Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Indifference and Disillusionment: Has Second Life Changed or Have I?


ALICE
Hello, your majesty. I hope you can help me. I have found myself in a strange new world and now I don't know what to do. 
QUEEN OF HEARTS
The world is not strange to me. Perhaps it is you, and not the world, that has changed.
I thought I'd merely written a silly video script using characters from Alice in Wonderland. But it turns out it was a very good metaphor for my current experience of Second Life.

Just two years ago, I gave a very positive keynote speech about virtual worlds at the 2011 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference. Today, I have almost no interest in the topic. I barely log in. And when I do, as Alice said, I don't know what to do. What happened? How did I go from an avid proponent of virtual worlds and avatar identity to this current state of indifference?  Was the Queen right? Has Second Life changed or have I?

I first became active in Second Life in January of 2008 when the utopian "Immersionist" movement was at its peak. The philosophy postulated that people could build a better world, free of prejudice and class distinction, by establishing pseudonymous virtual identities that would be independent of physical life distinctions.

For a time, it seemed like the approach was viable. There were international scientific and religious conferences promoted by people known only by their virtual identities, attended by mainstream leaders in their fields. Major corporations such as IBM and the Associated Press were establishing virtual presences in Second Life. There were well known creatives who seemed to be making a living creating virtual goods or buying and selling virtual real estate.  I knew a number of seemingly blissful couples who knew each other solely by their virtual identities. Many of us felt we were actualizing new human potential by living significant parts of our lives through avatar identities. We thought we were going to change the world. Unfortunately, the approach proved unsustainable.

By 2010, the leadership and most active participants of the movement were gone. Second Life stopped being a venue for major conferences. Most physical world corporations were long gone. And although most Second Lifers still are known only by their virtual identities, the Immersionist movement was pretty much dead.

As the Immersionist movement was dying, I was shifting my focus from 3D avatar identity to the concept of "transworld" identity across social networks and other 2D internet communities. Virtual identity went from being an area of research and experimentation to just something I lived. My use of Second Life shifted from the exploration of virtual identity and community to using it as a platform for creative works, such as comics and machinima. In retrospect, this made Second Life just another platform. I found myself gravitating more to social networks for community and communication. And I started shifting to different tools for videos and images.

So it's fair to say that Second Life has changed and so have I.

Over the past year, my primary area of interest has been moving to the impact of pervasive network connectivity and mobile computing, which I have been pursuing through my job. I hope to share some of that here when it makes sense. I've also had some health issues that were the biggest factor in less creative output here this year. I'm on the mend and hope to get back to a more regular and energized creative practice.

11 comments:

ric said...

La comunidad virtual ha cambiado, eso es una verdad aplastante.

La mejora gráfica del medio no ha venido de la mano de una mejora a "nivel general".
Second Life en su totalidad es como un cerebro, un corazón pensante por miles y miles de almas que comparten sus inquietudes. A pesar de los cambios en la dirección. Los residentes siguen siendo el motor principal.

Creo que se han radicalizado las experiencias. Los personajes han agudizado el ingenio para sobrevivir en la comunidad virtual.

De la misma manera el pícaro, el ladrón, el tramposo con el sistema. Reclama para si una porción de autenticidad. Pero es labor del administrador, como existe en todos los lugares, dirigir y orientar el camino, la tendencia. Y no puede permitir el actual estado de cosas.

El que sea un ser creativo debe poder expresarse y progresar. Debe progresar mucho más. Y no quedar aturdido por un entorno esquemático, dogmático que limite su experiencia. En este sentido la voluntad de volverse más y más mayoritario le hacer perder identidad.

Precioso tu trabajo, sigue así. Tu eres la demostración que podemos hacer una comunidad virtual diferente. Por favor no nos dejes.


Ricblas Ferraris.



Savoree LeDesir said...

As a wise person once said: Wherever you go, there you are.

Bob Hooker said...

3 years ago I made the same change, becoming more interesting in mapping Social Media usage in the real world and looking at mobile apps.

iliveisl said...

nice introspection - change is inevitable - my usage of virtual worlds has become highly utilitarian, much like Photoshop is

Nightflower said...

Preach it, sister.

As you know, I've always had a host of personal issues that made SL a mixed blessing, at best. But during the "golden age" you describe, I felt more alive in SL than i did in RL. The place felt alive with brilliant, passionate, creative minds, all striving to discover what this new frontier could mean to them and who they might become.

But somehow, sadly, the age passed. We all felt it go. Our pursuits started to feel hollow. Some became disillusioned when the promise of virtual life was never fulfilled. Some found that SL was really just a springboard into other adventures. and frankly, some just burned out.

