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Friday, January 02, 2009


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Veeyawn Spoonhammer

I usually tell them I'll drag them into the future kicking and screaming. sigh.

Tonjampae Amat

Funny. I have had those same recurrent conversations.

Usually I tell people about the beauty of the fully-functioning and digitally self-sustained island Svarga. Or about the mathematical prodigy that The Crooked House is.

I tell them about the well-crafted roleplaying environment of Toxia (my SL home). Or about the friendly, smart and musically tuned folks at Club Industry.

I tell them about the beautiful things that Slade Onikuza does. Or about the art pieces that are shown at Devils Pocket.

I have introduced people to some SL related blogs, such NWN here, or Prad Prathivi’s.

Some get it.

Some don’t. And just say “Yeah, but I heard that there is a lot of people in there just to have sex with other people”.

To those last I usually reply: “Well, yes, you can do that if that is what caught your attention”.

Crap Mariner

Never a crowd. The more people in a group, the less intelligence collectively.

One at a time, direct engagement.

Pavig Lok

There are plenty of arguments for why virtual worlds make sense. They're difficult to pull out on the spot, because.. well... you usually need to explain a lot of background stuff. The most succinct post i've read recently on it was by mister Wolfie Rankin (which can be read at http://wolfiesworld-oz.blogspot.com/2008/12/those-sick-people-on-secondlife.html ).

Despite coming from a disability perspective, it makes an interesting point - that SL is no more strange than skype, but for most basic human interaction, more comfortable. This is the hardest thing to explain to folk, because it is the simplest. SL is a place where you can meet people and do things, the same things you may do in real life, and that's about it.

The view from the outside may seem like people with hand puppets acting out punch and judy interactions, but from the inside it's normal folk doing and talking about normal stuff.

Social networking like facebook may seem easier to grasp, but is far more abstract due to being out of real time and with messy distinctions regarding privacy. Eg. folk you remotely know are acutely aware of your second bottle of red at 5am, a secret you hoped to share with a friend who knew it's meaning. Out of context suddenly takes on the same news quality as our public media: "last night while I was asleep britney hit the charts again, israel hit gaza, and some fellow who knows X got drunk."

Our availability to scrutiny on the internet means we're taken out of context by default, and only those who know us really well can interpret our actions in the context of our wider personalities and histories. In contrast however, those who meet us in SL are present at the time: we are a person to them, and if they misinterpret who we are, we are able to respond. If they're asleep at the time, they'll never know. That bottle of wine may be a symbol of a breakup, a new job, a decision to leave the country and travel, an end or a beginning. To the person we meet in SL who we tell, the take home is not the drink but the event that prompted it.

In this way Second Life interactions happen with the whole person. The familiar web2.0 social network interactions look anemic in comparison - something that only webstars can manipulate to their advantage.... and effusive teens of course.

All media show only aspects of a person, and online media, constrained by bandwidth and the time economies we have (we can't live online) show a tiny portion. Virtual worlds however allow us to put ourselves "out there" in the way we do in real life, in real time, and witness to our witnesses. Unlike the rest of the web there's no hiding - if you see me I see you too.

These are the fundamental rules of human interaction in the real world. Those who are present at an event are accountable for their behavior, and those who are not privy to the event are not privileged with vicarious rights to it. In other words, in virtual worlds you have to be there to participate.

Lately I've given up trying to sell virtual worlds as "normal", because it's a very hard sell. It's easier to point out that they're about as normal as the social networking that most folk are already using. There's always a "yeah but" factor around avatars, but that's easy to dismiss. If you point out how creepy social networking is capable of being, in say facebook, myspace, choose your own, then it's easy to point out how virtual worlds can be less creepy due to the value of proximity in establishing relationships.

Everyone it seems have social network "friends" they hardly know and would rather do without. It's very simple to explain that the power of virtual worlds is that when you meet those people you can politely walk away. This is what you would do in real life, and there is no system of abstraction about what that defriending button means - no politeness theory to adhere to bar the moment. You can choose your context and timing. You can capture the perfect moment.

Establishing that negative is important, as it's a distinction between worlds where you are present and the general web2.0 sphere where you are always partially there. If you are fully there you can choose not to be, and by the same token if you choose to be it shows conviction. Much of friendship and human interaction is "just turning up" as a friend said. SL friends are folk you choose to be with, rather than those who politeness requires you press a "friend" button for.

... and that, to me is the argument for virtual worlds. They're just... more... "real". :)


At what point is the "Second Life" name a liability for Linden Lab if they want this to be mainstream?

Ann Otoole

CeN better polish up that resume and get some opportunities lined up since that job is unlikely to go anywhere now. Been there done that. Last time I was accused of being an al queda money launderer by an extremely stupid person that works for a top consulting company.

No you cannot admit to Second Life. Not until Linden Lab has some serious commercials going to make it a household name anyway. After all WoW is "srs bsns" now what with the likes of Mr. T and Ozzie endorsements. But then WoW is marketed as what Second Life is: Entertainment. If Linden Lab wants this to change then they need to split the company into a government and corporate services division with a separate grid for corporate/government ghosttowns and have the Second Life division be run as an entertainment platform. The entertainment side will wind up carrying the corporate division since Linden Lab has been beaten to the government and corporate services sector quite soundly.

