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Sunday, May 17, 2015

What You See Is What You Get

This week, the blog buzz has been about the controversy between two virtual world bloggers, Eric Grundhauser and Hamlet James Au.  Mr. Grundhauser wrote an absolutely wonderful piece about his exploration of Second Life, guided by the knowledgeable Ziki Questi (who has a wonderful blog of her own...go read it and bookmark it!)  He was taken to a number of stunning regions that showcased the skill and imagination of Second Life residents...the "Best Of Second Life," if you will.  Do read his article here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/forgotten-wonders-of-the-digital-world-second-life

Hamlet James Au runs the longtime New World Notes blog, another place I recommend bookmarking.  But this time, Hamlet stirred up a lot of controversy by taking exception to Mr. Grundhauser's portrayal, saying that it ignored all the Second Life sex and porn.

Inara Pey posted a very reasoned response to this, in effect saying that yes, SL has sex and porn...but that it is definitely not the "main thing" on the grid.  Depending on how you estimate it, pornographic content is somewhere between 5 and 20% of the virtual world.  Nalates Urriah also has a great rebuttal post, with links to other thoughts by other writers.

My purpose here isn't to join the debate on one side or the other.  I just want to make four points.

First, to Mr. Grundhauser:  You noted the strange absence of people in the places you visited, and speculated that they must all be off hiding in other locations.  Well, yes and no.  Second Life is limited by technical considerations to small groups of avatars in any one place.  The maximum number of avatars that can possibly fit into a region is 100 (40, on the Mainland) and things start to lag very badly well before that limit is reached.  The recent Linden Meetup event filled its region to bursting and frame rates were down in the single digits.  In the second place, there is a huge amount of land area on the grid, compared to the number of concurrent users.  With over 20,000 regions, and a typical concurrency of around 40,000 or so, you can see that even if we were spread out evenly, there would be only about two avatars per region.  Because we are NOT spread evenly, but clustered at popular places, there are a great many empty regions on the grid at any given time.

Second, to Ziki Questi:  Congratulations!  That was one amazing tour de force.  You took Mr. Grundhauser to some of my favorite places, and showed him (and me) a lot of places that I really must find time to visit!  This brings up a very vital point:  Second Life has many of these pockets of artistry in world building, but they are not always easy to find.  Unlike the stores and clubs, they don't advertise.  They may not hold Events, so you won't find them that way.  The only way you can find these wonderful places is if someone takes you there, or you read about them in someone's blog.

Third:  What that means is, it's up to YOU, the Second Life user, to find the really amazing places.  Talk to more experienced friends.  Read blogs.  Go charging around the Map, teleporting to random locations just to see what you might find.

Fourth, and last:  We make our own world.  That's true in a literal sense in Second Life, where everything in the world has been built by us Residents, but that's not really what I mean.  We make our own world, in Real Life and in Second Life, by our choices, every day and every hour.  Are all your groups stores?  Your world is fashion and shopping.  Are they all clubs?  You're a socializer and a party girl.  Are they all sex places and kink?  Then Second Life is, for you, a world of pornography.  Our choices make our virtual world...and our real one...and our inner, spiritual one.  What You See Is What You Get...and What You Get Is What You See.

Make good choices.

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