the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley]

broadcasting without permission from an attic somewhere in Berlin [about the metaverse – naturally!]

show 162: war of the social worlds

show #162 final.jpeg

show #162

we debate – with a illustrious panel – the state of affairs in regards to social vr supremacy. enjoy:

a quick note on the worlds that were not represented like vr chat [which i like a lot actually!] = we put the word out to folks to join us but no real response in time so we shall continue the subject as we move forward!

meantime our guests on the panel in the order they were introduced on the show:

 

  • jeremy owen turner, performance artist, composer, teaches cognitive science at simon fraser university
jeremy in vrchat

jeremy in vrchat

  • xaos princess, munich based filmmaker, tiltbrush fashion designer in hifi

  • jo and discuss the atlantic’s article on second life and while it is decent it still lacks so much…[inara’s take is here]

  • thoys, our friend who was not on the show, was at hand when philip demoed the new shopping experience in hifi:

  • bit of unlisted goodness from the big wip doc “our digital selves” [we filmed at hifi couple months back, the film is going for a april 2018 release]

  • atlas hopping without strawberry this week but suzen juel is live at the arena:

the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley] is a weekly production of basicdrax entertainment.

the show is supported by time portal, slartist, warbug, bay city you know for kids, zero-one heavy industries corporation, hextraordinary, ionic, maven homes, gizza creations, botanical, strawberry singh, abranimations, aeros avatars, kahruvel design, the cube republic, {what next}, landscapes unlimited, fallen gods incorporated and death row designs.

thumbnail by justin esparza

contact the show via skype draxfiles, avatar draxfiles or email radio@draxfiles.com

38 comments on “show 162: war of the social worlds

  1. Peter Valencia (@TheaninePete)
    November 12, 2017

    Interesting discussion about editing in VR. I don’t have as favorable of a view on that as most of these guests. IMO, VR is great for consumption and viewing, but not for editing and creating. It’s a fantastic complement to traditional creation workflows, but not at all a replacement. This is why I’m in complete agreement with your guest that made a comparison to black/white TVs – the social VR platforms that ignore desktop accessibility and only put attention into VR accessibility will ultimately fail, just as the color TVs that ignored backwards compatibility did. Because the creators – the ones actually creating the worlds on those platforms – will not bother investing into the platform if they’re forced to wear a headset for hours upon hours on end.

    I speak from past experience with Unreal Engine’s VR editing mode. UE4’s VR editing is MUCH more powerful and intuitive than what you see in High Fidelity, and yet it is still so cumbersome to use because of the inherent limitations that VR introduces. When Unreal Engine’s VR editing mode was first introduced, it got a ton of positive publicity from news media (VR is a huge buzzword), but the actual gamedevs using the engine largely criticized it. I shared some of these criticism over on the High Fidelity forum

    https://forums.highfidelity.com/t/some-thoughts-about-my-experience/13155/9?u=theanine

    • draxfiles
      November 18, 2017

      Hey Theanine thx for your comment! I think it is paramount to keep that we can only empower people to make the leap from consuming to creating if indeed we offer different ways to do this. It is amazing how resorting to prim building often [as we do for the video series] is so much crazy fun! I am pondering now if I should share a crazy video with the world that we did for a Adult Swim project = live building in SL with a couple guys shouting scenarios, like improv if you will. Not sure if that would work in VR [today, maybe in the future!]

  2. draxfiles
    November 13, 2017

    I commented on the article by Leslie Jamison in The Atlantic and copy paste it here [more to come and please add your two cents as well!]:

    Kudos for spending time on the ground in SL which not a lot of journalists do before they write about this complex and multi-layered culture. Having said that what is very disappointing is the seeming conclusion the writer puts forward which to me is exemplified in the super offensive line “Second Life makes me want to take a shower” = wth? Is that some clever “intellectually witty” way of saying what every tabloid has said about SL even in the hype days where mainstream publications were drunk on the Koolaid message that SL is the future of the internet, which was amplified by THEM [and not as rumor has it the platform makers incl. Linden Lab].

    In any event: this coverage to me is symptomatic what ails mainstream journalism in the digital age = a aloof attitude where the writer [sometimes they thankfully acknowledge it to provide context!] comes from a place of privilege, parachutes into a situation/culture/world, writes with some level of empathy about the denizens of that place but ultimately [after taking showers!!] comes back to their small elite circles and continues on with the next assignment.

    There is an implication of unseemliness about SL interaction which is a tiresome cliche [and was already in 2008].

    In that sense it is really strange to quote Tom Boellstorff who has NOT abandoned SL in 2007 [as the article implies] but is still on the ground researching every single day, “embedded” if you will in the best possible sense of the word!

    Alrighty , I am now going offline now to wade through hours of interview footage with SL residents to craft a narrative for our upcoming documentary “Our Digital Selves” based on research by Tom and his colleague Donna Davis [also a resident of this wonderful world].

    I will also examine footage from Second Life which seems to me the OPPOSITE of visual cliches [as Leslie Jamison describes the ENTIRETY of the world ! ! !] but a truly authentic expression of a diverse group of people.

    Good day and again = good work but only a C- coz we [journalists and documentarians alike] need to do more than selectively transcribing interaction with what we MAY deem foreign/weird – we must reach deeper conclusions, providing more context, we must try to get OUTSIDE of ourselves in order to truly empathize!

