Archive for the ‘Navel Gazing’ Category

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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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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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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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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.