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Friday, May 07, 2010


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Ann Otoole

Your analysis that points at the defense force that arises when others that have no clue about the 3D metaverse start pontificating about that which they have no right to criticize is accurate.

Great article that also applies to Linden Lab now that most of the originals are gone.

Yes there is a culture. There is even an arcane language of sorts. (rez, prim, attach, skin, mod/copy/trans, etc.) But all these people, with no 3D metaverse expertise whatesoever, that showed up with Kingdon are oblivious to it as equally they are oblivious to the damage they keep doing to Second Life.

So why should "T" know about it? He just showed up one day and was given damage authority and the wreaking commenced.

Why should the new imports on the commerce team know a damn thing about merchandising in SL? After all they have never run a business working out what succeeds and what doesn't in SL as you claw your way up through the ranks.

What is worst is how these new imports think they know what is good for SL while it is a clear and absolute fact they are not going to be using or be affected by the stuff they force upon their customers (up until the day LL files bankruptcy anyway). Like how the commerce team had no idea why image aspect ratio is important in certain sectors. Like how we had LL bragging about machinima and photography in SL at the very same time they forced a new client on us that is unsuitable for either.

The new Lindens simply do not know and it is increasingly evident LL is just a day job for them.

People that are involved with Second Life as a business need to become involved in this culture and put a few hours a day into working inside SL.

It is called eating their own dog food.

mmm gooood :P

Brenek Warwillow

Absolutely correct. Culture comes from a shared experience and history, determined most by our environment.

Second Life provides an environment and way of interacting (from the GUI to commerce) that compels people to act a certain way, prefer certain things. The buffer from reality also plays a large role.

In many ways, SL is a subculture of the larger internet culture. Casual internet users have little appreciation of memes, leetspeak, existential battles waged by 'groups' like Anonymous, rampant emotional and physical exhibitionism, or the value of sitting in a functionless pixel house with pretend children and multiplying chickens. How does one explain this culture to someone not familiar with it...without them looking at you like you're completely mental?

Is it sufficient to say one is just having fun or expressing fantasies?

Certainly, we all go to SL for different reasons, we have different personalities, and come from different RL cultures. But SL becomes a crossroads that assimilates all of this and does indeed have an observable culture of its own.

T Linden has apparently forgotten about the notion of "community standards" which absolutely relies upon the culture of SL (though influenced by RL legal/social norms). T cites activities (architecture, fashion, dancing and music, and role-play) but these things permeate SL and are defined and influenced by the limits and opportunities of the SL environment.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Very astute point, Hamlet, about how both cultures respond at attack.

That was nice me speaking.

Now snarky me advises you to read James Howard Kunstler's work, at his blog or in "The Long Emergency," if you want to know what passes mainstream US values these days. I make a weekly reference to his point of view over at my blog.

One difference between SL and life in the brick-and-mortar US: Americans of many races and ethnicities, many with vibrant and interesting cultural traditions, good coffee, and interesting food have bet the farm (literally, given the growth of agribusiness) in hypercomsumption and suburban growth that will equally decline with the world's supply of cheap oil.

At least we can run SL on coal-fired power plants while our cars rust on flat tires and the rest of our infrastructure crumbles.

Hurrah for that point of light. Back to work in the garden.

Raven Haalan

Of course SL has a culture! You can't put people together as a group for any length of time without social norms, inside jokes and a shared history emerging that serve to weld the community together.

To think of SL as a "product" is a mistake. SL is a resident created world, hosted on an LL platform. This has created one of the most independent (of the host vendor) customer base cultures in the world. It is a culture that expects flexibility, encourages creativity and is fiercely entrepreneurial.

(If nothing else, we share a common awareness, debate and sense of humor regarding LL's direction, SL's stability, TP failure, Torley's friendly greetings and a discussion of who has what alts.)

