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Second Life is a noun

January 25th, 2010 by Marianne McCann

Reflections on the water

(Somewhat inspired by my last post and some discussion that came after it)

For as long as I’ve known of Second Life, there’s been some confusion as to just what it is. This war of words has been going since the first shots were fired in Jessie and continue today in debates over “augmentation and immersion,” or fears of the “Facebooking” of our world.

What I think lies at the heart of this debate is one simple matter: Second Life is a noun, and — as those of us in my generation learned from Saturday Morning cartoons — a noun is a person, place, or thing.

Now I’m going to discount Second Life as a person. There are a great many people there, but it is nigh impossible to call Second Life a single person. It is not Philip Linden, nor is it M Linden. It is not Ansche Chung, or Aimee Weber, or Desmond Shang. It is also not that n00b who is wandering around right now in Waterhead, trying to figure out what this world is about while being harassed by the regulars. Second Life’s people are its “killer app,” IMO — but again, no one person or even group of people is Second Life.

What we’re left with is “place” or “thing” — and this is where it gets tricky. There’s very much two sides at play here.

To many, Second Life is an “application” or a ”game.” It is a place they go and play in, or its something they pop into for meetings, 3D prototyping, business, classes, or yes, even hooking up on Zindra. It is a thing that one uses to achieve a goal, a tool in their computing arsenal.

Content creators come in every day and spend their hours tweaking prims and uploading sculpt maps. They might be knee deep in scripts or textures, hardly aware of the virtual world beyond the confines of their workspace. In the end, they’ll have created the most wonderful things to sell or use in other ways within Second Life. They will also have somewhat sated their own creative impulses, at least for the moment.

They might be here to work, spending much of their SL times in meetings or (where I often end up) in IMs. They might be handling builds for big schools or institutions, or even simply taking courses with some of the same-said locales. This is not just a plaything for errant hobbyists, but a tool full of serious potential for business and education.

To others, Second Life is a hangout. It’s where they go to see live music, chill with friends, maybe even have their virtual family. It’s a tangible world where they might (if they’re brave enough with region crossings) sail a boat on the Blake Sea, or drive down the highways. It is a place they do to akin to visiting a nearby theme park, campus, or large shopping center.

I think I can say with some sense of sureness that those of us who play kids most often view the world as a place, and feel that kinship to our homes and family. I think it comes with our territory.

Right now, Linden Lab “Moles” — paid Resident content creators — are putting in a “reserve infohub” in Murray. A handful of residents who frequent the area are up in arms about their place being changed. To the west of there, in Bay City – Docklands, a small group of Residents has claimed a street corner, and dug in their heels when a self-appointed police force moved into the area to somehow assume control of the area. Two groups right now are vying for their views on the Second Life Railroad’s right of way. You see stories like this all over, as people lay claim to their home soil.

Heck, I know that n about a month, when I hit my 4th rez day, I will be stopping by the place where the Sami Infohub once was, just to visit the place that a very new Marianne McCann first called home.

That’s what it is to call it a place

These are not mutually exclusive. I know that much of my own experience falls under “place,” and I know this surprises no one who has ever read this blog. But I too have used Second Life as a thing. I build for my store and for other companies. I use it as a communication medium for meetings and gatherings in the same way I might have used AIM or Skype. It’s an application that runs in a window on my Macintosh, often sharing space with a browser window giving me the latest from Twitter or Plurk, or running YouTube videos to entertain me while I fling primitives.

Nevertheless, it is the disconnect between these two things that seems to lead to the biggest troubles. Residents who view Second Life as “their turf” see the possible influx of “outsiders” from mainstream sites like Facebook with the same sort of disdain often afforded to real-world “immigrants.”

To many outside the world, the idea of place is lost entirely. This is a world that comes out of passive entertainment, who enjoy a good movie or TV show, At best, their “virtual world experience” might have come from collecting their share of mystery prizes from friends in Farmville via Facebook. There is no “world” within their computer to explore, just games, applications, and programs that entertain and inform.

Some who are here for the “game” might find themselves bored and disaffected, finding it hard to see beyond the confines of an infohub into the broader world beyond. They want “quests” and the like, and just don’t want a place to “chill with friends.” By the same token, they may also turn to griefing, making their own quest life out of mario cubes and the like, getting their lulz off those who see SL as a place to visit, not a game.

Second life is a noun. It is both “place” and “thing,” and attempts to serve both audiences. It seems clear to me that Linden Lab would like to increase its stake in the “social networking” crowd, and knows that this may alienate, even anger, those for whom this is a place. It’s what I said of Murray or Docklands ramped up several notches.

