How Has Male Privilege Hurt Second Life's Development?

Second Life male privilege sexism

Cajsa Lilliehook, from her blog

When Linden Lab first started developing Second Life, only about 20-25% of its staff were women -- and as I recall, only one of those women was on the development team. When I left Linden Lab in 2006, the gender split was a bit better (but not by much), say 30%. But again (with some notable exceptions), few women were (or are) directly involved in SL's design or development. I was thinking about all this last week, after writing about the woman who was harassed in Second Life and then into the real world, and how it made me re-think encouraging more linkage between Second Life avatars with real life identify. And as SL blogger Cajsa Lilliehook bluntly me put it to me:

"I have often thought you were too glib about it because you are a man. You have the privilege of not having to think about personal safety in the same way that women must in our society. I am sad this woman has been harassed and it is a horrible thing, but I appreciate that you have at least begun rethinking your opinion."

She has very valid points. In the wake of Gamergate especially, I've belatedly become much more aware how rampant and frankly terrifying this reality is for women. But back in 2010-2011 when I first wrote about the value of Facebook integration with SL -- which Linden Lab also did, calling Facebook "The Best Place" to find Second Life content -- I was much less aware. Back then, I even talked about Facebook integration with some Linden Lab staff -- all male -- and we were all perplexed why a feature that had so much value was being resisted so vehemently by so many SLers. We men were wrong to look beyond the safety of our own perspective.

Which is why I wanted to expand this point to a larger, open forum question:

How has male privilege and bias hurt Second Life's development?

Because it's not a question of If, but How. It does make a difference that the vast majority of Second Life developers were (and are) male. Here's an example from 2004, how a male perspective influenced even how female avatars sit:

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Where in Second Life Should You Go on SL Go's Last Day?

SL Go Second Life closing

SL Go is going away today, and while another Second Life streaming service is starting to come online, chances are it'll be many months before we're able to enjoy similar high resolution across many devices that everyone loved about SL Go.

With some 12 hours left to enjoy SL Go, where should you go? Here's five places to get you started:

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Top 6 Virtual Reality & Virtual World Predictions for 2015 from New World Notes

VR Second Life predictions

I better post our VR/VW predictions for 2015 before we get any deeper into this year, or for that matter, incoming news (like this) makes them already seem outdated. Here's my favorite from our open forum:

  • The Oculus Rift will not be made available for general consumer use this year. Instead, they'll expand their beta developer program throughout 2015. (Hamlet Au)
  • "Second Life 2" and High Fidelity will both be out in Beta this year (RoblemVR)
  • When it comes to virtual world software, both Linden Lab and High Fidelity will be medium to small players. (Anonymous)
  • A large chunk of SL users will abandon Second Life for SL2, leading to a loss of 5000 to 7000 regions in the first year of SL 2. (OU812)
  • "I don't expect to see anything dramatic in terms of virtual worlds this year, it's much too soon." (Ciaran Laval)
  • Virtual land in SL 2 will be substantially larger (4096x4096 meters) and substantially cheaper "while the Lab will take 30% cut from content sales". (Cube Republic)

Some of these are mutually exclusive and/or subject to interpretation -- but that just means a fun debate in late December!

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Open Forum: What Are Your 2015 Predictions for SL, SL2, High Fidelity, and VR in General?

VR Second Life predictions

Let's start this New Year, as we often do, with a New World Notes open forum for 2015 predictions on the future of Second Life, Second Life 2, High Fidelity, Oculus Rift, and virtual reality in general -- the more concrete the better, so we can definitively confirm whether they happened or not at the end of 2015.

To get the virtual ball rolling, I'll start. I think there's going to a Trough of Disillusionment around VR this year, that's going to lead to this specific thing happening:

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Open Forum: What are the Best New/Updated Second Life Sims We Should be Sure to See?

Air Pirate town of Hakone Second Life

New World Notes began as in-world coverage of Second Life creativity, and since it still remains among the very best examples of user-generated content anywhere on the Internet, that coverage will continue to be an anchor for this blog. To that end, Iris and I are planning to expand our coverage of Second Life sims over the next few months, which is something I've been longing to do for quite awhile. We're especially looking for new or greatly updated sims which make use of the latest tools and features, or like Hakone, which I visited some months ago, are just supremely cool. Just as key are great communities or ongoing group projects/content creation/mini-MMOs, like Godswar, especially if we haven't been able to cover them on NWN before.

Any come to mind? Please post SLurls and descriptions in Comments below, and expect a visit from Iris or me soon.

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NWN's Post-Summer Open Forum: What Should We Be Blogging About on New World Notes This Fall?

New World Poke

I was going through my Summer photos (hence the poke on a Pringle chip above), when I suddenly realized, Hey, Summer is over. A good time for an open forum with an open-ended question:

What should we be blogging about on New World Notes this Fall, and why?

And yes, self-promotion is OK, possibly even encouraged -- as long as you include a lot of useful links, especially SLurls if it's Second Life-related.

Open Forum: Why Is Second Life Machinima Waning?

Visually, Second Life has never looked better or been more versatile than it's ever been before (assuming you have a high-end machine), but apart from an occasional gem like the airborne travelogue above (highlighted by Iris recently), I haven't seen much excellent Second Life machinima in many, many months. You go to the YouTube feed for Second Life-related videos, you get barraged by SL griefer videos, Linden Dollar scammer videos, the occasional Linden Lab-sponsored video, random SL footage videos, and other effluvia. But far as actual, formal, narrative machinima which takes full advantage of Second Life as a platform, selections are getting pretty sparse.

Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions:

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Virtual World/Gaming Academics: What Are the Best Academic Studies on Race & Avatars in Second Life?

Second Life academic studies on race

I was just chatting with a graduate student whose thesis revolves around Second Life, and she brought up an interesting point: There seems to be few academic studies on race and avatars in Second Life. "I think it is fair to say that in general there is a huge gap in the literature," as Karley Aiken, an MA candidate at San Francisco State University, put it to me. "[M]y initial search found very few results, leading me to assess that there is a huge gap in the literature. One would expect that, given the amount of literature dedicated to sex and gender within Second Life, there would be a comparative amount of research on race and the dynamics of race and ethnicity. But it's missing."

While searching, she often instead found New World Notes posts on race, like this classic about a white woman who experienced Second Life as a black avatar. And to be honest, after writing anecdotal posts like that, I expected (and hoped) academics would run with the topic in a more rigorous way. And maybe we're just not looking in the right places, but evidently, studies like that are scarce.

So help us out, virtual world/gaming academics: Have you come across papers like this?

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Open Forum: Ask & Answer Second Life User Questions Here

I often get IMs and e-mails from Second Life users asking me for technical support, or have account management questions which I'm not able to answer for various reasons. (Chief among them, I haven't been a contractor for Linden Lab for over six years.) Instead of leaving those requests unanswered, here's an open forum comment thread for NWN readers to help each other. If you're an SL expert and have some time, please jump in!

Open Forum: What's Your Most Important Experience from Second Life's Last 10 Years?

Second Life 10th anniversary memories

This coming Sunday is Second Life's official 10th anniversary, and I'll be writing a lot about that soon, and what that means to me. But I also want to write about what it means to you, good reader, so please share: In all the time you've been logging into Second Life, what's been your most important experience there? Please share in Comments, and I'll highlight my favorites in posts next week. (So be sure to include your SL username and links/SLurls, for credit.)

And since I'm asking, I'll start first:

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