IBM/Forterra Systems markets virtual world space for meetings and training on OLIVE and gets taken seriously. Nobody laughs at that.

Dusan Writer

Interesting this comes up - I was talking to a relative today - mid-60s, and she was asking about all this "new stuff" I'm doing. She knew a little about what a virtual world was but only very vaguely. The way I described it was:

"Imagine if you were visiting a Web site you really like and you turned around and there was someone else there browsing the site as well, you say hi, you discover a shared passion for Yoga, and you go for a little chat over coffee. That's what a virtual world is like."

She then asked for the Second Life Web address. :)


"In stead of just passively looking for pr0n, you're kids now are at least actively engaging in it and being social!"

Err... no, that's not it? To be serious, how I describe Second Life depends on the person whom I'm talking to. If they are +70 it's "like a movie you can walk around in, and you can help choose the scenario and move things around". I usually mention the parts that I know will interest people. (to some that's more fashion choice, to others it's roleplay, even others it's live music, ... and to the 'tekkie' friends it's "hey, but there's opensim, you can mess around with that!")

Chimera Cosmos

I talk about the several hundred universities with SL presence, the multiple Princeton sims, the NPiRL-type wonders, and the 10K IBM employees who meet regularly in SL (is that still a correct number?). And the carbon footprint. And the like. :-)

Madame Maracas

I have a friend that described SL as "what we all thought the web should be", however I usually say it is "ID (as in id ego superego) run amok". For a very short definition/description of SL.

It is a creative wonderland, where the cost of initiating really any project is incredibly low, the initial learning curve is a little steep if one enters without someone to hold your hand for the first few hours, so I strongly suggest pairing up with (me, someone, anyone experienced) to get through that part.

For me it has rekindled my love of 3D art (building), texture work and DJing, things I did in other forms IRL but had lost due to the time constraints of life in general. Most importantly, SL has afforded me contact with folks all over the world, folks I'd never have met any other way, friendships that have truly enriched and changed my life in more ways than I can count here.

Eric Rice

To the social media web 2.0 crowd, I essentially say that what people do in SL is the same thing they do when they use Twitter, facebook, or blogs. They socialize, the connect, they create. So they can't *technically* diss it.

Biggest challenge is IF it is a requirement that we must do this in 3D. As I get older in the metaverse, I find that no, I'd actually rather not.

The only place where it's not weird to do things in 3D is a game world. Context is huge.

More people want to consume than create, and the proliferation of worlds will continue to lean towards top-down content or very very restricted content.

After all, look at all the people who hate the 'filth' of Sony's Home, and the only thing that they provide is dance animations. If that can be abused, certainly the power to create can as well.

Then again, we have tons of map editors for games. Halo 3, Unreal, Far Cry... why is that not weird again?

Best description I heard someone say about SL is that it's like Visual Basic for wannabe game devs. I agree with that, since it was the stepping stone for me to say, ok, I'm getting into game dev, because the barrier was lowered to creating interactive 3D places, something not readily available to us until now.

It sometimes works. Mostly, I ignore it at this point.

(Disclaimer: I have done countless print and television interviews about SL, as well as spoken at many conferences about virtual worlds.)

Iggy O

I guess it depends on the audience. Academics understand, by and large. It's one demographic where SL is getting more press of a positive sort.

I find that some non-academics who play games get it.

Those who think all gaming is only for geeky loners and is somehow "creepy" are generally unreachable. There's no use telling a bunch of typically moronic Americans, addicted to crappy popular culture, fast food, suburban sprawl, and a dead medium called television, that a creative alternative exists.

Might as well teach them to love good cinema, fine wines, walkable city neighborhoods, and Beebop. But hey, it's lonely being an elitist. Just keep you lip buttoned down and enjoy your quiet pleasures in the company of others who are worth your while. When pushed into a corner, admit that there are goofy addicts in SL, but there are addicts everywhere. Ask them how much TV they consume and which shows they simply must watch. Then tell them that for you, SL is a hobby.

Finally, wait for their children to grow up and emigrate to virtual worlds (as Edward Castronova predicts in his book Exodus to the Virtual World).

Until then, just give up on trying to educate a pack office clones. I hope it's different in other nations.

Caliburn Susanto

I've shared my Second Life addiction with my co-workers from day one. A few sneer, most don't care, some are intrigued, and a few are amazed.

If they want to know more about it I show them photos and machinima and that's all it takes for them to understand it. Nearly everyone has played a video game; I just add "but the difference is all the other characters aren't programs, they are avatars; another person interacting with you and each other."

My desktop wallpaper is always an in-world photo of mine, changed at least weekly, and my screen saver is a slide show of dozens of in-world locations. More than once I've found people standing at my computer watching the slide show. Invariably they say, "Wow. That looks really really cool. Unfortunately, my [significant other] would kill me if I spent my free time addicted to a computer world, so I'm going to have to stay away from it and just enjoy it vicariously." :-)


In such conversations, I speak about the things that actually capture my attention most, which is the innovation happening in nearly every field: education, artificial intelligence, media, social research, medicine, architecture, the arts as well as straight-out technical development of services that support business productivity.

I usually follow that up with a statement similar to: "I actually cannot think of a more diverse and rich R&D environment than this one, even if most of it remains very quietly under the radar."

After this, nobody ever thinks to ask me about virtual sex.

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