Thursday, 20 December 2012

The vast unconscious that is Second Life


Caverns at Kinky-O Bondage Sim.  The system of caverns are pretty extensive with a lot of pose balls for sexual activity.  The Freudian symbolism of underground caverns for virtual sexual activity is pretty clear.  Such sexual images and illusions are a core party of the creation of shared fantasy space in Second Life.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Botgirl's Ritual of Retreat

On RetreatThe ever creative Botgirl has posted the following:

I'm taking a monthlong retreat from social networks, blogging and other public online communication. There are three main questions I'll be contemplating:
  • How have I been affected by pervasive connection to the social network?
  •  I took a week off a couple of years ago and figured out a few things, but I've lost perspective again. I'm taking a full month this time to examine my motivations, evaluate the benefits and costs, and finally reengage with a more intentional strategy for participation.
  • How will my creative expression change when I stop publishing multiple times each week?
  • My intention to explore longer-term and more substantive projects has been sabotaged by an addictive pull to continuously post new work.  I haven't been able to discipline myself to cut down, so I'm going cold turkey.
  • Is it time to retire the Botgirl Questi persona? 
  • Five years ago, a fictional being emerged from my subconscious and became the central focus of my online life and creative expression. Over the last couple of years, the line between author and character has blurred to the point that neither is well served. A change is long overdue.
I wish everyone a great holiday season. I'll be back in January.
Botgirl's Identity Circus: Goodbye Until 2013

Over the past 7 years I have noticed this pattern that is pretty unique to Second Life.  People time and time again feel the need to take extended leaves from in world, or to retire identities they create in world all together.  Also when doing this they feel the need to make an account to the community of why they are doing this.

I have literally seen this happen dozens of times, with people telling me they are going to leave for this reason or that reason.

Now what makes this interesting is that I have never seen it happen in say Twitter or Facebook.  If people delete a Twitter account they just delete it, they don't need to explain to a greater community before hand how they feel impelled to do so because of some philosophical crisis.

This need that so many people feel to present an account of leaving upon exiting Second Life testifies to the power of these identifications.  A Second Life avatar simply does not work the same way a Twitter Avatar works.  A Twitter or Facebook account is kind of like a phone number or address, while a Second Life Avatar is an identity we suture on to.  We feel it becomes a part of us and we feel morally duty bound to make accounts of its behaviour. Imagine if we felt the same way about Call of Duty or the Sims?

This massive power that Second Life imaginary reality has it precisely what prevents it from taking off: the dream like fantasy world of Second Life is simply too powerful.  We begin to feel that it is all 'real', that the avatar we are playing with is not an interface but a self.  This hard suture draws us in to a world where our most radical and compulsive fantasy life can get played out.  Unlike TV or movies we can not keep a safe distance from our fantasy life and many people find this stressful and deeply upsetting.

What I find very interesting is Botgirl's claim to have failed to discipline herself, which reminds me so Foucault's theory of identity, where identity is a discipline that gives us a kind of power.  I also think people don't feel this kind of remorse for not discipling a Facebook account or Twitter identity, even when the consequences of inappropriate Facebook or Twitter conduct is so much more significant than playing an imaginary character under an assumed name.

Again this testifies to the power of identity implicit in Virtual Reality, a power that Linden Labs was able to unleash but has never been able to figure out how to manage.  Wizards of Warcraft provides very cliche staged roles and identities with game like structure to come between players and their tendency to suture on to identities.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

#Securescape from Daden Madia


Securescape Introduction from DadenMedia on Vimeo.

Daden has developed what I think is the most brilliant use of Second Life for a real world application.  Secreuscape mashes up the virtual tools provided from simulation tools like Second Life with real world data, giving a excellent command and control tool that situates real world data in a virtual model.

This is going beyond just Web 3.0 to what I imagine will be Web 4.0, where virtual reality and real world merge allowing a synthesis between the virtual and real in real time.  

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The End of the World

The above link came to me via Facebook to the Long Now Blog.  I guess anyone who knows me will know why this post was so important to me.

Firstly it describes how people, often with real life problems, can use virtual worlds to re-engage socially with people, and how meaningful they can become.  But there is also the fact that most people simply don't care about virtual reality, and for the people playing EA Games that mean that there world ended.

But perhaps most interesting is the work of Preserving Virtual Worlds, who try to keep a record of the virtual communities that come and go.

