[-empyre-] Being a Second Life newbie - uncanny interactions

As I mentioned in my first post, I'm still a bit of a newbie in SL and I find the whole experience alternately fascinating and frustrating. I can still remember the first time I entered Second Life and how clumsy and stupid I felt. Going into SL for the first time is a bit like entering a foreign country where you don't yet know the language and customs. You have to learn how to walk and how to get around in this new environment - there are menus and keyboard shortcuts to learn - it's not simple and it takes work!

The experience is even more frustrating if you have a slow graphics card (as I did on my previous computer) or a slow connection. It's humiliating (although quite funny I do admit) to be constantly walking into walls or water and missing doorways and falling off stairs. For a while I was constantly relying on more adept avatar friends to teleport me to locations I couldn't get to on my own! I went from being a competent and adept adult in the real world to a clumsy and accident-prone klutz in SL ... a salutary experience ... it makes you understand a bit of what it must be like to be a foreigner in a new country or an infant learning how to control its control its body and move around in the adult world.

The experience of not being totally in control of your avatar body is an interesting one though, and one which doesn't go away even when you do get the hang of operating your new virtual body. There is an interesting tug of war between what you want your avatar to do, and what the animation software (and technical constraints) allows. Even now, I often feel like my avatar's actions are out of my control, controlled as much by the software environment and constraints of SL as by my own intentions. These default animations, such as the weirdly uncoordinated default newbie walk or the clumsy fall to the ground when you stop flying, can be overriden by setting your own animations but this is not an entirely simple process! Although I hate it when my avatar Bella Bouchard becomes a possessed zombie puppet, her head stupidly swaying from side to side and her arm spastically twisting behind her back, I do find it kind of intriguing and humorous as well. Avatars walk through each other (sometimes getting stuck together in the process), clothes re-arrange themselves in strange ways when you sit down on strange objects ... trickster avatars trap you in cages when you're innocently shopping and not paying attention (well, it happened to me anyway!) ... and then good samaritan avatars help you to escape :) And even the most experienced SL resident and skilled animation designer can still fall victim to the vagaries of the SL environment as their animations load in unpredictable ways or stall halfway through due to network congestion.

But the constraints, glitches and gremlins in the SL environment are part of what I find most intriguing about the SL experience. One of the things I most enjoy is the ghostly and uncanny quality of avatars when they arrive somewhere after being teleported and their grey shapes get filled in with faces, hair and clothes (sometimes arriving all together and sometimes piece by piece). I love this breaking of the illusion as the environment and its inhabitants are drawn and animated in real-time. While sometimes frustrating, these technical constraints due to network congestion and other glitches are an integral part of the SL aesthetic and experience and I'll kind of miss them when all the kinks get ironed out and the illusion become more seamless.

I'm curious to hear about other participants experiences of being a newbie ...



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