    And if mainstream media wants my $$$ support in this digital age they better provide that. If they go with salacious and juicy presentation = I pass 😉

  3. It takes a empathetic mind to understand exactly what it is about Second Life that gives it its allure for a select audience. Another “I’m squicked” reaction by another explorer who has no intention of giving a locale a chance. Akin to sending a Southerner Racist Ol Boy on a trip to Thailand – a fixation with the pleasures of a exotic land rather than taking time to appreciate the possibility for cultural alternatives and exchanges.

    When you put aside the fash and furnishings, what remains of SL is a need to relate, communicate, and iterate (creatively or otherwise). I guess anyone who can’t see the need for any of this would trash any virtual world that offers these options at its roots.

    • draxfiles
      November 13, 2017

      So well put indeed!!! And let’s be honest that this writer while not “trashing” SL it seems to me at least really quite a superficial exercise, almost akin to some school assignment [“go and write an essay on the local ice-cream parlor / amusement park” as let’s say a vegan who only reads books…] that is dutifully executed by letting protagonists speak and yet lacks deep empathy and understanding, especially the minute one goes back to one’s own small circles. We are ALL guilty I guess of that type of insular thinking [some may say I AM with my obsession about how SL should be covered in the news] but I’d argue that the inability to transcend where we come from in socio-economic, ethnic and gender terms and truly embrace the other, we are making bigger silos! SL journalism is a symptom of what is wrong with REAL journalism = a tiny group of [well meaning!] elites is covering the “other” 🙂

  4. In talking about Second Life I’m reminded of those early reviews of Minecraft actually…odd as it sounds.
    The phrase “Give yourself a project” really sticks out as just in that game if your hands go limp and you say “What do i do now?” you’re gonna think its useless.

    And part of SL’s reputation problem comes from that early “Selling a product on it’s uses not it’s features” (You don’t sell a banana by saying it makes great smoothies, drinks, sauces & dessert toppings) that people rapidly tired of once reality set in that Second Life wasn’t going to re-invent hot water.

    Second Life is like the Internet itself…it’s worth is what you make of it!

    Reading that article I played a little mental game where I imagined each example of a persons life was not an Avatars existence but an early web page in the days of 1996.

    “Why do people use this information super highway thing?”…because it gives them a platform to see their dreams come true and share it with others.

    An Avatars little corner they’ve cut out for themselves is no different.

    I’ve got a lot of humor and creativity to share and SL gave me that…so far nearly 6 million people have seen, which is more than I ever thought I would reach!

    • draxfiles
      November 13, 2017

      Why do you HATE real life so much Alexandria WHY OH WHY>>>>> ;)D

  5. Galen
    November 13, 2017

    Once upon a time, it was much more difficult to edit a document on a computer than on a typewriter or with a pencil. Editing content is difficult in VR right now, but it will eventually be much easier than using a desktop console. That won’t be because people just suck it up and suffer an awful interface. That’s how it feels when we try to edit a document on a smartphone instead of a desktop computer, right? And we suffer that occasionally because the smartphone comes with the benefit of being always at hand.

    No, editing content in VR will become easier because the tools available for creating content will improve greatly over what we have now. And very soon. Imagine trying to write with a pencil using only handless arm stumps and that’s about what using today’s wand-style controllers for content creation is like. But it won’t be long before cameras in a head-mounted display will watch what your glove-free hands do and translate that into the precision movements needed to craft and interact with 3D content. I would further predict that we’ll still be using virtual keyboards and mice to compliment our fingered orchestration. Moreover, software designers are going to figure out through a lot of experiments — mostly failures — what works best for efficient interaction with 3D content.

    The early pioneers in film did what they knew best: they created Broadway-style plays and filmed them. Their minds and tools were geared best for that mode. And they couldn’t have known what film-making would be like 10 or 20 years hence. We’re in that same early transitional phase with immersive VR right now.

  6. Galen
    November 13, 2017

    During the panel discussion, I was hoping to draw a comparison between High Fidelity and Sansar, in keeping with the topic that Drax really wanted us to fight over. I’ll preface this by saying that my opinion is based on a limited experience with HiFi and my own interests, which won’t be shared by everyone.

    Put simply, HiFi has a lead, right now. Users can “do” much more there than in Sansar, especially in VR mode. The interface is richer, including a virtual tablet, the ability to see your own avatar in first person and to sit on things, laser pointers to click on and move things around up close or at a distance, and more. For now, we’re still fumbling stiffs in Sansar. HiFi opened in public beta in mid-2016, while Sansar only opened up for public beta this August. Programmers in HiFi have a rich API to work with and are creating some awfully clever things. And HiFi is introducing new features at a fast pace and inviting outsiders to contribute via their open-source process.

    On the basis of these considerations, it would be tempting to declare that HiFi is a guaranteed winner in the VR market. And I’ll admit that I’m assuming that the two platforms cannot ultimately coexist with equal popularity in the long term. One platform will have to win most of the market share.

