Thursday, 25 February 2010

Mixing Neo-Tribes in Second Life

Duchy of Caledon Cymru

Though usually one SIM will serve one Neo-Tribe style like Medieval RP or Steampunk, some communities span across related genres and may include different neo-tribes united in a larger "clan" or even, in the case of Caledon "state".

For example this SIM combines popular Dungeons and Medieval RP style in Caledon's Steampunk SIM. Since the Steampunk community is a re-imagining of the 19th Century how should we understand a place like Duchy of Caledon Cymru?

Should we imagine this as a kind of theme park, a neo-Victorian Gothic construction? In this we we are looking at a community that is a re-imagined and alter past having its own re-imagined and altered past. Should the fact that this castle estate is younger than the older Caledon SIMs be used to argue for it being "newer" and therefore a kind of "reconstruction?", or do the dates of SIMs coming on line show their date of "discovery" an not creation? And what does it mean that some land is younger than other anyways?

If we imagine it as older yet discovered later than much of Caledon, should then this place to be imagined as part of the pre-history of a steampunk identity?

Should you imagine the alternative 19th Century of steam powered computers and airships also has its own pre-history fully alternative back to the Big Bang, or is there a point we should imagine Steampunk as branching off from our reality?

Considering that people are ejected from SIM and communities all the time on the grounds of violating RP these questions might not be that silly.

I myself was ejected from the Deadwood 1876 SIM for wearing Apache clothing. I was informed that since no Indians were allowed in the real Deadwood none could go in the virtual one. I was told to put on jeans and a cowboy hat or leave. I stated that I was playing a prospector who had been living in Indian country and had traded my clothing with local Indians as many prospectors would have done seeing Deadwood was an illegal settlement inside of Indian territory.

I also went on to point out that Levi-Strauss only introduced their brand of blue jeans with rivets (the ones many members were wearing) in 1873 so it would be just as likely someone would trade for an Indian deer skin than get a pair of pants only on the market 3 years. I would also point out that pork pie hats and not 4X4 classic "cowboy hat" was the most common hat in the Old West of the 1870s, in fact overall on the basis of historical evidence my clothing was without question the most likely outfit one would have seen someone in Deadwood 1873 of that day.

Okay I knew when I said all that I was going to get kicked out but hey SL is a big place and if you ever want to go back use an ALT. Anyways I could not face my good Liberal friends if I didn't stand my ground on that one. But issues like this are used endlessly to govern access to what for the most part are public spaces. People really do police much of Second Life on the grounds of imagined story lines.

Potentially this issue can imply who is allowed to buy land where, and what they may be allowed to build on that land. But more than that these questions raising the depth of meaning that seemingly innocent transactions in Second Life have.

Second Life functions at the level of imagination. Imagination is both the least understood and most powerful part of human mental activity. Someone like Freud or Lacan might argue that these issues underline a massive unconscious symbolic order running under Second Life. And like my 1970s prospector kicked out of Deadwood for refusing to take off his Apache clothing, there are real questions of how imagination confirms issues of race, gender, power and class in the form of play.

In the end of the day the big question is who owns the imagined reality of Second Life? Who has the right to imagine its history?

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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