Lalo Telling

Thank you, Hamlet, for another voice against the blindness (or deliberate denial, I can't tell which). And thanks, so far, to Anne, Brenek and Raven... couldn't have said it better, though I did try.


Lem Skall

No, there isn't a unifying culture of SL, there is only a tribalism that is unifying a very few people in SL.

Ironically, this tribalism is even turning a lot of people off from SL when you are trying to recruit them in.

Jack Doulton

"What's the evidence of this? A true culture defends itself from outside attack, and sure enough, whenever Second Life is attacked by external critics, all the world's subcultures will unify to defend the whole."

This is tribalism. The tribe uniting in the face of a common enemy. It's a common trait of many tribes regardless of their own culture.

If an outsider were to put a cultural label on SL then primitivism would be the closest label based on the behaviour observed from the outside. In the same way I suppose that outsiders perceive American culture based on what they observe, through film, music, news broadcasts, et al.

Jack Doulton

Edit: looks like Lem had the same thought :)

Brenek Warwillow

The tribalism and defense against external attacks theories proffered by Lem and Jack are misconceived. Tribalism and culture are neither synonymous nor in direct opposition to one another.

In SL, there are furries, hackers, sci-fi RPers, builders, sex seekers, etc. But they all share a common experience in SL, abiding the same limits and opportunities of the world.

A culture is generally defined by comparing it to others. Thus, we can speak of Western culture, American culture, Native American culture, Apache culture, and a great many other cultural subgroups.

The only question is whether the environment of SL engenders a culture that is notably different from others. I've suggested that it may be a subculture of the larger internet culture, but I do think the uniquely immersive and relatively flexible world governed by LL laws does create a culture of its own.

Griefing and privacy concerns are handled and viewed differently than flaming or the divulging of private info elsewhere on the net or in real life. Also, one cannot ignore the SL ownership rights that differ from most everywhere else. All of these things create an observable culture that can be readily differentiated from others on the net or in real life.

Lem Skall

Brenek, I am not denying that there is a culture. I am only saying that it is not a "unifying" one. The same way there is an internet culture that is not unifying the internet "community". People in SL are not united, the SL culture is not powerful enough. Only very, very few people care about SL as a whole.

Remington Soup

I would say that we need to distinguish between 'culture' and 'sub-cultures'. No doubt there are a multiplicity of subcultures in SL, but I would actually argue the the culture is unified.

Culture has to do with the way the world appears to a group of people - how they orient themselves vis-a-vis their surroundings and situation. Given the conventions that we find throughout SL (poseballs, notecards, language like 'prim' and 'rez' as mentioned in a comment above), the world of SL largely appears to residents in the same way - offering the same set of opportunities and considerations. What differs are the sub-cultures that establish normative behaviour patterns within the overarching cultural framework.

Ada Radius

One way that cultures define themselves is in their art forms - visual arts, storytelling and theater, fashion, music. I think Second Life qualifies on this ground - we are making art here that doesn't exist anywhere else. One way that we're not - there is no Second Life cuisine.

Tom Boellstorff

Only have time to give this a quick read, but I think you're right on, Hamlet - there is such as thing as Second Life culture in terms of broadly shared and debated norms, just as there's such a thing as Indonesian culture, Chinese culture, etc., and then also many subcultures and also diasporic or translocal cultures that link far-flung groups of people. The term "culture" has many different definitions and that's part of the confusion. It's important to underscore that something being shared doesn't mean it's agreed upon. All cultures have disagreement and debate. But you can't disagree, argue, debate with someone if you only speak French and they only speak Japanese. There must be something shared, culturally speaking, for the debate to even take place!

Harper Beresford

It's sad that T Linden thinks that Second Life is so unified to say that Second Life doesn't have a unifying culture. What is so amazing about Second Life is that people from all over the world come into this "space," share a currency, share an interface, share a language of objects and exchanges and frustrations, and we continue to persist. If T means culture in some sense of specific tastes as in architecture, art, fashion, then he is speaking about something entirely different and also missing the point of this being, literally, a *social* space.