    However, I’ve placed my bets on Sansar by investing nearly all my time there since July. Not surprisingly, I do so because I believe Sansar has a better chance than HiFi does. Why? More than anything, I think HiFi has made a fatal error that it is committed to. I think Philip Rosedale, whom I have enormous respect for and admiration of, is trying to replicate the success that Tim Berners-Lee had in creating the World Wide Web. There were hypertext-like systems before the Web, of course, but they mostly disappeared and nothing compares in terms of ubiquity to the Web’s success. But I honestly believe that HiFi simply cannot follow this same path. This isn’t the same problem or era.

    Take some time to get to know the early pioneers using Sansar and HiFi and you will see a marked difference between them. HiFi is full of very creative and super friendly folks who really buy into an everything-is-free model of the world. They seem to be here just for the fun and for the vision. Now spend time talking to people in Sansar and you will quickly get the impression that you are talking to professionals. Most of the prominent content creators in Sansar are already big successes in Second Life. Many of them actually work in the gaming industry. They, too, are creative and super friendly, but there is also a thick air of competitive drive to them that I did not see in HiFi. We’re not making money in Sansar any more than people are at HiFi, yet, but you can almost taste the expectation that many of us in Sansar have that we’re going to very soon.

    If my perception about the difference in personalities between Sansar and HiFi is correct, what explains it? In a term: intellectual property (IP). I know enough about the underlying technology to see how HiFi is an IP sieve. People will steal 3D models, scripts, audio, and all other assets that come to their clients just as fast as we steal and repost cat pictures from websites today. Sansar can’t stop all IP theft, but I think most of us in Sansar believe that Linden Lab is trying and is genuinely committed to protecting as much of our IP as is possible. We all know that it’s next to impossible to make money spending weeks building rich content if someone else can come along and nab it in seconds. And that prospect already sends content creators running to game and media companies because at least they pay salaries.

    I don’t think a comparison of HiFi and Sansar would be complete if I didn’t mention polish. Let’s face it: HiFi’s best domains are neat, but they feel cartoony, while Sansar’s best experiences have been described as being AAA-game-quality by some outside observers. Sansar has placed almost all its emphasis so far on visual (and audio) richness, forsaking almost everything else up to now. Read Sansar’s forum and you will see an endless barrage of complaints about usability and requests for features we’re used to in Second Life and over at HiFi. But what you won’t see is complaints about how things look, because Sansar really is a visual wonder already.

    To this I will add that Second Life’s fashion industry teaches content creators a solid lesson: appearance is everything. People will gladly give up almost every other feature and will suffer the most torturous processes for changing clothing in order to look great. If that lesson has broader application, then it should be apparent that Sansar is in the lead, if for no other reason than that experiences and avatars look slicker already. And as soon as Sansar’s “fashion market” opens up in December(ish), there will be an explosion in avatar creativity that will gradually plow the other competing platforms (including Second Life) under.

    I could draw many more comparisons between HiFi and Sansar, but I would leave off by saying that, despite the common connection between the two and an amazing start by both, I believe Sansar has more potential for success over the next 5 years than HiFi does. They have very different business models driving them and appeal to very different creator audiences. When the masses of consumers start trickling in (they haven’t yet), I think they will favor Sansar over HiFi because that’s where the most appealing content will be. HiFi does have a head start and is moving quickly, but I don’t think it has the winning strategy.

    • draxfiles
      November 13, 2017

      Good stuff Galen, we pick it up next show. I want to say ONE THING >>> AVATARS ARE KEY ! ! ! …and on a related note reiterating = portability of identity is key if this tech is going to be transformative beyond any superficial extension of consumption madness in 3D. I am hopeful mankind will get the memo collectively that there is MORE to life than killing time 😉

  7. Pingback: Galen Compares High Fidelity and Sansar – Sansar Newsblog

  8. Jadyn Firehawk
    November 15, 2017

    I’m a little late to the discussion here (I’ve had a bit of an injury), but I was taken aback by The Atlantic Monthly article by a number of things. My overall impression of the article: it’s a lot like the weather in Texas in November — cold for a few days, then hot for the next few. While I was glad to see that SL was covered in an in-depth article rather than the typical brief(er) foray. the things that took me aback were that firstly, when Leslie Jamison interviewed me back in June, I asked her what her purpose was in writing the article, and she told me she wanted to counter prevailing media images of Second Life. Given that, at the time, I was glad to participate. So, I sure didn’t expect the (overall) disdainful tone that the article has.

    Another thing (related to that), is that whereas I was glad that she covered Virtual Ability and some of its people including myself in a mainly positive light, what had been a substantial interview and then a couple of rounds with their fact-checker got boiled down to basically a mention, and my “up to 12 hours” comment seemed to be cherry-picked from the interview out of the lengthy conversation, and (sounded to me) as if it’s an obsessive or deviant kind of behavior. While I understand that things very often get edited down for length, the interview and then communications with the fact checker were still a lot of effort on my part (audio interactions and writing don’t come easily for me), and most everything about the positive influences, interests, and opportunities that Second Life represents for me besides Yosemite — of which there are many (volunteer teaching, maintaining a charity, building, photography, kinetic sculpture, involvement in disability and education communities, and access to a social life) — got totally glossed over.