The thing is, Second life is big. Tens of thousands of Regions, enough that many decry how “empty” the world feels. They have a point. Given that, there really should be enough room for all viewpoints — and if there is not (and there is a market for it), Linden Lab will add more simulators, and the world will get that much larger. There is no scarcity of land and resources like First Life, and nearly anything can be bought or made without need to find much in the way of raw materials. There is room for Second Life to be “place” and “thing,” like some virtual Schrödinger’s cat.

There’s space for us all within the noun that is Second Life.

So why Bay City?

January 23rd, 2010 by Marianne McCann

Watertower

Nearly two years ago, Second Life announced a new area. A bit of a throwback to the days of Nova Albion, this would be a city area composed of several regions, planned to be in an “American urban experience” theme, focusing on Art Deco stylings and a “Chicago in 1950” feel. I immediately wanted a part of this place. Since then, I have remained a part of the area, helping in some small way to keep the area growing as best as I can with the members of the Bay City Alliance.

To be honest, I’ve put in a lot of time in Bay City. It’s not like I haven’t stepped back a time or two for various reasons, and re-accessed why I’m there — but in the end, I always come back to it. So… why?

First off, I have to look at the three things that appealed to me in the first place:

1. I’m a sucker for mid century design, especially Deco and Streamline. This could mean being a part of a virtual recreation of these times and their structures, much as Caledon is a “steampunk” version of Victorian England.

2. I run a toy store that has a higher than average focus on older “retro” toys that would appeal to those reliving a childhood that happened in the same — or similar — times as my own.

3. I envied the sense of community that existed in Nova Albion, and hoped to see a similar, vibrant community that I could be a part of.

Note on that last one: I did not feel I could be a part of the Nova Albion community given the high cost of land there. Little did I know how much Bay City would be!

Bay City Industrial Park

These reasons are still a part of it, but it’s more complex now than it was then.

For one, I’ve become involved in the mainland as a whole, looking at some of the “historical” parts of the grid, helping to see them preserved (when they can be) or modernized, and feeling a kinship to the grid.

My avatar may have grown up on the other side of the Sansaran continent, but I first rezzed into the world in Ahern. Nowadays, my home location is in Shermerville, north of Nova Albion, and a six or so region trip from my Bay City store. I feel a odd sort of “kinship” to this chunk of virtual land. It is “home.” Bay City is, as some might put it, my “stomping grounds.”

The city has not been without its challenges, but it does have its Art Deco flair. It may well be the most consistent, on theme part of the mainland, which is in many ways a miracle. It’s far from being a mid-century modern paradise, but compared to a lot of the mainland, you’ll find a consistency beyond the rest of the grid.

And then there is the community. In Bay City – Imaginario — the region I own land within — I know all my neighbors. We chat when we’re in the region together, and I often find myself in IMs with others from the city. We all meet regularly to discuss “city business” with ourselves and with Blondin Linden. We all — particularly lately — do a good job of acting as a group, and coming up with plans that will benefit us all. I think that too is a bit of a rarity.

It’s not a perfect place. Land is still frightfully expensive (tip: always ask a seller and try to bargain if you can). May parcels sit vacant as a result. Not every parcel is going to be a showpiece, either.

That said, it has a charm and “specialness” not found all that often. It’s worth taking another look at i you haven’t for a while.

Announcing Miramare Place

January 7th, 2010 by Marianne McCann

I realize I mentioned Miramare Place in my last post, but did not give any further information on it!

Miramare Place

After a long time of wanting to be in Nova Albion (I had actually poked about there before Bay City was announced), a friend finally persuaded me with this small chunk of land. I faced it as a challenge, given the following actual and imposed contraints:

1. The parcel is 192 square meters, and supports only 87 prims. Further, it is 8m x 24m. This would require some cautious use of prims.

2. It is in Miramare, a PG region within the old city area of Nova Albion, and the neighboring buildings are largely futuristic in design. Because of the style of the neighboring builds, it should be build with standard prims versus sculpted as much as possible as well as have a futuristic look.

3. The build should reflect my interest in Second Life(tm) exploration and my knowledge of the local area surrounding Miramare.

4. The build should help promote Livingtree Island in some fashion, but any such marketing should be non-obtrusive.

5. The build should be a social place, where people can gather and hang out.

Miramare Place

The result is Miramare Place, a small refreshment stand featuring snow cones served by a robotic friend (he was inspired by another Nova Albion resident Osprey Therian’s suggestions for the parcel). The build is retro-futuristic befitting both a city of the 1960s or a far-flung city of tomorrow.

It is designed to liven up its side of Miramare, which has been mostly unused for some time. Smaller than its skyscraper neighbors, it still seeks to fit in amongst them, providing a place for the weary traveller to rest and relax. The music stream, too, is space-age loungey stuff.

