Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category


We see them come, we see them go…

August 14, 2009


I love Dr. Seuss.  If he were alive today, I could imagine him being very taken with the creativity of Second Life.  Not to create children’s books, but to build some fantastic places.  Of his books, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish is my favorite.  It is wonderfully random and, as one friend in my first life wondered, if he may have, um, chemically expanded his reality when he wrote it.  But there is a page in it with the lines:  “We see them come.  We see them go.  Some are fast.  And some are slow.  Some are high. And some are low.  Not one of them is like another.  Don’t ask us why.  Go ask your mother.”   I’m not entirely sure what my mother would have said if I asked her, but she probably would have said something along the lines of: “It means that people come in all shapes and sizes, do things differently, and you never really know how long anyone is going to be part of your life.”

Of course, the same holds true for people in our second lives as well.  One important part of Second Life culture that few actually talk about is that we never know how long anyone is going to be in-world.  The brutal fact is that very active Residents leave the virtual world behind pretty frequently.  If you’ve been in-world for any length of time, chances are good that someone you’ve grown close to has left Second Life. (Or left that particular second life behind to start a third or forth instead, but I’m not going to talk about that phenomenon.)  But what do we do when people leave?

I can hear it now, you migh be muttering: “Just great Lanna, I hope you don’t plan to talk about taxes, too!”  Nope, but if you have curiosity about my thoughts on virtual death, read on after the jump…

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This must be the place (naive post)

August 12, 2009


Just what does community mean in Second Life?  Yes, I know we’re nearing the start of the Second Life Community Convention (and no, you won’t see me there), but sometimes it seems to me that Second Life has the community feel of, oh, the Balkans maybe?  I’m being flip by comparing it to the Balkans, but for the most part community in Second Life feels like bunches of small groups that maybe – just maybe – overlap with one another.  But more than just being a world that seems to embrace community in micro-groups, the concepts of community feels fragile and cliquey in Second Life.

Lanna, you’ve already sorta mentioned the Talking Heads; please don’t tell me you start singing Kumbaya after the jump.  Pretty please?  Read on to find out… Read the rest of this entry ?


How not to suck, if you can swallow it.

July 30, 2009

eventsOkay, I’ll admit it, the idea for my recent posts about events in Second Life started as a rant.  For the longest time, I’ve been frustrated that gems of events get lost among a sea of…well, let’s just say things that turn out not to even be events.  After writing the first one, I wanted to write a blistering rant that went off on all of the things that people do when creating events that contribute to the dreck.  The more I played with drafts of this post, the more I realized that the classic comic character Pogo had it right: ” We have met the enemy and he is us.”  If we can all be thoughtful about what events we choose to participate in or how we  approach planning events, the more likely that we are to see fewer bad events.  So instead of a rant, I’ve decided to write about what makes a good event and some ways to find them.

I’ve come to believe that there are three important factors that contribute to good events in Second Life.  They are:

  • Quality of content;
  • Opportunity for interaction; and
  • Thoughtful planning.

Want to know more?  Curious about what makes a good event?  Tune in after the jump for more details with a few examples!

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But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for!

July 25, 2009


One of my favorite things about Second Life is that something is always happening.  I’ve always had moments where I’m afraid I’ll something, so I found myself being reluctant to log-off when I first came to SL for fear that an even better event was going to start.   I’ve certainly overcome that feeling in SL even though there is still no shortage of events   Sure, it is easy to find something to do, but finding something good to do?  It can be too damn hard sometimes.

I’m even going to start with a moment of immodesty.  I’m pretty confident that I am more familiar with ways to find events in SL than the majority of residents from having  covered events for New World Notes for much of last year.   Through that experience, I came to believe that finding good events in SL is a little like shopping at T.J. Maxx (a.k.a T.K Maxx for my European friends!) only nowhere near as satisfying.  In both instances, you have to wade through piles of things to find just what you want but you feel excited if you find a bargain on something you love while shopping and are just plain annoyed at having to work so hard to find an event.

There are a couple of reasons why finding an event can be so challenging and I’ve broken them up into two posts.  The first post talks about structural problems and the second highlights cultural issues with having good events.  Curious about the structural problems?  Read on after the jump to find out!

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July 2, 2009


Much has been blogged about keeping your first life identity secret in Second Life.   So often the tone is either cheerleading for it or thinly veiled contempt for something that people see as inherently dishonest.   If you can guess from my post on the relativity of boundaries, I’m pretty neutral on the issue; I believe that people should be able to approach their second life as privately or as openly as they choose, so long as they are respectful and responsible to both of their lives in the process.  Yet when I’ve talked with others about it, the next follow-on question tends to be:  “If someone is hiding important pieces of his/her identity, is that truly being respectful and responsible?”   And I think that the best answer is: It depends.

It depends?  What kind of cop out answer is that?  Well, I believe we should strive to be straightforward with who we are, but there are situations where being direct about first life identity might hurt more than it would help.  Perhaps an example could help explain.  Recently, Drew Carey mentioned in his blog that he enjoys spending time in SL (and gave props to the creativity of Pandora Wigglesworth’s Curio Obscura).  I’ve also heard rumors of other celebrities enjoying the more peaceful interactions that Second Life can offer.  (Also, there was an article some time ago about Halle Berry’s experiences visiting chatrooms.  Apparently, she would meet people, strike up a friendship, and, at one point or another, share her first life identity.  What happened?  No one believed her.  Sadly, she was instantly recategorized as a crankpot and her friends would fade away.)   Were I famous, I think Second Life would be a great place to feel like you’re having interactions with people based on how you relate to each other and not that you are a celebrity.   Plus, we would all hate to see a half-true seedy tabloid article about how some celebrity’s avatar hangs out in – gasp – Zindra!  (And if you don’t believe we could see an article like that, I have a nice quiet parcel of land to sell you on the mainland.)

I don’t think anyone would dispute that celebrities should be entitled to their privacy in-world.  But think about it for a moment, to maintain privacy a celebrity might need to recast things about his/her first life identity. If sharing accurate information about their identity – even vague – could possibly result in loss of what brought them to want a second life in the first place, could you blame a person for trying to hide things?  Given our fame-obsessed culture, I would think that going to great lengths to hide your first life identity in Second Life to be a generally responsible and respectful thing to do.

So my question to you, dear readers.  If protecting yourself from adoring fans is a good reason to maintain secrecy about your identity, could there be other reasons?  Any examples leap to mind?


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?


Theory of Relativity…

June 11, 2009


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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