Monday, May 17, 2010

What's Behind The Recent Focus on Second Life Culture

Culture has become an increasingly vital topic in the Second Life blogosphere over the last six months or so. This issue has emerged in response to an unprecedented series of actual and anticipated changes in technology and governance that will likely impact the status quo of almost every Second Life sub-culture and community of interest

We are therefore working to distinguish which aspects of Second Life are crucial to the continuity of the groups we care about. We are also considering whether what we personally hold dear in Second Life has a value to the wider world. The recent focus on the cultural aspects of Second Life is at least partially an attempt to articulate in understandable terms a worth that seems self-evident to participants.

After reading many of the recent posts and comments on the topic, I have couple cautions about the use of the Second Life Culture meme:
  • The use of the concept of culture as an argument for policy decisions has a lot of emotional baggage.  It can therefore stimulate knee-jerk reactions that are neither relevant to the Second Life discussion, nor conducive to clear thinking.
  • Culture is such a complex and broad concept that it tends to stimulate conversations that are more about semantic disagreement than clear examinations of the salient conditions, causes and effects related to the actual issues. 
Despite these concerns, I believe that the recent focus on culture has added a useful dimension to our ongoing conversation about Second Life.  For the best overview of the discussion to date, along with excerpts and links to key posts from Second Life bloggers, see Grace McDunnough's Search for A Second Life Culture or Omphaloskepsis.)  



Lalo Telling said...

Your cautions are, unfortunately, "right on the money". As a result, I've decided to stand back (for a while, anyway) from posting further on the subject.

Lem Skall said...

So much talk about it and I still don't see from any of your blog posts nor from the others: what exactly is the problem that you are trying to solve and what is the solution that you are proposing? Really, never mind the solution for now, what is the problem? A lot of words and a lot of subtle suggestions like "communities wither without a culture" (this one is Grace's) but nothing concrete yet.

Botgirl Questi said...

Lem: The problem I believe most writers are trying to bring to light is a lack of thinking and communication about the possible ramifications of changes in policy, strategy, technology, etc. related to Second Life.

Over the past year, Linden Lab has made a series of significant changes that many community members have perceived as consequential to their experience:

- Adult content moved out of mainland
- Linden Lab acquisition of both web-based shopping sites
- New third-party browser policy
- 2.0 Client
- Multiple changes that seem encourage a change from a social environment entirely based on avatar identity, to one that is more focused on human identity
- Impending addition of mesh-based content that will open the gate to professional modelers

I think the solution we're proposing is to spend more time thinking through the ramifications of such changes before making them.

Lalo Telling said...

@botgirl: That's a well-packed nutshell. However, I think there's room for one more change, a bit less concrete but no less consequential:

- Multiple changes in-world (Linden Homes; Discovery Islands) coupled with new promotions, which seem to press for a shift from a creative experience to one driven by consuming.

Lem Skall said...

Botgirl, actually, a lack of thinking and communication is what I have seen in all these blogs about culture. Maybe that is the unifying culture of SL that connects all of us AND LL.

Lem Skall said...

Regarding the above comment, I just couldn't think of a better retort to such a bunch of running around the bush.