I am not sure if Second Life is going to die, certainly there is evidence that it is faltering but perhaps my own disengagement from the entire idea of virtual reality is clouding my judgement.  I simply can't recapture the intense excitement I felt just 3 years ago for the concept of virtual space.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life

Sunday, 7 October 2012

GOP uses WoW as attack


The gaming hobby of a political candidate has become an issue in a state senate race in New England, US.
Maine Republicans have created a webpage revealing that Democrat candidate Colleen Lachowicz plays an orc rogue in World of Warcraft (WoW).
Ms Lachowicz's liking for back-stabbing and poison in WoW raise questions about her "fitness for office", they claim.
Ms Lachowicz has hit back saying the attack showed the Republicans were "out of touch".
Source BBC

This may be the first major battle in what could be a civil rights movement for alternative avatars, doe people have a right to engage in other identities.
Frankly I find this pathetic.  It is my understanding that the GOP is coming in third place in Maine, where this happened.  Still it brings to the surface some prejudices that people often have towards people who enjoy playing other identities in virtual worlds.  Several years ago I stopped talking about the work I had done exploring Second Life because of the response it got from people.  I was utterly confused to see that a large group of the public seems to view Second Life as a kind of mental illness.  People who spend 5 hours a day watching TV or dozens of hours a month on Facebook seem to think their lives are more real then someone who likes a 3-D VR game. 
I also understand that many people running for office watch TV shows that are not real, that show killings and violence.  Are these valid issues to bring up in an election?  Well the thing is if you ran an add attacking someone for watching violent TV shows you would be laughed at, but it it was porn you might make some ground.  The question is if VR is TV violence or Internet sex: acceptable in public or not?

Friday, 14 September 2012

The End?

For some time I have been writing about the end of Virtual Reality as a viable social event.  Recently I have had an experience that has brought home just how much the landscape of social networking has been changed by iPhones and Android.

I had my 'SL' machine stolen recently.  I quickly replaced my iPhones and iPads and set up a home iMac which allowed us to make movies again and process photos from the real world.  During this time I have also had an app released on iTunes.

But I have not bothered to replace the Second Life machine or to install anything other than a text based connection to my iPad.

So Second Life is not that important to me anymore.  But I think I am kind of missing it.  Pretty soon I will have a nice Apple machine set up, I think I might be starting to miss it.  But there is no escaping that the virtual reality project has been replaced by a more mobile and more real world based use of the Internet.

Actually I have a fairly negative theory about this.  Getting on to Second Life takes a lot of time and effort, and using SL involves having to pay attention to other people.  Second Life expands you social engagement in to times when you might usually be watching TV.  Smartphones enable you to tune out social life when ever and where ever you want.

So the failure of Second Life is the fact that it was only social, people use social networks to avoid social contacts.


Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Titanic Sim in Second Life: the Ultimate Metaphor

RMS Titanic, Ship Of Dreams, 1912-2012, Titanic (35, 35, 46) - Moderate

Given the growing sense of doom and failure around Second Life, a Titanic Sim is just so perfect.  From when the Germans filmed a Titanic movies as they lost World War 2, and a world was fixed on the film in the late 1990s as it faced a series of economic collapses, the making of meida about the Titanic has long been a way for media to deal with inevitable failure.

What better way to spend time on the sinking concept of virtual reality than drink non-existent campaign and dance with someone who isn't there on a ship that would sink if it really existed. 


Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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Friday, 15 June 2012

Hobbo Hotel Hell


My conclusion after a fairly extensive study of virtual worlds was that a primary activity was sexual play and that a primary user group was disabled, mental ill, or elderly people who were often bored.  Second Life opened up a sexual play world to a vast number of people who otherwise would have little option than to watch TV.

Okay for adults sexuality is a lovely thing and a basic human right and it is a good thing that disabled people have social outlets.  

But the problem for business is that the appeal for these networks are kind of limited.  Most adults are too busy with work, children, or doing things to be attracted to a world like Second Life.  They key consumer demographics of  25 to 45 is engaged in a range of real world and other social network activities.  Second Life has not been able to penetrate this group while Facebook, Twitter, Match.com, YouTube and other social groups have.

So for companies who have invested in Virtual Reality there was still the issue of how to make money. Linden Labs seems to have the disabled, depressed, and elderly population tied up.  So who else is often bored, lacks social interact, wants to meet people, will to experiment in identity, and likes new technology.

Children.

I have seen that many of the new VWs that have survived are heavy child grounded.  In fact I essentially gave up this kind of work because all the new worlds I went to were full of children.  

But remember the other key point of virtual world: sex play.  How were you going to stop teens and pre-teens from experimenting in sex.

Well my take is it is impossible.  Virtual Worlds simply lend themselves to sex play.  And as any born again Christian can tell you it is sure hard to get kids to not experiment with sex.

Habbo Hotel's problems should not be seen as a failure of the firm as much as a consequence of the kind of activity that VR is. 

