Re: [-empyre-] discussion on Second Life in another list

Hi everyone,

Allow me to jump in here and provide a brief introduction. I'm Scott Kildall (a.k.a. Great Escape), working in the performance art group Second Front and also in a couple of other SL projects including the Paradise Ahead series that Patrick mentioned in his well-written missives ( Currently I'm working on a collaborative project with Victoria Scott called No Matter ( which is one of the Mixed Realities commissions awarded through Turbulence that Jo just posted.

That's it for the intro.

This discussion has brought up many issues. What Second Life has accomplished -- if nothing else -- is to provide fodder for interesting conversations.

Ana (the skeptic) brings in points that have also amazed me. Why is Second Life so mainstream? With the possibility for endless modifications on avatar looks and anonymous modes of social interaction, I'd expect more creativity and more anarchy. The possibilities are endless, but most interactions I've had are disappointing. Strangers are friendly. They usually talk about Second Life. Their clothes are fashionable and fit the skinny/muscular idealized body types.

Some of this starts with the structural and then cultural values push through mainstream behavior. The freebies are mostly objects that have often been translated directly from RL: condos, ferraris and other luxury items. Without material costs and with labor time worth a fraction of what you can pay in RL (you can get custom items built for as low as $4/hour). The desire for status and goods can be satiated in SL. People replicate patterns that they already see, stemming from experiences in everyday life and then their first impressions in the SL world. As newbies become veterans, attachment shifts away from goods and status focuses on land ownership with appealing 'builds' along with value attached to celebrity status and social groups.

With more than 20 characters in one space, the network slows to a crawl. Information exchange is still decentralized. The servers crash. The 3D architecture is primitive. Linden Labs doesn't have an elected government or any sort of public accountability and yet is producing a world of creative expression which seems at odds with any sort of political debate. Still there is hope.

Ricardo points out that the _possibility_ exists for SL to be so queer and in the true sense of the word. SL is still very hetero -- though it is impossible to tell true gender (voice chat will shake this up). Gay neighborhoods exist in SL but they are still often segregated from the straight. Once again, I don't think you can escape RL patterns so easily. But, I have heard many people tell me that on SL they have been able to explore issues of sexuality and sexual identity in a unique way. I'm not sure of all of these facets, but this aspect ties back to avatar mods and anonymity.

The kind of expression exists, but like in Real Life, it is in the margins. But, in SL you can at least escape (most) persecution. No one can hurt you physically. It is against the 'law' in SL to harass people. There are many protections for queer expression that RL doesn't offer.

As a social space, I have serious doubts about Second Life. There are exceptions. It heartening to hear people write about non-profit activism models in Second Life; I like the idea of business meetings and conversations happening through simulated worlds -- never a substitutions for actual face time, but strangely more human than speakerphone meetings. And there are other compelling factors such as the chance encounters which have been increasingly cut out of western lifestyles.

For artwork, the possibilities are enormous. Like Jo, I also enjoy the empty spaces. It feels like a dream or a like a post-plague society. The structures remain intact. You can go into most places, but you don't own them. You don't have to socialize. This is what initially drew me into Second Life. For the first 3 or 4 months, I had no friends and would walk around and explore. I saw desire embedded in infinite real estate -- a sort of extension of Los Angeles.

Right now, I'm at the point of criticality with socializing in Second Life but am still deeply invested in it as a part of artistic practice.


On Aug 7, 2007, at 9:42 AM, Ana Valdés wrote:

Hi Christy and thanks for your input! I think the problem with SL is
the lacking of audience (depending of the technical problems, too
difficult to have more than 100 avatars in the same room connected at
the same time) and it's reproductive character. For me, used to Neal
Stephenson's metaverse and to Courtenay Grimwood's universes it's
difficult to grasp why SL is now so mainstream and so flat.
The censure exerced from the Linden Labs (owners and developers of SL)
against all critical voices has been a strong issue for me and for
others who want democracy and participation in cyberspace, as much we
want it for real life and for "this world".
SL should be an arena for experiment and transgression of barriers, a
place where we can exerce Rosi Braidotti's "nomadic identities". But
it's now instead a place for Ikea and IBM to advertize.
Sex and gambling and virtual shopping of virtual furniture and clothes
don't attract me.
As a friend wrote : "Yes, SL is as a big mall, but where are the crowds?"
To be elitistic is SL too rude and bad technical implemented and to be
a massive entertainment arena, it's too boring for me.

Ana, a SL sceptic


Skarpnäcks Allé 45 ll tr 12833 Skarpnäck Sweden tel +468-943288 mobil 4670-3213370

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return. — Leonardo da Vinci _______________________________________________ empyre forum

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.