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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


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Miso Susanowa

Nice post Irah/Ana. I agree; the grid's growth is the really exciting story. Great bookmaker analogy :)

Scylla Rhiadra

Irah's analogy of virtual worlds with books is indeed an interesting one. Sir Philip Sidney, in his "Apology for Poetry," compared the poet to the historian, noting that "Nature's world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden." Second Life could indeed be like this: a "golden" world that allows us to imagine a poetic transformation of our own flawed, violent, and often unjust world. And imagining such a world -- a world of tolerance, of care for others, and of near infinite creativity and imagination -- is the first step in working to achieve such a miracle in RL.

That's one of the reasons why SLactivism, as it is sometimes pejoratively termed, has an important role to play in Second Life: not merely because, as Irah notes, SL is a good place to reach many people (Twitter or Facebook would do that better), but because activists within SL work towards helping to achieve this vision of SL as a kind of paradigm or exemplar for the "golden" world that we ultimately want to achieve for our "real" selves, as well as for our avatars.

It's a bit of an uphill slog, however, because the sad truth is that many come to SL not to build something better than RL, but rather to indulge and wallow in the very sorts of destructive behaviours that plague RL. Want to know what it is like to rape someone, or plug them full of holes with an M-16, but don't feel you can safely try such things in the "real world"? Well, SL is here to serve! Be as base, destructive, and antisocial as you want: it's all just a "game" after all!

What a terrible waste of wonderful tool. What is really needed is a collective re-imagining of the potential offered by virtual worlds: a potential not to indulge in all of the brutality and nastiness that would land us behind bars in RL, but rather to build something new and better, something that allows us all to achieve our full human potential -- something, as Sidney said, "golden."

Arcadia Codesmith

Plato believed that the observable world was nothing more than an imperfect shadow cast by a perfect world of idealized forms that could be described simply and elegantly by mathematics.

But Plato was wrong.

Mathematics is a crude tool invented by humans to describe a vast and complex universe of reality. Nature is perfection; mathematics is its poorly-formed shadow.

I love cyberspace and the virtual. It has unprecedented power to bring together the minds and aspirations of people from around the world, and from all walks of life.

But you can't build Utopia in cyberspace. The gold of artifice, be it poetry or 3D modeling, is fool's gold. The only true treasure lies in the messy, smelly, shabby heartbeak of the real world.

The virtual can entertain, educate and inspire us, even provide temporary sanctuary, but if we allow its clean lines and artificial simplicity to seduce us away from nature, it can also destroy us.

Dream abstractly. Act concretely.

Scylla Rhiadra

Agreed, Arcadia: you can't "live in" poetry either. But, just as Plato's ideal forms provide models towards which we might conceivably strive, so too can the worlds and communities that we build in virtual places function to unlock our imaginations and fashion virtual paradigms for how we would *like* to live. And the ability to "realize" our dreams in virtual worlds, if only in virtual form, also suggests the possibility of Second Life's employment as a kind of experimental laboratory for new ideas. (Interestingly, btw, Sir Philip Sidney's comments were written in the context of a counterargument to Plato's attack upon poetry.)

Arcadia Codesmith

I was too dismissive of Sidney's analogy; it may hold more nuance than the poet intended.

Gold is a soft, heavy metal prized for its beauty and rarity. Although warm and attractive, its utility is inverse to its purity for most applications, and thus it is usually alloyed with one or more 'lesser' metals for everyday use.

Brass is an alloy of copper, zinc and other metals. Because of its low value and superficial resemblence to gold, "brazen" and "brassy" have become synonyms for anything flashy and cheap. But for all its poor reputation, brass is much more durable and useful than gold and was ubiquitous in daily life for most people prior to the advent of plastic.

A societal model created in Second Life is indeed golden. It may be quite beautiful and ornate, rare and precious, but subjecting it to the stresses of everyday use would destroy it in short order.

If I were ordered to build a society and as a starting point given 100 lbs of pure gold or 100 lbs of brass, I would most assuredly take the brass. From a starting point of brass, we could rebuild. From a starting point of gold, we would vanish, leaving only pretty trinkets for the archaeolgists to admire.

Scylla Rhiadra

Well, you may be right: metallurgy was never my strong suit. Or Sidney's either, I suppose.

How about instead Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world"? Which, by analogy, would mean that content creators in SL . . . or maybe Philip Rosedale . . . or . . .

You're right. SL is one heck of a fun game! Let's just do whatever the heck we feel like there! Right?

Arcadia Codesmith

Sure, whatever we feel like. Pass me the virtual chocolate chip ice cream. The ten gallon drum, please.

Scylla Rhiadra

Ten gallon? Suddenly I begin to see the true potential of Second Life . . .

Arcadia Codesmith

Yes, clean out the ice cream store without gaining an ounce.

Chimera Cosmos aka Liz Dorland

Ah! I thought I recognized that snapshot of Irah when I started to read this post. She came into SL while in Iraq around the time of the elections in Feb 09.

I missed this story when it first came out last week. I just now saw it. And Chimera's snapshot.

Thanks Hamlet. :-)

Liz D. / Chimera

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