    Third, I got an email from her shortly after the interview with a number of (very personal) follow-up questions, and the probing nature of those questions… well… it started to feel like someone fishing for juicy details. I declined to answer, partly because I had fallen into a depressive episode by then, but also because those questions started feeling intrusive, icky-feeling, sensationalist … things like “Can you describe the suicide attempt?” and “What were the toughest times with your mental illness like?” Given the almost tawdry spin put on some of the other people’s stories in the article, I am now very glad in retrospect that I didn’t go into those things at all.

    Lastly, in response to a fact-checking question about the concentration of people at events and not places, I had replied at length, but the richness of community diversity and activity in SL seems to have been ignored, despite the information that I had provided:

    [begin quote from my email] “[T]here are thriving communities outside of events, such as (to name a few) educational communities, builder communities, roleplay communities, and communities of artists. It is incorrect to say that residents aren’t generally drawn to places.

    “As a specific example of a thriving community outside of events and popular hangouts, the builder’s group (called Builder’s Brewery) that I belong to, teach at, and moderate for, currently has more than 38,000 active members. Most builders are usually off someplace, building on their own, but the group chat is highly active, 24/7. Many people enjoy solitary activities such as sailing or building on their own. Many others actively explore different places (as was my primary interest in the beginning), and most people have favorite places that they like to frequent, as opposed to navigating according to events, and those places can often only have a few visitors at any given time.”

    “[M]any users have different purposes too. They are more scattered throughout SL. They use Second Life to pursue hobbies and interests, to participate in roleplay communities, to play competitive games, to create and run shops, to explore, to relax at their virtual homes, or for learning, to name just a few other use types. Overall, they are there perhaps in equal numbers as the purely social users (I don’t have actual statistics though), but are more spread out on the world map. There are also entirely separate, significantly sized user groups inside SL based on language or nationality, such as Japanese and Brazilian users who may not even speak any English. I think of SL has having many “parallel universes.”” [end quote]

    I’ll close this response here with a thought I had: Is hanging out in a coffee shop with your pumpkin spice latte, posting on Twitter, checking your Facebook page, and texting your pal, any less escapist than enjoying any other pastime, such as a hobby that happened to involve spending time in a virtual world? Or this: If a carpenter is using a hammer as a tool to build something, do we ever consider the hammer to be some kind of negative thing? Or: If Granny spends hours and hours crocheting because she loves to crochet, do we ever consider it icky, deviant behavior, or some kind of addiction that’s problematic? Really, why are immersive virtual environments automatically somehow different?

    • draxfiles
      November 15, 2017

      Thank you so much Jadyn for being so honest here! We will spend some time next show to discuss!

    • I had a similar experience- I wish I had the sense to not continue with that process. I regret it terribly.

  9. Jadyn Firehawk
    November 15, 2017

    Or reading a book or watching TV or following a sports team, come to think of it?

  10. Silas Merlin
    November 15, 2017

    I do believe SL is for broken people. But then again, who isn’t broken in some way or other ?

    • draxfiles
      November 15, 2017

      Elaborate because I disagree fundamentally, depending on your definition of “broken”. If you want to say “not well adjusted” or that so called well adjusted people have no use of Second Life >>> well: I am GLAD I am not well adjusted :)D

    • Jo Yardley
      November 16, 2017

      I’m not broken, I’m perfect in every way.

      • draxfiles
        November 16, 2017

        see it is THESE KIND OF LIES that make the mainstream press suspicious ;)D

  11. Pingback: The Atlantic’s Leslie Jamison Looks At Second Life and Virtual Living – Ciaran Laval

  12. Okay, so I am glad this is a thread because I have been seriously marinating in the mire on this one.

    Leslie pretty aggressively sought me out for this piece several months ago in response to the muted hostility I encountered when I initially tried to establish the Virtual Black History Museum within Bay City- idyllic place to do so, and shamefully the actions of one person was enough to put me off of doing it there- something I regret.

    In any case, she leveraged that to want to talk to me but insisted she wanted a much broader perspective of my views on Second Life and it wasn’t just about the racism I openly discussed in a blog post last year. My concerns about people taking the “juicy” bits out and only speaking of the negative aspects is exactly why I had waited so long to respond to any media requests about it- and they had been plentiful.

    I talked to her for nearly two hours. I really shared so much about the beauty I see in SL and what I’ve experienced within (and outside of) it in my time thus far, and did elaborate on that unfortunate instance with the museum, which I later opened elsewhere.

    I also was given a barrage of follow-up questions which I should have seen as a red flag, because some of the questions left me feeling a bit grimy. At the time, I thought that,perhaps, I was overthinking it. I gave honest feedback on two different occasions at the request of the editor, Stephanie.

    So when Stephanie emailed me to tell me that article was live, I was disgusted before I even got to the tiny bit she referenced out of all we spoke about repeatedly. The entire tone was horrible, and while it was well-researched and she claimed she did not want to do a half-hearted article, it was terrible. She even asked me about my SL son and whether or not I felt it was appropriate to say he “played” my son or “roleplayed” as my son. I said I felt the latter was more respectful. She went for the former. I don’t know why she bothered to ask.

    But what really set me alight in all of this is that she basically used me to justify the most horrid of my commentary- albeit accurate – such as me being compared to an ape and being called “tampon nose” for my wide nostrils.

