Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

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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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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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Do you know me?

May 31, 2010

I’m trying something new.  Most of the time when I’ve blogged, I’ve labored over my posts, wanting them to be just so.   This post, however, I’m giving myself only half an hour to write it; just getting my thoughts down and posting it for the world to see.  I’m giving this a try because my schedule isn’t giving me much time and I want to see if I can post something without making it an arduous process.

This morning I read a wonderful post by my friend Chestnut Rau that included some of her perspective on trust in SL.  As I read it, one of her key points was that trusting people enough to regularly let them in was something that didn’t come naturally to her.   I couldn’t help but read that and think about my own journeys of trust and intimacy in the virtual world.

Initially I likened the intimacy that comes with pseudonymity in SL to meeting a stranger on a plane.  You sit next to someone, exchange pleasantries, and sometimes you find a surprising conversation where people are divulging all sorts of details about themselves that you would have never imagined.  Then you get off the plane and never see each other again.

My first experiences in Second Life were similar to this; I met wonderful people and shared surprising nuggets of myself.  But then some funny things happened; I found that I got quite good at being an intimacy junkie, looking for a fix that comes with sharing something deep with other people.  I coupled this, however, with a unique ability to keep many people at an arm’s length that comes with having a virtual identity.  I found pseudononymous intimacy to be powerful but it was tempered by my own anxieties about too closely linking the atomic and digital worlds.  Yet as time wore on, like any junkie, I found the fix got harder and harder to satisfy.  I found myself getting less satisfaction from virtual intimacy and decided to start trusting and let down the veil of pseudonymity.

The gist of all this?  I’m not exactly like the people on the old American Express ads, but I have gotten to know quite a few people.  Yet like our first lives, we recognize that a much smaller circle of people are worthy of trust.  I’m glad I decided to trust people and move toward a deeper and more genuine intimacy.  The experience has undoubtedly made both my first and second lives richer.

But what is it for you, dear reader, have you found people you could trust to share intimately all of yourself in Second Life?

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The One With Web 2.0

February 5, 2010

I have a love/hate relationship with web-based social networking.  This may sound funny coming from a regular Second Life user, but it’s true.  The thing for me with social networking on the web is that I’m just young enough to see the potential and utility of it but also just old enough to eye it with a bit of skepticism (and I’ll leave it to you to guess my age, tyvm!).   Of course, SL provided just the right amount of social interaction for me for quite some time.   Then a friend talked me into getting a Facebook account to play the now-defunct Scrabulous.  Then, of course, I got a Twitter account.  Finally, Plurk rolled around and I got hooked.  Where I’ve been active has often been an outgrowth of my second life and used as an opportunity to connect with friends I’ve made in-world.  I found that being involved with these sites stretched my horizons and let me meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise; in short, I met some of my closest online friends through web-based social networking.   And for a variety of reasons, I’ve mostly been taking a break from being active in my social media spaces.

Despite being mostly silent on my social networks these days, I do peek in on my accounts from time to time.  But there were two interesting things I noticed in the past week that got me thinking about web-based social networking again.  One was that even though it has been around for a while, all of the sudden everyone on Plurk was talking about the importance of claiming your name over on Avatars United.  So, like a lemming, I decided to go and do the same thing.  Then, someone else pasted a link to a blog about banning Fake Facebook Profiles, or, what appears should be named “Let’s ban Second Life avatars from Facebook.”  But just what did you find interesting about these sites, Lanna?  In one word:  friends.

One of the things that I have found fascinating are the different approaches people take to adding friends on these sites; some take the word literally, while others appear to view it as a synonym for contact.  At some point I will post about friending in Second Life, because I take a very different approach there.  But for now, let’s talk about friending on web-based social networks.  So I’ve been asking myself one simple question: Just whom do you call friend, friend?  Read on after the jump to find out…

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Your lips move, but I can’t hear what you’re saying…

January 27, 2010

As you can see, I took that good long nap after my last post.  It has been a great rest, one that I sorely needed.  Part of my rest included taking a break from Second Life, too.  I’ve been back in-world for a little bit of time now, and simply enjoying myself and not taking things too seriously.   As people who know me will attest, it is hard for me to keep quiet, though.  So I’ve decided that rather than permanent retirement of this blog, I’ll post when the mood strikes me.  If you can stand gaps between posts, I hope you’ll keep reading.  🙂

Part of enjoying myself has been visiting new places and meeting new people.  This has been great fun; I’ve made many new friends and encountered some fascinating people.   Sure, just as in our first lives, it is easy to meet people, but difficult to people with whom you truly connect. I’ve noticed something very interesting, though.  I find that within four or five lines of text, I tend to get a sense if there is any potential for a connection with a person.   And, at the same time, I also get a sense if I might need to hit the mute button, too.  Are you nuts, Lanna?  Do you really know these things in just a few seconds?  Peek after the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry ?