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.
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.QUEEN OF HEARTSThe world is not strange to me. Perhaps it is you, and not the world, that has changed.
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.