Slowly, these spirits moved on. Some left before I did, and I watched some go from afar. And while I have no doubt that SL is today still full of geniuses, the spirit has changed.

As you have concluded...it is not what it was, and we are not who we were.

Well said, my friend.

Nightflower said...

Preach it, sister.

As you know, I've always had a host of personal issues that made SL a mixed blessing, at best. But during the "golden age" you describe, I felt more alive in SL than i did in RL. The place felt alive with brilliant, passionate, creative minds, all striving to discover what this new frontier could mean to them and who they might become.

But somehow, sadly, the age passed. We all felt it go. Our pursuits started to feel hollow. Some became disillusioned when the promise of virtual life was never fulfilled. Some found that SL was really just a springboard into other adventures. and frankly, some just burned out.

Slowly, these spirits moved on. Some left before I did, and I watched some go from afar. And while I have no doubt that SL is today still full of geniuses, the spirit has changed.

As you have concluded...it is not what it was, and we are not who we were.

Well said, my friend.

Nightflower said...

Preach it, sister.

As you know, I've always had a host of personal issues that made SL a mixed blessing, at best. But during the "golden age" you describe, I felt more alive in SL than I did in RL. The place felt alive with brilliant, passionate, creative minds, all striving to discover what this new frontier could mean to them and who they might become.

But somehow, sadly, the age passed. We all felt it go. Our pursuits started to feel hollow. Some became disillusioned when the promise of virtual life was never fulfilled. Some found that SL was really just a springboard into other adventures. And frankly, some just burned out.

Slowly, these spirits moved on. Some left before I did, and I watched some go from afar. And while I have no doubt that SL is today still full of geniuses, the spirit has changed.

As you have concluded...it is not what it was, and we are not who we were.

Well said, my friend.

Botgirl Questi said...

It would be fun to find out what other people who were really active in SL back then and have left are focusing on these days. Also what they think of the Immersionist ideal in retrospect.

Botgirl Questi said...

Night: It's so good to hear from you, my old partner in creative crime! I hope you've found another venue to inspire and channel your creative energy.

livingvirtually said...

Since you asked...

I joined SL in 2007 for the art and immediately latched onto the creative possibilities of the medium. I built and built and built. But I did grow disillusioned and tired around the same time you did.

As new grids started popping up, I became a "grid surfer" - always a tourist, never a resident. Then I found InWorldz. I'm happy to report that I'm busier and more creative on that grid that I ever was in SL.

Why?

I think it has to do with the change in direction by LL. After Philip left (the first time), LL became a heavy hand in the world. Where they used to be laid back ringmasters, they slowly became a dictatorship.

It. Stopped. Being. Fun.

On InWorldz, that air of discovery and excitement remains. The founders keep only a light touch on the reins, for the most part. Sure, they have their moments, but they are receptive to critique in high contrast to LL's deafness.

The tech underlying InWorldz isn't as sophisticated as in SL. I see that as a feature. However, mesh and physics have recently been introduced.

Founder, Tranquility Dexler, has created two innovative products. Dreamshare that lets you show your work to anyone anywhere on the web. And now, InShape, a program that ties your phone to your exercise equipment and walks your avatar while you work out. Tranq ran the IW RLF for real in his home gym yesterday.

I've become more involved in IW that I ever did in SL. It's a smaller community, for sure, but the same ratio of buttheads to angels still exists.

It feels like SL used to feel for me a long time ago. And I am continuing to love my virtual life as much as ever.

Frau Jo Yardley said...

My SL has been the opposite.
When I first joined in 2007 I found a chaotic big pile of digital weirdness.
Everywhere I went people were either doing virtual hanky panky, being rude or doing something as boring as shopping so they could look like Barbie.
I went to a few places, only found shops, night clubs and adult places filled with horrible people and I left SL, for ever.

Till I got a new computer, wanted to test its abilities, remembered SL being very demanding and downloaded it again.
This time however I accidentally found a place that I did like and to my surprise it was full of people that I liked.
I came back a few times, started chatting, realised THE secret behind SL (if you can't find what you like, build it) and started on the 1920s Berlin Project.
And ever since SL has been getting more and more interesting, exciting and fun.
Technology is moving forward, my options to build and run/be part of our little community are improving and changing all the time, I can build more and more and am even managing to make a little money now and then.
SL is good and getting better all the time, for me anyway.
I'm planning a dozen new sims and have enough plans and inspiration to keep building stuff for a decade.
In over 4 years I've been in SL almost daily, haven't had a burnout, haven't been bored, haven't had any serious drama.
Maybe that is because I've build something in SL that I would kill for to be able to visit in RL, a place where I could very happily spend the rest of my RL life, if I could.
Every time I log into SL I am happy to see my virtual community and feel like I'm home.
It takes a lot to get tired of that.