September 7th, 2009 by Marianne McCann
This post was a bit delayed, for when I really could take a moment to think about the event.
It’s a hard and compelling question, especially as Linden Lab works to market its flagship product as a place where people can meet and do business without needing that real-world connectivity. Is SLCC at odds with the goals of the world, and was Linden Lab itself hypocritical by supporting this event, even hosting a luau and having Philip Rosedale, Mark Kingdon, and Tom Hale as keynote speakers?
After attending the event, I’m not sure I have a clear answer, but I did come away with come clear impressions.
First off, Second Life is not going to replace First Life any time soon. As nice as it may well be when we see the promised graphical and technical improvements discussed at SLCC, it will not replace the real world. Likewise, our avatar selves will not replace our flesh-and-blood counterparts. There are so many nuances that — at least in the foreseeable future — will not translate well into the digital realm. A smile generated by an emote is not the same as a friendly grin in the real world, nor does a virtual hug convey the warmth and acceptance of its real-world counterpart.
Instead, don’t look at it as a medium that will replace, look at it as one that can augment. At the risk of tossing up the popular “augmented reality” buzzword, that’s essentially what virtual worlds can do. Events like SLCC take the virtual and bring it into real space, allowing for a different form of socializing and collaboration. Conversely, the virtual has its own benefits: for one, no plane tickets, no hotels, and no box lunches are required.
Many of the people I met I already knew in Second Life, but the event made each of those people a bit more real. With many of them, I will now think of our meet-ups in San Francisco alongside those virtual times spent together, making for a well-rounded view of these people.
At the event, I met Daphne Abernathy, Jaelle Akula, Hamlet Au, Treasure Ballinger, Malarthi Behemoth,Harper Beresford, Tezcatlipoca Bisiani, Ina Centaur, Loki Clifton, Asri Falcone, Gellan Gleneig, Twa Hinkle, Strawberry Holiday, Alexa Linden, Amanda Linden, Blue Linden, Catherine Linden, Colton Linden, Dee Linden, Dusty Linden, Jeremy Linden, Jon Linden, Kate Linden, M Linden, Mick Linden, Oskar Linden, Pathfinder Linden, Philip Linden, Pink Linden, Rand Linden, Rodney Linden, Roxie Linden, Teagan Linden, Teeple Linden, Whump Linden, Alexa Lioncourt, Areal Loonie, Crap Mariner, Cybin Monde, Isablan Neva, Tuna Oddfellow, Beth Odets, Cory Ondrejka, Eshi Otawara, Jopsy Pendragon, Persephone Phoenix, M2Danger Ranger, Misty Rhodes, Cylindrian Rutabaga, Hydra Shaftoe, Sloan Skjellerup, Feline Slade, Siefert Surface, Bettina Tizzy, Hulaboom Voom, Bevan Whitfield, and a few others who I’m afraid I forgot (met too many people, was hard to remember everybuggy’s names. Sorry!). I now have an “augmented” view of each.
When I think back on SLCC, it’s meeting Alexa Lioncourt and having her run over to give me a hug. It’s Eshi Otawara and Beth Odets impersonating each other, as well as Beth and Cylinrdrian Rutabaga jamming on guitar and violin. It’s the wry grin you always knew Crap Mariner would have, or even Asri Falcone slyly slipping under the table in a somewhat successful attempt to liberate one more brownie. These are the experiences I can then take into the virtual realm, and which will change the way I look at all the above — for the better in every instance.
If anything, that is what I’d recommend SLCC for. It is that chance to go behind the curtain a bit, and meet the rest of these people you’ve known only in a digital persona. Each I met was just as vibrant as their Second Life counterparts, even if there were far less neko ears, furry snouts, or other items more common amongst the usual Second Life meeting.
I do see one weak link, however. I did watch one of the keynotes from inworld, rather than the Grand Ballroom at the Westin St. Francis. As a result, it only had an audio stream, and we lacked even the slides that the presenters (as well as their avatars) used. In my opinion, SLCC could do better at this, truly augmenting their real life event with a well-presented virtual presentation. Imagine if the panels and keynotes had their own version of Linden Lab’s Isabel conference room? This could be the future of SLCC, both inworld and out.