As I post some time ago Virtual Worlds create a kind of shared dream space, in which the issues of reality can be symbolically played out.  This promotes an environment where more of what Freud called the 'unconscious' can be acted out.  Not to be too dogmatic I would say in the dream space of Virtual Reality the person is free to act out desires or interests that can prevented them in reality.




My own research made me conclude that there are in fact a set of fairly fixed patterns of Virtual Reality usage, and that sexuality is a predominate pattern just as Freud identified patterns of sexuality conflict, usage and expression in the dream state. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

End of the Road

 

This post is a long time in coming.  Perhaps its an after thought really, for its been almost two years since I stopped research work on Second Life and virtual reality.

The main reason was with me: I got the answer I wanted about how people use the web.  I found out that there is a massive area of research about Identity and cyberspace based around the work of Lacan and Zizeck and there many people more read and better informed than me that build up a huge body of science and theory about how the self is constructed in 'cyberspace.'

But it was also to a large extent audience.  Though Lacan's framework is brilliant and widely used within Second Life the bias against Freudianism and even depth analysis was too great to make it a fruitful community.  There is a perfectly good Lacanian analysis of this, that the illusion of Seocnd Life which makes it a possible project for inner issues needs a level of 'innocent' denial.  If people start to think too much about what is going on in Second Life it would ruin their ability to use it.

This seperates Second Life from much of the work in Web 2.0 where people are actively engaged in trying to understand how the technology work.  Second Life is more of a dream, and a dream only works if it can, if only for a short time, fool the participants with illusion.
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Friday, 3 February 2012

Web 4.0

Tweets mapped on Google Maps
Web 4.0 is going to be the next major extension of the Internet.  To date we have moved to Web 3.0, first putting data in the web, then social contacts, and now locations.  Now the web is growing in its factual basis, able to ask Who, What, Where, and When.  But there is still the necessary imagination of the user to ask Why and What If or Why Not?

A imaginary heaven in Second Life
The next logical step for the web is to combine the imaginative powers of creativity and virtual reality with the real world datas of facts.  To not only know what is happening where and by whom, but to be able to transform these facts in to what every creative visualizations we might have access to.   To not only be immersive in a augmented reality, but to be able to translate that augmented reality in to a augmented virtual reality where the real world and the imagined world are as intimately connected as they are in our minds.
A realistic model



Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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Thursday, 2 February 2012

Anaglyph Images from Second Life

Anaglyph Images from Second Life








Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Second Life not empty yet


Though there is not question that Second Life is having some difficult times, its not fair to say its empty yet.  Certainly you don't see the same level of mass crowds as in 2007 as thousands of ordinary people came in to see the future, but you still can see a good sized crowd at certain quality events.

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Thursday, 12 January 2012

The void of Second Life


This one picture I think tells the entire story about what is happening in Second Life.  The project of Second Life is clearly in trouble, but it has left a large reserve of skills that produce interesting virtual spaces, even when it is just a mass void for sale.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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Is Second Life entering a Dark Age?

Second Life has experienced the closure of a lot of SIMs.  So the effort the generate a kind of cyber Empire made up of regions, Republics, and Kingdoms which were to be united in a single Empire of Linden Labs, a purely economic Empire where Linden Labs got rich by providing a platform which was to support millions of users, and a planet of virtual land to extend as vast as a planet, and perhaps even larger than a planet.

Well the great Empire Dream of Linden Lab is dying out.  That is not to say that virtual reality is dying, its just that right now the Second Life project is getting smaller and smaller.

But its interesting to see what is surviving.  As for activity the universe of SL is becoming more and more dominated by sexual play.  Which should not really be surprising.  The Internet almost always gets flooded with porn, after all what would you really want to watch on TV?  But its interesting to not the kinds of SIMs that seem to survive.

I have notice that the SIMs that survive are not only sexual, but also often Gorian or medieval with castles and AVs wearing Barbarian outfits.  It is almost like Second Life is entering a Dark Age, a world dominated by closed inbred communities, castles, and barbarians.


The collapsing SL looking more and more like Western Europe in 800 AD as imagined on the History Channel or some B rate pulp novels.  Does this mean anything?  Is it the way the players imagine decline?  Is it a social reality of declining social structures that they becomes fragmented, paranoid, and feudal, or is it the case that this kind of fantasy play which has always had the great appeal?




Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Clashnagrave Castle, Clashnagrave

Clashnagrave Castle, Clashnagrave, a well executed SIM in Second Life


Castles seem to be the primary form that is surviving the current great death of Second Life SIMs, probably the entire grid will look like Wizards of Warcraft in a year or two at this rate.

Rober1236 Jua the Cyber Trekker of Second Life
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