Miramare Place

Much of the content is interactive, with a board that gives out landmarks to explore, another with local area information in a notecard, a snack selling robot, napkin dispensers (probably the single most useless thing in SL, but still fun), and even an easter egg or two hidden in the build.

Come on by and check it out, enjoy a break by the water in Miramare, and say hi if I’m there. I’d love your feedback!

Miramare Place

It’s a big world out there

January 7th, 2010 by Marianne McCann

While at Michael Linden’s office hour this week, I got what was for me some exciting news: the Wild West Town in Oak Grove would finally be seeing some love.

Moles in Oak Grove

In the dim and distant past, the Oak Grove sim was the home of wild West Town, a resident build project from 2003, once housed in the Zoe sim. Then things changed. The Native American village was replaced with the Oak Grove Education Stage, and the entrance to Wild West Town was nearly buried as land was raised for Busy Ben’s Vehicle Lot. The Oak Grove telehub went away, and Wild West Town slowly began to fall apart. Two structures are all but gone, leaving just a jumble of prims.

It was Oak Grove, the damage to same, and the lack of upkeep to the area that led me to file a JIRA and a support ticket back in Spring of 2008. It also led me to seek out other locations that were in need of retails, such as Yamato Town, Mount G’Al, the Moth Lamps in Iris, and the “Games” Pavilion in Ahern. Some of these have been fixed, some remain in need.

Seeking out those locations led to something else, too: it helped opened up this world to me. It made me think of it as something more than a collection of parcels to be teleported to. I had already been reaching that with my experiences in Bay City, but once I began to see that beyond Bay City was Nova Albion, and the Suburbs, then Yamato, Nexus Prime, Ahern, and Oak Grove, then Lusk, the vehicle sims, and the Lost Forest of Kahruvel — well, you get the idea. I begun to see all these as somehow connected.

Then I looked at the SL Roads, waterways, and rails, further connecting places. I rode the train from Tuliptree to Bhaga, and when it came time to move from South Islandia to Shermerville, me, my siblings, and an aunty or two took a drive ‘cross the whole of the Sansara continent, passing Resident and Linden locations I’d previously only visited via teleports.

So often, we hear people talk about how little there is to do in SL. Reporters will write silly articles, bloggers toss their snark, and everyone sharpens their knives on Second Life. Plenty of Residents, often huddled in the crowd at an infohub, will also tell you about how bored they are in their Second Life experience.

Yet there is always something out there to see. For me, there is quite literally more than I could ever hope to soak in. I’ve travelled every road and rail line (including the unbuilt right of ways), and sailed between continents and across the Blake Sea. I know the Mainland better than most, no question, and can rattle off long discussions about what is — and was — in a lot of these many regions.

Yet in knowing and doing all this, I can only tell you that there is a lot more out there I don’t know and have not seen. There will always be places to see, things to do, and new experiences to have. There are nine continents, three major cities, and then thousands of privately held island estates to boot. On top of this, things change with a regularity quite unlike the real world. There is simply no way to keep up on it all.

And this is good.

Blake Sea Ferry

As I write this, I’m boarding the new Blake Sea ferry in Barbarossa, while a B-17 and an F-16 fly overhead. How wonderous a world is this? There are a bit over 40,000 people inworld, each doing their own part to make this world unique and special.

Before you started reading this blog entry, you may never have heard of Wild West Town of some of these other locations. Maybe you are now intrigued enough to do some exploring on your own. Please do. In fact, if you are interested, come by my store in Bay City – Imaginario and click the billboard above the parking lot, or come to Miramare Place and click the Exploration wall. You’ll get a stack of Landmarks to some of these places, ripe for exploration. Go, have fun, and learn how vast this word of ours really is.

Baby Blocks… You Know, For Kids!

January 1st, 2010 by Marianne McCann

New from You Know, For Kids – a barrel of baby blocks!

Yes, a barrel of baby blocks! simply rez the barrel and tell it to “dump out blocks” to have a set of sixteen blocks at your disposal. All letters are available, and a couple spares, just in case! They rez out as physical objects, but you can turn that on or off with a simple command. When you’re finished, just say “clean up blocks” to tidy your room or sandbox!

It’s copyable, and all prims are modifiable (incase you need bigger or smaller blocks). No transfer, but if you need it as a gift, you can buy a “golden ticket” for them at any of the below store locations for easy gift giving!

Available at the following You Know, For Kids locations:

* Bay City – Imaginario

* Livingtree

* Inner Child Depot, booth 103 in Fletcher

* Funky Town

Also check out my other goodies (Whee-Los, EZ Bake Ovens, Lamps, Music Box, Lemonade Stand, Wax Lips, Pinwheels, and more), an all the other goodies for both kids an adults!

Also available at XStreetSL!