Jack Doulton

@Brenik. The part of the editorial I quoted asserts that residents banding together to defend SL against external attacks is evidence of culture as this is what true cultures do.

This assertion is false. All true cultures do not band together, provable by observation. Banding together is not evidence of culture. On the other hand all true tribes band together by definition. Banding together is a self-evident tribal function.


Group culture can be narrowly defined as a set of common characteristics and behaviours influenced by circumstantial pressures on the group, a common set ascribed too by both the group and it's observers. This is somewhat limiting, as in addition to this there is a set of common values and mores that the group also ascribes too wittingly or not, one that observers also generally acknowledge is descriptive of the group.

For example, American culture can be ascribed the common value "Mom and apple pie". When this is done we don't get alot of demurral from anyone either in or out of the United States. We get what this means even when the inherent nuance is applied differently on an individual or sectorial basis. Similarly with Australians; "The lucky country" resonates with them as a state of mind and Australians by and large act accordingly. Groups that have their own culture within these broader cultures, can also be simply ascribed. When Maori are asked to ascribe a common value to their culture the response is "He tangata". Anyone observing this group gets it immediately even though there is nuance in this phrase also. This doesn't just apply to ethnic groups. In Japan, business group culture can be summed up as "Kaizen".

The capability to phrase a group culture simply and have it generally accepted as a descriptor both in and out of the group is a valuable tool. The absence of such a phrase does not disprove the existence of a group culture. Its absence or otherwise is however a practical measure of a group's strength and relevance. The stronger a culture is, the easier it is to ascribe common values like "Mom and apple pie" or "Kaizen". They are valuable when used to measure a group culture against itself, or to measure a group against other groups that share a common value or circumstance.

If as SecondLifers we do have a set of characteristics/behaviours common to the group as a whole then do we also have a set of common values/mores? If so then what are they? And if we do know what they are then can we phrase them as simply and easily as strong cultures can?

If we cannot then we have some way to go. When we can only point to shared characteristics and behaviours influenced by circumstance to describe the whole then at best we are a primitive culture, or at the naive stage in our development should one prefer to reference it as such.

Hamlet Au

Good points, Jack, though I don't agree that "Mom and apple pie" is the best signifier for American culture. In any case, I specifically said "a true culture defends itself from outside attack", because I don't necessarily think all cultures always defend themselves from outside attack, but it is *a* sign that a unifying culture exists. Specifically here, because the diverse subcultures in SL will usually defend Second Life with very similar arguments and references that are universal. The sex fiend won't only say "SL is great because it gets my rocks off" and the architect won't only say "SL is great because it saves me time and money" -- they'll also point out the user concurrency, the freeform creativity, the world's economic health, the real world applications, the benefits to individuals, etc. etc. This suggests a shared cultural knowledge and value system they're all drawing from and feel affiliated with, even if their only commonality is being active in SL.

Or to put it another away: I've spoken to thousands of dedicated Residents about why SL is important, and they *all* mention the same themes, ideals, and reasons. Almost like they're quoting the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence. That seems deeper and more transcendent than mere tribalism to me.

Lem Skall

Hamlet, you're not just talking about a unifying SL culture, you are actually trying to convince us and to convert us. Obviously you WANT one, you're not just observing it. Why do you want it?

Hamlet Au

"Want" doesn't enter into it, exactly, I just think a unifying culture exists. I probably wouldn't be able to write and sustain this blog if there wasn't one.

Lem Skall

"I probably wouldn't be able to write and sustain this blog if there wasn't one."

What percentage of SL users read your blog, Hamlet? How many users are "unified" based on that measure?


Agreed Hamlet!

There has always been a distinctly SL culture.

It comes as no surprise to me that T Linden fails to realize it as we have already filled volumes with what Mr. Hale does not get about the SL culture and his obliviousness to what makes it tick.

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