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Friday, March 30, 2007


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Laetizia Coronet

A few weeks ago I met Krysztof, a Polish newbie. He spoke hardly any English. I was able to find a Polish meeting place for him and I was also able to convey to him how I found it, using the Search option and the word 'Polski'. He TP'd over after thanking me.
When voice 'takes over', many people will fall at the wayside because their written English is passable but their spoken English is not. I probably couldn't have helped young Krysztof at all. Others are too shy to speak English to strangers - my RL girlfriend is an example. Her English is very good for an Italian, but her idea of Italians speaking English is not (their accent is a gag that's been running for a century - no surprise there).
Then there's the element of role play, in which we all more or less take part. Scarlett o'Hara with a Yorkshire accent? Jay-Z with unmistakable Scandinavian overtones? A sexy lady with a baritone voice?
Things will change, and I am happy someone like Gwyneth takes the time to think through the consequences. I for one am not convinced that it will all be for the benefit of Residents.


Voice leaves all non-native English speakers behind, and those who are in an evironment where they can't talk (like office or even living room).


"Voice leaves all non-native English speakers behind"

Because there is only one German speaker in SL, and one Spanish speaker, and one Portugese speaker...

Cry me a river. Play Harrison Bergeron somewhere else.

Economic Mip

To the best of my knowledge, however the Bantu language group (encompassing about 1,400 African languages) will be left in the rut in this development. Sure you can find someone who speaks German or Spanish, but Chichewa? ChiShona? Southern Sidndebele? One of the major reasons is that the use of technology subtly distorts words. This is far more concerning in dialects where tone is key. I cannot wait to see what the software makes of a Zimbabwean "zv" combination, (a high pitched whistling sound in Chishona)

Jesper W.

It is definitely a point that people who speak english less well or even barely will be at a disadvantage with this - also, the "bandwidth" of listening Gwyn mentions is even greater when you can't see the speaker, as "subconscious" lip reading provides significant clues as to what is spoken.
I am also inclined to agree with her on the multicasting issue - I can't think of any one true multicasting environment other than SL, but I do it myself all the time (what with SL and Skype running several chat and IM sessions simultaneously, while checking websites and email) and I like that one may process a LOT of info very rapidly - this is because true multicasting circumvents the fact that you can only focus on one thing at a time: In text-based multicast each channel is "on its own time" and you can allow the spotlight of your attention to jump between them extremely fast, much faster than you can switch between things you hear.

The real issue, however, in my personal opinion, and the issue that should indeed be addressed and scrutinized by those of us who seek to form a sort-of vision for what such a thing as SL can lead to is - the extent to which we, people, humans, will act and react in a rigidly conservative manner.
Consider SL architecture as an example - sure, some funky things exist but most *by far* is some form of HOUSES, as in real-world buildings that sit on the ground, with stairs, doors and windows, and furniture, in short a reproduction of how these things look in RL.
Now, this is in a world that is truly magic - we can fly, buildings can fly, it never rains and we never freeze, things can move and change, become invisible, in fact imagination is truly the only limit (if one is prepared to learn building and scripting, at least, or pay for it).

With VoIP I think SL will be brought one step closer to RL - not only in the way we'll then communicate and use the medium (right now, for ex., I am writing this with the TV on and a Skype session running, the same way I often use SL - if VoIP becomes dominant I will not be able to do this), but also in that VoIP will unfortunately separate us more into language factions than text chat does, for reasons already made clear.

As you see I can talk about this at length, and probably will - for now I should let you off the hook and say that, even if you're not an immersionist (I consider myself an augmentationist), bringing SL closer to the *limitations of* RL will be for the worse, and spawn a vision for the future of metaverses that is feeble, compared to the potential i held in this form of media...

Jesper W. aka Jesper Serapis

Psycho Logie

Gwenyth Llewelyn also wrote two very interesting analysis pieces recently (Issues 14 and 15) in The AvaStar about the future of SL, its scalability and its uniqueness. http://www.the-avastar.com/pdfs/2007/TheAvaStar_Issue15.pdf

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Salvatron, I hope you have read the comments of Laetizia and Economic; in essence, the issue is not that people within the same language group will not be able to talk to each other (they certainly will!), but that people across geographic areas will have much more trouble understanding each other.

Going deep into this issue sadly requires a lot of research. There are, however, a few cases of anedoctal evidence: when US corporations want to move to Europe, they pick the UK or Ireland, because they have the same language; if they want to enter the Asian market, they pick India for the same reason; and in the Middle East you have always Israel, which is pretty much bilingual.

In daily communications outside the business sphere, however, things are pretty less analysed, and I have really just anedoctal evidence to show. I remember a discussion event in SL in late 2004 or so where a native French speaker commented, with indignation, how his not mastering English in an English-speaking world made everybody around him think he was stupid, just because he couldn't speak English very well. He could communicate, but was simply unable to convey the full range of emotions, expressions, and "hints" that an intelligent, native English speaker is able to show to an audience. So he was always the "poor nice guy" in the back row who occasionally made a comment or two, but was mostly disregarded as being "not clever enough because he didn't even speak our language".

This is a common prejudice that I've naturally watched happening in my native country; speak to tourists in broken English, and they will smile understandingly, nod a lot, and leave the conversation with the idea that the "simple natives are so friendly". Just because you don't speak English well doesn't mean you aren't able to discuss Kirkegaard — but in a mostly English world (the Internet!...) this is the impression that people get.

On the other hand,

if I cud only rite lik dis Hamlet wud not rid my blog

Consider how often you fire up your favourite messenger (MSN/Yahoo/AIM...) and someone suddenly pops in with:

U there?
R U married? likes sex?

Well... what does that tell you about the individual trying to communicate? :) He might be an Einstein in his native country, but that certainly will never be believed (after all, Einstein learned English, didn't he? :) )

Now, the point here is that at least, when you type, you can _think_ of what you're writing. Those extra seconds are precious (even if many people simply ignore that and type as fast as they can) for you to remember what the right word is in a certain context. You're not going: "uuuh.... aaah... what's the word again... uh... fish, yes, that's it... nonono... shark, I mean shark, that's the word, shark!" while the audience yawns on you. This means that good writers might not need to be excellent speakers in order to enthrall an audience. :) (in fact, most aren't)

And a final comment for Hamlet... I believe that what we're finding out in research is that people that use voice do it mostly for *entertainment purposes*, and that's why research on MMOs give high results on the acceptance of voice; I'm pretty sure that the entertainment value of Second Life is pretty high, and thus voice in SL will indeed be very well accepted, if not predominant everywhere. On the other hand, it was surprising (for me, at least!) to notice that business and academia actually shun voice. That was an unexpected result that I'm still wondering at.

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