    I cannot even express how sickened I was by that. I had said so many wonderful things, I had shared so many personal experiences, and in my honest opinion I was played to be a shocking punchline in a disgusting and misleading article.

    I’m seriously disappointed I took the time to speak with her. But it did give me fuel to keep pushing for awareness.

    • draxfiles
      November 15, 2017

      Thank you so much for sharing this Sara. We will dedicate some time next show to discuss this as we have in-world with the Ethnographia group [which Jadyn is part of as well].

      I am disheartened to hear these experiences of yours in the context of this story as I do want established and generally well regarded journalism outfits like The Atlantic to thrive and regain credibility in what has been an ongoing crises in the business since the advent of the internet.

      But that these “old news” brands seem to continue to focus on juicy and salacious stuff to compete with the clickbait stuff that they can’t win against anyway is depressing.

      Now as you and the others have said this article was better than many others on SL simply because it was longer and more residents were featured – seemingly “in depth” but as per a discussion in-world yesterday some friends of mine pointed out that the failure to step back and reflect on one’s own prejudice about the world is actually pretty apparent when one reads carefully.

      Also there seems to be in fact a thesis been written beforehand OR perhaps “dictated” by the editor which could be summarized as:

      “…. yes SL is not AS weird as people think and it even gives those poor folks something to do with their time because they probably do not have the resources to do any of it in the real world because they live in bad circumstances, geographies or have no money or no proper job or schooling and are possibly even disabled so it is heartwarming to see that they don’t have to suffer TOO MUCH etc etc etc…”

      Sorry for rambling but you see where I am getting at? It now seems clear to me that the framing of the entire story is in the context of not AUGMENTING lives but to COMPENSATE for a deficiency which – if you think about it long enough – is BEYOND patronizing….

      • Yes! I agree with your analysis of it. And it was very misleading how Leslie claimed she wanted to present this article; she claimed she was passionate about showing that it’s an amazing platform and that there are people within it that are passionate about what they do and experience within SL- and then it was presented as something negative?

        As soon as I read the title, my heart sank.

        But, at the same time I appreciate the discussion that it has triggered, because this seems to be a common theme with a lot of discussion from someone who has limited time within SL. They try it, they try to understand it, and they leave with this implication that people who participate in SL avidly are somehow “incomplete”.

        I have personally met some of the most talented and diverse individuals because of SL, and I am incredibly grateful for it, and the muted ignorance of this article- albeit very detailed- also motivated me to continue pushing for my own project so people can see that we’re not all lost little souls with problems hiding in a virtual space.

    • Galen
      November 16, 2017

      Sara: I’m astonished and disgusted by your experience. Thank you for sharing it, though. It’s been interesting to see how people who actually talked to this journalist are responding to their experiences. “Misrepresentation” seems to be a common theme.

  13. alisonjamesart
    November 16, 2017

    I meant to reply earlier but have been emotionally perturbed by this article and its follow up effects on the people within. I have had this discussion time and again and had to justify my position in my postgraduate studies on WHY it takes so long to do a project in online worlds. But this article is yet another example of WHY you can’t just hop into an online world like Second Life and think you have an understanding of what is going on. I found the entire tone of the article patronising and arrogant. I am upset for the people that were represented as I know, having talked to a couple of them that they were very upset.

    I sat and picked apart the article bit by bit and found the writing disjointed and fragmented. It leaped around and associated people with things they should not have been associated with (Alicia and the tummy talkers/pregnancies for just one small example). I agree with the point Drax made about the article taking the “poor disabled people” angle as if these people are to be pitied but well…at least they have found a place to live. That angle particularly makes me angry. An article like this shouldn’t engender pity for disabled people..it should point out the strengths and the incredible accomplishments of these PEOPLE.

    The title itself was off putting but the ideas that the residents and the world disgusted this journalist so much that she had to shower after visiting the world , or could not wait to get out as if it was suffocating her…well…that was just offensive. the whole tone of the article felt like disgust and pity masked as sympathy. I think that she also makes a fatal mistake that a lot of people make though…and that is that she had no goal. It was like she left her own interests behind and did not consider taking those with her and seeking out those things that she loved most to connect with.

    The article was clearly written by someone with NO love, interest or sympathy for the world or what it can represent to a wide variety of people. Not everyone in the world is “disabled” or “broken”. We come for a variety of reasons and we stay for just as many reasons.

    • draxfiles
      November 16, 2017

      Sigh….I can’t add more 😦 Other than that the term “disabled” is so wrong in many ways too….

  14. alisonjamesart
    November 16, 2017

    Reblogged this on AlisonJamesArt and commented:
    An excellent show by Drax, Jo Yardley and the panel today on both the recent Atlantic Article and social worlds

  15. livingwithcpci
    November 16, 2017

    I posted this reply to The Atlantic article:

    “…because description finds its traction in flaws and fissures, and exploring the world of Second Life was more like moving through postcards. Second Life was a world of visual clichés. Nothing was ragged or broken or dilapidated—or if it was dilapidated, it was because that particular aesthetic had been chosen from a series of prefab choices.” vs. in the very next paragraph, “Of course, my aversion to Second Life—as well as my embrace of flaw and imperfection in the physical world—testified to my own good fortune as much as anything. When I move through the real world, I am buffered by my (relative) youth, my (relative) health, and my (relative) freedom.”

