Archive for June, 2009

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My Tammy Faye Bakker Moment…

June 25, 2009

Tammy Faye

At one point I thought virtual worlds were the greatest thing since sliced bread.  While I didn’t quite reach the Tammy Faye Bakker level of evangelism, I enjoyed talking with others about the promise of virtual worlds and investigating all sorts of ways it could change how we did things.   But like many who truly believe, I’ve had a crisis of faith; I still think virtual worlds are great, but am beginning to wonder if there are limitations in what they can offer.  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about coming into SL to have fun and create things, but more about the ways in which Second Life can be used as a tool for real world applications.

The best parts of Second Life seem to lie within what Grace McDunnough describes as “weak ties,” recreation (and if I wanted to be geeky, I would point out the parallels between the idea of “re-creation” and a second life.  But I don’t want to be, so I won’t!), creativity & artistic expression, and the ability to do things that could be prohibitive or limited in the atomic world.  All of these things are all pretty great and offer tremendous potential. I love that there are mock-ups of nuclear reactors that can help new staff train on equipment and develop a clearer expectation of what to expect.  Or the idea that conducting military strategy and training exercises in Second Life could prepare people for complicated missions (thanks, Zoe Connolly!).   And work done by Gentle Heron of Virtual Ability and Keystone Bouchard of Studio Wikitecture, winners of the Linden Prize offer some amazing opportunities. We all know this sort of list could go on and on.

Okay, so maybe calling it a crisis of faith is an overstatement.  It is simply 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’m not trying to be a wet blanket here and maybe it is a function of virtual worlds being a relatively shiny and new idea, but it seems like there is a school of thought that just because you can do something in a virtual world means that will somehow be revolutionary.  We’re entering an era of new ways of doing business!  Digital platforms can revolutionize education!  To explain what I mean, we need to look no farther than the massive fail of atomic world businesses that came to Second Life and tried to replicate their business model in SL.   Somehow this sort of thinking still seems to pop up regularly and there is still something about operating in a digital world that doesn’t seem to resonate with people at large.

Given all of that, what I’ve started to wonder is this: Are we really pioneers on the leading edge of what may promise to be a significant movement?  Or, given what currently stand as most effective uses of SL, are we power users of what might turn out to be a platform that is ideal for targeted uses for niche groups of people? I’m starting to come down on the latter but I’ll be the first to admit that maybe I’m overlooking or missing something.   I know that there are unexplored avenues for creativity and creation of content and I believe that virtual worlds – and the uses for them – will continue to evolve, but it seems as if we’re far far away from the ability to be revolutionary.

How about you dear reader?  Where are you placing your faith?  In a platform that has valuable uses?  Or in a brave new world?

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A Portrait of the Avatar as a Young Woman

June 23, 2009

kyla

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most as a parent is the opportunity to see the world through new eyes.  I don’t have – or want – children in Second Life, but I did start wondering what it would be like to see Second Life as new again.  While I still remember my spark of passion being ignited, it certainly isn’t the same as my first months in-world.  All of this got me wondering, how does Second Life look like for a new resident?

So I set out to interview who has just started their Second Life experience.  I didn’t want to be too picky, but I didn’t want to have the wrong conversation, so I started the quest with a few simple rules.  The person had to be fewer than thirty days old, by all appearances was not an alt (although you could never really know, could you?), and seemed like they had been in-world more than once by looking at their profile.

Help Island Public seemed like a good spot where I might meet someone who fit the bill.  After a quick teleport, I found myself in the midst of twenty to twenty-five avatars.   Now, I’ve been using the GreenLife Emerald Viewer lately and one of my favorite features is a built-in radar.  One of the cooler things about this radar is that it not only tells you who is in the sim with you, but it also tells you their age in days.  This feature came in very handy for this project.  Surprisingly, among the twenty-plus avatars at Help Island Public, there were only three (yes, 3!) avs that were under thirty days old; the remainder were all old enough to no longer be considered new.  So I decide to IM one of the younger avatars nearest to me.  I quickly introduce myself and ask her if she would mind being interviewed for my blog.  Long pause.  Long pause continues.  I find myself thinking, “This is not going to work.”  But to my happiness and surprise, she agrees to be interviewed. We teleported back to my house and proceeded to have a lovely conversation about her impressions of Second Life thus far.

