secret in your second, but also applies to people hiding their second life from their first. I tend to think that this is actually a larger group.  This is the people keeping their entire experience in Second Life secret from their spouse or partner.  Working hard to keep things hidden requires effort and psychic energy that eventually takes its toll.  Or, as one friend who left put it, “I just couldn’t keep lying all the time.”

Let’s be clear, I’m not judging here; at various points in my Second Life experiences, I’ve worked hard to keep them both separate.  While Second Life allows us to explore boundaries, create and do things that we might not be able to do in the atomic world, we really only have one life to live.  More accurately, I think it is often a process of realization that to maintain it all, one must find ways to be comfortable integrating all of these experiences together or risk burning out.

I would love to hear your two cents on this.  Do you feel you had to find a way to integrate all these aspects of your life?  Or, for those of you who work to keep them apart, has it felt challenging to do so as time passes?

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