    So your assessment, from these two paragraphs, is that all those in Second Life are ‘losers’. Which is actually very untrue. There are many people living exciting real and virtual lives, and I could introduce you to several, if I thought it was worth their time. But your assessment appears to be made primarily on six months, not of immersion, but of interviews with a small sampling of users, many of whom likely knew each other and who introduced you from one-to-another, which means it was a small circle of acquaintances you interviewed.

    I take this also from your frustration with the graphics and the builds, rather than comments about the interactions or experience. I’m not sure you found a single art museum. Did you learn how to build anything, or even rez a prim (note the word ‘prim’ was not a part of the article at all, but it is a critical part of any engaged SL user’s vocabularly)?

    Did you go to a poetry open-mic, did you see the work put in by those who choreograph, animate and perform dance on stage, did you engage in philosophical discussions with seculars or political discussions with conservative Republicans? Did you meet a Wiccan? Did you ski, or golf, or go boating? Did you join a role playing group? Did you speak with business owners? Did you import anything from the real world to the virtual world (much of what is in the virtual world comes from real world imagery and sounds after all).

    You had six months, what did you do other than interview a few people and read (or peruse) a few books?

    And yet your article qualifies for The Atlantic, with its strong, knowing slant, “Who am I to begrudge those who have found in the reaches of Second Life what they couldn’t find offline?”

    Apparently, you are not the one to begrudge them, but rather to judge them as losers who can’t find in real life what you have found. Wow! You just judged hundreds of thousands of people you never met (and even the people you did meet) without ever valuing their real life as much as you value your own. You assess Bridget’s life as mundane. Really? Is life with kids ever really mundane, let alone the additional hurdles of children with special needs? Given the ableist society she and her children must face every day, I wonder how mundane her life could possibly be.

    I feel as if you want me to feel sad for your good fortune, which makes it so impossible for you to enjoy the virtual world. But mostly, I am saddened that you believe such good fortune lasts a lifetime. Life is always life on life’s terms. No one knew the stock market would crash, no one knew the great depression would come, no one knew they would be drafted to go to Viet Nam.

    I knew a woman who, driving to pick up her daughter, whose car broke down on a freeway on-ramp, saw her daughter fly over the roof of her own vehicle and land in front of her as the daughter’s vehicle was hit from behind by a drunk driver. She was never the same, but she found purpose in her life and forgave the driver while completely redesigning her life around the goal of reducing the number of deaths due to drunk driving. She knew the need for repercussions, but had the wisdom to know judging him was of no benefit to anyone.

    I know the pressure of our current media world. If you’re not pointing a finger at someone, or labeling them a freak or loser or sinner or misfit of some sort, then who would read it? How would it sell? That is really the point, making money. As a nation we are so addicted to money we would hoard it and deny it to those who have such great need, and do so with a sense of justifiability and righteousness while we chant, “Who me, I don’t judge!” Thus a politician who ran on ‘repeal and replace’ is just as happy to ‘repeal and discard’ and masses applaud him for doing so.

    Somehow, Archie Bunker-ism is no longer a humorous look at how closed minded some behind-the-times people can be, it is who many of us have become. We just save our disparaging statements for within the closed circles of those who would understand. And on the rare occasion they are said in the company of those who take exception, we say we were just joking, as if it makes it all okay, or as if the person who heard it is too stupid to know the truth of our irretrievably spoken truth.

    Hearst taught us long ago that judgment sells — I wonder who will teach us it’s not worth the profit.

    • draxfiles
      November 16, 2017

      Shyla thank you so much! We have a long to go before we truly connect beyond our bubbles where we come from…unless we actively want to we probably won’t. Although in a wonderful world like Second Life we totally could. We could transcend boundaries but we choose not too?

  16. bridgettemcneal
    November 16, 2017

    Ok so hi, it’s Bridgette/Gidge and I wanted to take a moment to comment as I feel like a lot fo the community is reeling from the article.
    I’m not sorry I participated but I do want to clarify somethings, share some perspective and maybe just vent a little.
    Just a point of clarity from a comment above, all of us interviewed do not know each other, we aren’t all pals or friends sharing a single vision of Second Life. I do happen to be personal friends with Alicia Chenaux, We are both part of the fashion blogger community from back when god was a boy (pick your god I don’t care). I know Hamlet professionally but we aren’t pals. Alicia and I were both referred to the author Leslie by Cajsa Lilliehook who is MY blog partner on itsonlyfashioinblog.com . The author had reached out to her and done an interview, and Cajsa referred her to me and Alicia and many other people.
    When I agreed to the article it was with the understanding that it was about the types of communities that exist within Second Life (mine thus = Fashion Bloggers), Obviously the article went a different way.
    The day the article came out I was bombarded with messages in world from strangers which I was not emotionally prepared for, many of them were “I’m praying for your family” to which my knee jerk reaction was “OMG WHO DIED?”
    Then I realized what had happened.
    It was raining down PITY on me.
    I don’t handle pity well, and maybe it’s just because I’m from the midwest and we aren’t allowed to feel sorry for ourselves.
    Initially I ranted about it but then I realized, this was just people sending me well wishes based on the article. They meant no harm so I chilled out.