Kyla Riddler was on her eighth day in Second Life when we talked.  Like so many of the people I’ve had the pleasure to meet in SL, Kyla proved herself to be a wonderful, interesting and engaging person.   Read on after the jump to hear what Kyla had to say about getting adjusted to Second Life, impressions of people in-world and virtual relationships.

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Theory of Relativity…

June 11, 2009

relativity

I avoided science courses like the plague when I was in school, so if you got here looking for some explanation of Albert Einstein‘s Theory of Relativity, you might want to go back and give your search engine a good kick.  My reasons for avoiding science were a little complicated.  One reason was that my father worked in the sciences and steering clear was a some sort of act of rebellion (I know I was stupid, but I’ll plead teenager as an excuse).  Another reason was that I convinced myself I wasn’t that good at them.  And the final reason was that the sciences seemed all about finding certain answers when I much preferred things to be gray and a little fuzzy.  I now know that none of these reasons were good or exactly true.  So while I’ve developed a greater appreciation for science, it still isn’t my thing but I am very grateful for those who find excitement in the subject.

Like my appreciation for science, my perspective on identity in Second Life has shifted over time.  For my first months, the Great Wall of Lanna stood between my first and second lives with very few facts about my first life clamoring over to anyone.  As time has gone on and I’ve gotten to know people, I’ve elected to share more of my first life and, in some instances, share identifying first life details.  I know that my experience of shifting my identity boundaries is hardly unique.  But this post isn’t really about the fact that I’ve gotten more comfortable about sharing my first life, but that boundaries that we choose to put on our identity in Second Life is hardly a fixed concept.   Not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us; and that is where the fun comes in.  How do we choose to relate to people given all of our different identity boundaries in-world?

Can you relate to this?  Then read more after the jump!

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Once upon a time…

June 4, 2009

lanna fauna

It seems that almost everyone with a personal blog about Second Life tries to explain their take on what makes the world magical at one time or another.  Which makes great sense to me because isn’t trying to find some sort of meaning part of what any life is all about?  Now I can almost hear you saying “Stop.  Wait.  Please Lanna, don’t tell me that you’re going to try to define the magic of Second Life.”  Well, the answer to that question is: kinda, sorta, um, not really?  I guess you’ll just have to keep reading to figure out if I can dig out of the hole I just made for myself.

I believe that much of Second Life is like a fable.  There is no question that my Second Life is a fantastic tale full of good, evil (okay, evil might be an overstatement, but there have been some not-so-nice types that I have run across), talking animals, visible and Invisible Cities, enchanted forests, and moral points to reflect upon.  The only real difference between SL and a traditional fable is that one needs to reflect on his or her experience to find the meaning; there isn’t a pithy maxim that is wrapped up and handed to you with a pretty ribbon.  Personally, my fable has been full of lessons of balance, trust, growth, expression, relationships and loving.  And more keep coming.

Let’s be clear about one point.  Just because I’m making the parallel of Second Life as a fable doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting that experiences aren’t real.  What I am saying is that there are real opportunities to grow and learn if you take the time to step back and reflect on what the actual and metaphorical experiences mean.   In short, I believe that much of the power of Second Life is how you define it for yourself and what you choose to learn.

So yes, I do think about Second Life as a fable (either that, or a David Lynch film, I haven’t exactly decided yet) that gives us opportunities to learn powerful lessons that can apply to both our first and second lives.  But is that really describing the magic of Second Life?  No, that is something you get to decide for yourself.  So be a faun or a robot and take time to create beautiful things, but I also hope that you take the time to find some of the other magic that SL has to tell you and you alone.

So dear readers, any parables that you have learned from your Second Life and are willing to share?