“An ingenious system created for Second Life land holders to reduce incidents of harassment and abuse by malicious griefers has itself turned out to be a potentially nefarious tool of harassment and abuse. zF RedZone is a tool that was designed to help Second Life users identify and block problem users from entering their territory and wreaking havoc. If you were looking for a way to get rid of griefers … and copybots … RedZone was one of the best ways to fight back… The incredible thing about this is that it worked–but there was a catch.” (Justin Kwong, Virtual Navigator, Feb 28, 2011) Read
Black Rock City, which stages the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert and in a variety of regional Burning Man festivals, including one in Second Life, is now looking for a San Francisco headquarters and wants to apply the principles of Burning Man to a real life city. (Steven T Jones, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Feb 24, 2011) Read
In the old days, people occasionally would rummage through their attic or basement and find forgotten treasures. People probably still do. I don’t, but I do have old webpages and websites. This week I went rummaging through one of them, what I used to call my Thereography Studio – photographs from the now defunct virtual world There.com. You can visit it at hawk.frodo.tv.
There.com was the very first virtual world that I joined. Virtual worlds had interested me for a long time – I wrote my Masters thesis about future virtual worlds in 1995 – but I didn’t find one that really interested me until I visited Eugene, Oregon in early 2003 and met Don Carson, an artist working on a brand new virtual world, There, that was opening beta testing. I joined as a beta tester in March 2003. It wasn’t long before I began taking pictures. Here’s the very first picture I took in There, on March 23, 2003. It’s a self portrait of my avatar Hawk looking up at There’s moon and starry sky:
I loved There and still have fond memories of of the good times and the good people I knew there. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. However, despite how much I loved There, I was only active there for a little over a year, even though I remained a member for another six years, right up to the day it closed on March 10, 2010.
The reason was Second Life. Many people in There disdained Second Life. Movement in Second Life was choppy, avatars were ugly, and vehicles unruly. But Second Life had two crucial features that won me over immediately: a set of tools that made building easy and free, and even more importantly, it explicitly granted to creators intellectual property rights to everything people created in Second Life. I had been writing an “Ancient History of There”, but it bothered me that the company that owned There could assert ownership of it. I had no such worries in Second Life.
Still, There was fun. Vehicles were particular fun, especially buggies and hoverboards. Hoverboards were basically skateboards with engines that gave them a limited ability to lift off the ground. I became freestyle hoverboard champion, and then ran hoverboard championship competitions. Sadly when There closed its doors, I still had a good size jackpot of cash and inventory to distribute as prizes. It all vanished with There.
Here’s a picture I took in 2004 of my avatar Hawk riding one of my collection of hoverboards:
The closing of There highlights an important difference between a virtual world and the physical world: a virtual world can vanish in an instant, like There vanished in March 2010, and suddenly everything is gone, not just our possessions, but our friends too, unless we’ve established contact outside the virtual world.
I was talking with a friend today about the San Francisco Writers Conference and the need for writers to be skilled (or able to afford to hire the skill) to build a website, blog, Tweet, and use Facebook. My friend didn’t think it was fair. Writers shouldn’t need to deal with this stuff.
But are things really worse than in the days before the Web? A few decades ago, a writer needed to be a skilled typist, either that or hire a typist, in order to submit a manuscript. Learning to type on a typewriter must have been tedious. It’s not like a computer, where you can just backspace or move a mouse to correct an error. You needed to avoid them in the first place. That took skill, skill that was a lot less fun to acquire than skill in social media.
Was it any better before the typewriter? I don’t think so. How many people would have the proper penmanship to handcraft an entire manuscript by fountain pen? I certainly don’t. If I had to submit a handwritten manuscript, I wouldn’t stand a chance. Not even with a ball point pen. It was even worse before the fountain pen. Can you imagine writing a manuscript with a quill pen, dipping it in the ink well every few moments, constantly blotting your manuscript to keep it from smearing?
I’ll take the web and social media any day.
I spent almost three days at the San Francisco Writers Conference this weekend. It was excellent. There were some superb presentations in workshops, particularly by Tee Morris and Rusty Shelton, and Donald Maass made some very perceptive comments about genre that I welcomed, but I was surprised that not a single person I spoke with the entire time knew what a virtual world is or had even heard of Second Life.
I guess people see virtual worlds in movies and think it’s all science fiction. They don’t have a clue that for millions of us, including many schools, universities, businesses, and artists, virtual worlds are a daily reality. A revolution is happening, and people don’t see it… yet.
On Monday February 14, 2011 HBO will present the documentary When Strangers Click: Five Stories from the Internet. It includes machinima segments filmed in Second Life™.
The film features five couples who met over the internet, including one who met in Second Life The film’s website says “Kim packed a wedding gown and flew to Prague to marry a man she had only met online. Dave met scores of women before having to reveal a physical shortcoming. At 30, Beth had given up on love before going online. Ryan Googled “gay” to figure out who he was. And Jonas literally found a new life through his Second Life avatar. When these strangers clicked, their lives changed forever.”
Julie Perkins, who met Jonas in SL, writes about the experience, “My boyfriend and I met in SL in June 2007 and partnered in the game in August 2007. We met in rl in Jan 2010 and are loving every minute we are together. I wrote this for our ‘Soulmate Union’ which I created in SL: A soulmate is not someone you recognize at the beginning of a relationship. It is the reward at the end of the journey. It has to be earned. Worked for. Discovered. We started our journey together in a completely different place than where we are now. Where we were coming from we didn’t recognize each other as soulmates. We have both worked hard at the relationship and are always putting each other first before our own desires and wants. Caring more for the others happiness than our own. Through all of this, we have discovered we are each others half. What makes our souls whole again. We have earned this union. From this day forward, our love will be our strength. This marks the beginning of what is our real journey….. The journey of our soulmate union. (c)2011”
You can see excerpts from the film at robertkennerfilms.com/films/files/detail.php?id=22. The official website for the film is at whenstrangersclick.com. The film will premiere on HBO on February 14, 2011.