    I did correct many things with the fact checker, some of which was corrected some of which was not. I struggle a little with this but I also know that actual famous people deal with this sort of thing on a regular basis. It doesn’t make it right – but I guess if celebrities don’t go crazy correcting publications errors I can let it go this one time.

    My greatest point of contention truly is that on some level I feel like I was portrayed as a poor woman who must escape the hell of my real world burdened by two special needs children. Thus I log into Second Life to wear lingerie and munch on donuts.

    In fact I’m a fashion blogger with commitments and deadlines. I log in to meet those. Once in a while I log in to goof off with a friend or two but truly my real life leaves very little time for that. When it does happen, it’s fun. I enjoy it. But mostly my Second Life revolves around fashion, whether that be shopping, writing, shooting, editing etc. It’s a hobby and one I enjoy – and I’m not ashamed of it.

    My real life isn’t perfect, but I’m not escaping it. I’m just goofing around having having fun.

    Most of what I said wasn’t used, rather she drew her impressions from things I wrote. I suppose this was a good lesson for me in how I frame my words and how I portray my life to others.

    Initially, I made an iMovie about a typical day in my life but I haven’t bothered to upload it to youtube, my need to defend and show that I’m not dysfunctional has passed. I don’t know if I will share it now.

    I’m not unhappy with the article, but I’m not entirely satisfied either. I guess you can say, I’m uneasy about it.I can definitely understand why others ARE unhappy such as Alicia – as they were more grievously misrepresented and their experiences not given as much merit as they are due.

    I got banging blog traffic out of it, on both SL and RL blogs, and hey I got a RIDICULOUSLY great photo by Melissa Golden.I also got some important lessons learned about how I will deal with such situations in the future – should they arise.

    My real question, upon learning she felt like she needed a shower when logged into SL was “Wow, who took her to Bukkake Bliss?”

    Kidding.

    I wonder though if there is a right way to tell our story to make us happy?

    • Galen
      November 16, 2017

      Excellent addition to this discussion. Thank you.

    • draxfiles
      November 16, 2017

      Thx for sharing your experience. Powerful and illuminating. In regards to telling authentic stories that take people seriously in their pursuit of whatever they feel passionate about: I HIGHLY recommend a YouTube channel that is named after myself.

      But let it be said: this is not about me, this is about listening intently. That takes time! Hours of conversation, weeks of mulling it over and carefully constructing narratives.

      This is my biggest beef with a large organization like The Atlantic = why can’t they go deeper with all these resources? Maybe it is not about the accessibility to these journalistic resources, maybe it is about good vs bad writing after all?

      About the inability to shed biases and just open yourself up to possibilities?

  17. iSkye Silverweb
    November 18, 2017

    I thought that article in The Atlantic was pretty good until it got toward the conclusion. All the possibilities, all the good things that people are finding to do in SL and with SL, and the benefits they derive from it, and she had to end it on such a downer note. It felt like a typical hatchet job naysaying at the end. I was really disappointed by that.

    I felt the same way Drax did about Ms. Jamison’s comment “…I want to take a shower.” What?? Then her comment about the lack of imperfection… That along with her description of emptiness in her conclusion, the so-called visual cliches in SL, and the placement of that context really should have been at the start of the article – it IS the experience of a vast majority of newcomers to Second Life once they’ve gone through the initial orientation: “Now what do I do?” Second Life is not intended to be easy, with ready-made everything handed to you. You’re not going to get spoon-fed things. It’s not a game, though you can play games in SL. It is not “The Sims in 3D”.

    You’re given some basics, some starting points, then you are meant to explore and figure things out, discover its possibilities. It takes time. I think Ms. Jamison said she spent six months in Second Life. Well…at six months in SL, I was already a mentor in 4 different groups, owned my own little parcel of land on Cape Able, and had discovered a virtual regional of Burning Man in SL, explored museums and met artists, learned building and was just discovering that everything I saw was created by other people like myself, and the tools for ME to do that too were already there at my fingertips, waiting to be found, learned and used. I became a 3D artist, fascinated and enthralled by the things I could create in this environment. And and and… I was not “playing” SL; I was discovering all the incredible ranges of creativity and activity and “be-ivity” possible through my interactions with other people in the virtual environment. There is meaningful engagement here.

    Second Life can seem like there’s not much there, at first, and you may find empty virtual spaces. By persevering, you’ll also find that you will encounter other people and things and places – all of which have been created by those people and you can find the names of those creators with a right-click and edit on any given object. In my first two weeks in Second Life, I wandered around, and not one person spoke to me, but then I landed on this one island called Virtual Ability and encountered a blue-haired avatar who typed to me in text, “Hello. Can I help you?” Next I met a TinMan, a dinosaur, and a dead ghost – THEN finally met someone who looked like a ‘normal’ human. That was when the virtual world really began to open up for me, and I could understand why some people chose to create avatars in the ways they did. I’ve been actively involved, and my real life has been enriched by the experiences and encounters I have had in the more than 8 years since then.

