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Raindrops on Kittens?

September 17, 2010

One of my favorite pictures - taken by boheme Oh

Isn’t that how the song goes? Or was it about brown paper kettles?  Sometimes I get the lyrics to songs all jumbled up.  Well, whatever the words are, I really enjoy the iconic song My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music.  I’ve learned there is so much of life is about simple pleasures.  The way the sunlight hits dew on the grass on some mornings.  Waking to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and cooking bacon.  Things like that. The same applies to Second Life, of course and I thought I would take a moment to share just a few of my favorite things in my digital life. I’ve decided to keep *my* list experiential, but it could just as easily include technical items. Here are a few of my favorite things!

  • The ding ding of a new IM
  • Hugging animations
  • When I don’t have to adjust the prim attachments on a new piece of clothing
  • Randomly meeting an interesting new person – especially someone I wouldn’t likely have met in RL
  • Connecting and sharing with people I love
  • When someone says “Welcome back!” when I’ve been AFK
  • Stumbling onto an unexpected and amazing build

My list could go on, really.  So, what is it for you, dear reader, what are some of your favorite things in Second Life?

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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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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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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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Never Say Never

June 18, 2010

A year ago, I had the idea that it might be interesting to interview a new Second Life Resident for this blog.  I went to Help Island Public in search of a newbie who would be willing to sit down and share their initial impressions of Second Life.  I was fortunate to meet Kyla Riddler; she was eight days old at the time and our conversation became the post A Portrait of the Avatar as a Young Woman.  She had some interesting things to say, including a healthy skepticism about relationships in SL.  Her view shifted a little with time and she partnered with tonk Mayo.  Kyla and I would talk from time to time, but we really hadn’t been in touch much for the past six months.  So I was a little surprised when I received an IM out of the blue from tonk.  He shared that Kyla had just passed her first rez day and was wondering if I would have any interest in doing a follow-up interview.  The more he and I chatted, the more it was apparent that they had a wonderful story about their experiences in Second Life together and it would be great to interview both of them.

Curious about what they said?  How does a new Resident go from being skeptical of SL relationships to partnered?  Are there any twists and turns to the story?  If you have the time to scan the first interview with Kyla, it provides a fun context, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy their story.  Read on after the jump to find out what they had to say!

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