Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What is it that I remember, when I remember SL

I was thinking about memory, about the Me-component of my memories, about how my body is part of many memories: its position, actions, movements, experiences. That made me realize one of the defining effects of embodiment in SL.

When I remember communicating with a fellow resident of SL — I'm deliberately framing this awkwardly, all will be revealed — I do not remember what my RL body did i.e. sitting in my home office with a typewriter* under my fingertips and a cup of tea on the desk, looking at a screen.

I remember being in SL, not my home office: I remember sitting together at the Playgoda, or dancing together at Fracture, or trying on clothes at AVid, or lying in hammocks on the beach at whatever that place was called.

I remember talking, not typing: I remember the words we spoke and the feelings that they brought forth.

I remember the outfit I wore in SL, rather than my RL sweater and slippers.

I remember the glass of red wine I held in SL, rather than the cup of tea on my desk.

Second Life is a place in its own right. It's neither here by me nor over there where you are, but in some neutral zone at right angles to the RL distance between us. In that place, there is no separating distance and no timezones**. This is another distinction between SL and many, perhaps most, "games:" no matter how many hours I spent playing the Sims or Civilization IV or Blades of Avernum and the like, they never became places that I could be in.

The key is immersion, and in my experience flat games on a screen don't offer that.

Actually, that reminds me that we could try to get some WoW players to talk to us. That would indicate whether the place-ness of SL is specific to it or perhaps a more general attribute of MMOWs.

* Sic, what a marvellous slip that is. I wonder when I last used a true typewriter? Probably when I left college in 1984. One of the first programs I wrote was a typewriter emulator, which sent keystrokes directly to a dot-matrix printer. Such were the joys.

** Time itself does still exist, remind me to talk about lag.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


1. Second Life is a game, according to Linden Labs, because that places it in the category of "online entertainment" for taxation and general legal purposes.

2. Second Life is not a game, according to almost everyone who visits it regularly. I have never heard a SL resident refer to it as a game or an entertainment.


Thursday, April 15, 2010


"OMG most of the women avs in SL are males in RL."

For starters, that is not true, at least not everywhere. Almost all of the women who attend Kira and Play as Being are also female in RL, for example — and they are a third to half of the attendees at most events.

But the larger question is, why does it matter? Why do people not say "OMG did you know that almost all of the lions in SL are human in RL?"


"For me the avatar is the 'physical' embodiment of the mind that controls it. The avatar is in this sense a more acccurate portrayal of one's soul than is the arbitrary real-life body."
Darwin Mizser

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Among the most striking features of SL sociability is the widespread culture of helpfulness that obtains here. Most people are very generous with time and information, and will go out of their way to assist others. Newbies are encouraged in SL to an extent that is virtually unheard-of on the Internet. In all other online togethernesses that I have experienced, newcomers are assumed to be socially inferior and are often told so explicitly: "you're new here, sit down and shut up" or "aw hell, another fucking n00b."

Where does this come from? Can it last?

Why are we not naked?

One of those apparently simple questions that has a very complex answer (if indeed there is an answer).

Propriety? Embodiment!

Friday, April 9, 2010


Taking skills learned in Second Life into RL.

Example: one of Rivka's associates, a transwoman, who studied female AOs and animations here for tips on how to appear more womanly in RL.


One of the few aspects of Second Life (and other MMOWs to some extent or other) which have no parallel in RL is the rather ambiguous state of being known as afk, Away From Keyboard.

It's a way of recognizing and dealing with the fact that our avatars do not map 1:1 onto our physical selves.

Monday, April 5, 2010


This is the key concept: that the pixels on screen are me, that what they do is happening to me.

Strong or weak embodiment.

"/me reaches across the table and takes your hand"

The workshop

I'm preparing a weekly workshop on the SL-ness of SL, to be given at the Kira centre this summer. (I'm writing about it publicly here in the hope that this might just get me off my arse to do something about this idea, which I've been talking about since last Autumn.) I will be using this blog to record and develop ideas for sessions and exercises.

The workshop will be in the usual Kira style: a combination of brief lecture/explanation/introduction, discussion and exercises.

The general themes will be appearance, character and identity, how the medium of SL expresses these, and how they relate back to our so-called real identities in the so-called real world. My hope is that members of the workshop might come forward to lead off sessions on subjects that are significant to them. (Example: QT said that he hadn't been able to create an alt because he couldn't think of a good name. I would love to discuss with him the significance of names in SL, since these are arbitrary in RL.) Once the series has built up a certain amount of momentum, I would like to bring in guest speakers to talk about specific identities in SL: furries and tinies and nekos, oh my.

There will be much discussion of alts, since they are central to cross-gender and cross-species exploration. Practical exercises would be very informative (!) but I can see that this might be too "hot" for some people so I'll go slowly there. Perhaps make it an "extra credit" topic, one that won't be on the end-of-term exam.

(Just by the way, and perhaps as a note for a pure-discussion session: It amuses me no end to hear people say that our personalities are constructions of habit and prejudice, that there is no separation and therefore no Self, that all identities are artificial — and then in the next breath they firmly declare that identities which exist only in SL are inferior to those which exist in RL! What the fuck is that about? This point needs discussion.)

There will be trips to various stores (skin and hair in particular, since these places always offer freebie or dollarbie demos) to try on different appearances, again with the intention of seeing yourself in the new appearance.

There will be excursions to strongly-themed locations and stores, like AVid or RP sims.

There will be exercises, oh yes: for example: being a neko for a week, and paying attention to how this feels — and to how the world reacts.

There will be workshops on the appearance editor, with the practical goal of making a new shape during the session, to be "lived in" for a week and reported on at the next session. There will be at least one pair sessions on AOs, a discursive intro and a workshop the week after.

There will be shorter detours to look at particularities of SL, like "afk" or the culture of helpful generosity that has developed. I can imagine that there would be quite a bit of discussion of in-world ethics.