    I disagree with the way Ms. Jamison drew a comparison between Facebook and SL, because they are two entirely different environments. Facebook is a means for a company to mine and sell your personal information for companies at huge profits for itself, hence the insistence on real name, real identity information. They can’t make any money off ‘cartoon people’. Wasn’t Philip’s purpose originally for SL to be not so much as a social network, but a creative space, like a treehouse for himself and friends? And it took off and proved to be flexible enough to behave sort of like a social network in 3D where people can just be the kind of people they want to be without being forced to attach their real world information publicly to their avatars – they can choose to do so, but aren’t required.

    I think this article does well in describing how and why we ourselves choose to spend our time in SL in the ways that we do, but it should be clear there are many, many groups and communities doing all kinds of very worthwhile things. It’s not the useless wasteland of emptiness that it sounded like at the end of the article. Start with that ‘lost in the wilderness’ scenario instead, and before long you find yourself in a rich, varied world made by, for and about the users in Second Life. That is more reflective of Second Life.

  18. Tom Boellstorff
    November 18, 2017

    On further reflection and after discussing your article with some Second Life residents (some of whose comments have unfortunately been deleted from your article’s Comments section), I wanted to briefly point out what are some pretty significant shortcomings of your article. I do appreciate all of the time you put into it. I also recognize the incredibly strong headwinds we face when writing about Second Life, because the misconceptions about virtual worlds and what people do in them are so significant. But for that very reason, three comments are in order:

    1. Definitions matter. They set the stage for everything that follows in terms of what we write and think. (That is why, as you note in your article, I take so much care to define even terms like “afk.”) Because definitions are so important, it’s unfortunate that throughout your article you distinguish Second Life from “the real world.” From the moment you do that, on some level you might as well pack up your bags and go home, because you have assumed from the outset what you should be investigating. As your own reporting indicates, much of what happens in Second Life is real. (And by the way, on the flip side, not everything in the physical world is real, which is why we have things like Halloween and Hollywood). You see the damaging effects of this assumption throughout your article and they are picked up when, for instance, people comment that Second Life is “escapism.” (It might be escapism some of the time, but not for everyone, not all of the time. And can’t, say, going to a baseball game be escapism too?) We must remember that the Euro-American culture that dominates the tech world, there is a Christian metaphysics that assumes the physical is more real, as when Christ becomes flesh. (There is a reason why to say in English “that is immaterial” means not only it is not physical, but that it is unimportant.)

    2. A related issue that should have been clearer to you, given the time you invested in your reporting, is that people use any technology in more than one way. So the fact that some people, some of the time, think of what they do in Second Life as escapist emphatically doesn’t mean it is a universal feature of Second Life. As one of my colleagues noted, this really shows up when you conclude that your “aversion to Second Life—as well as my embrace of flaw and imperfection in the physical world—testified to my own good fortune as much as anything. When I move through the real world, I am buffered by my (relative) youth, my (relative) health, and my (relative) freedom. Who am I to begrudge those who have found in the reaches of Second Life what they couldn’t find offline?” This is a deeply flawed claim. It is empirically, obviously wrong that not everyone who spends time in Second Life does so to escape or compensate for something they cannot find offline. That might be true for some people on occasion, but for the vast majority of residents, Second Life is additive not supplanting. It creates multiplicity, new possibilities in one’s life, rather than compensating for a lack. In fact, there are many (relatively) young, (relatively) healthy, and (relatively) free people who do not have an aversion to Second Life, yet have good fortune. Crucially, this includes many disabled residents of Second Life, since contrary to stereotype, not all disabled folks live a life of lack and misfortune. Your article simply gives us no way to understand experiences in Second Life that are not about compensating for a lack of what “good fortune,” and this is the vast majority of what happens inworld.

    3. One reason for these and other shortcomings in your article is that while you seem to have spent a good amount of time in Second Life (and I appreciate that journalists always face deadlines and time limits), your understanding of the virtual world seems really limited. That seems to shape your “visceral distaste.” You state that you were “terrible at navigating Second Life,” but that is not an eternal fact: if you spent time inworld, then navigating would get easier. Additionally, as colleagues of mine have pointed out, you do not use (or seem to understand) basic terms like “prim,” or how residents build things inworld. That is probably why you talk about people choosing things “from a series of prefab choices,” when in fact those “prefab” items are built and sold (or given away freely) by other residents; it involves collaboration and creativity. It doesn’t seem that you ever built anything in Second Life, owned (or even rented) land, or participated in a community in any ongoing manner. The fact that your interaction with the virtual world was quite superficial seems to shape your rather superficial understanding of the virtual world. A limited understanding seems to also seems to be behind the contradiction that on the one hand you speak approvingly of “the grit and imperfection that make the [physical] world feel like the world,” yet speak disapprovingly of the errors and crashes you encountered in Second Life. That virtual grit and imperfection is also part of the online experience: it doesn’t indicate failure.

    I hope these comments will prove helpful to the continuing conversation about virtual worlds, their potentials and dangers, and how they might contribute to our digital futures.

    Sincerely, Tom Boellstorff
    Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
    Author: Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human

    • draxfiles
      November 19, 2017

      oh boy…our comments alone are now longer than the original article and that may be a VERY GOOD THING 🙂

  19. Pingback: show 163: war of the social worlds part2 | the drax files radio hour [with jo yardley]

  20. Pingback: “The most important thing about any virtual world is the PEOPLE” – Sansar Newsblog

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