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Culture Update – Religion in Second Life

Anglican Church in Second LifeToday I came across an article discussing the study of Buddhism in Second Life. It seems that religion has provided a basis for governance and culture since the beginning of time. So it's not surprising to find religious activity in the virtual world. The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life has been meeting and holding services there since late 2006. They currently have regular masses and meetings throughout the week. And there are several other denominations and religions throughout the grid.

The overall plan for this world needs to consider religious activity as part of the culture and how it can support the community in Second Life. And exploring existing religious groups and activity will be an important component in the development of the plan.

Business Development in Second Life

Virtual Vision 2020 recently set up a Google+ community to host discussions related to a community plan in Second Life. Someone had posted in the thread an observation they had upon entering Second Life for the purpose of exploring the platform for marketing their business. They said it felt empty like no one was around and did not think it would be valuable for business development.

This view has been shared by others who report on the failure of "real life" business efforts in Second Life. What is interesting is that in all of these is that the Second Life platform or environment is identified as the cause of the failure. The conclusion is that because of these failures, setting up a presence in Second Life isn't worth pursuing. 

Of course, those who understand the environment and who spend considerable time there have commented on the absurdity of this. They usually point out that the business did not take the right approach. Yet people who have not spent time in Second Life don't seem to understand this.

But those familiar with Second Life are right – Second Life has its own culture, much in the way countries have their own cultures. When US-based businesses try to open up a market in China in a manner similar to their US operations and experience failure, people don't say, "Oh, they are wasting their time." They don't blame China for being China. They don't dredge up all the negative aspects of the society as reasons people should stay away. Instead, people blame the company for ignoring the culture and not fitting their approach to what the Chinese expect.

So why is it so different with Second Life, and what strategies can we identify to correct this misconception and attitude? Can emulating what is done offline work? Companies trying to successfully move into the market in another country typically hire people or firms to help them make that transition. Is this what we need to develop and a service that needs to be offered for those considering a move into Second Life?

These are important questions to explore if we want to ensure successful economic and business development in Second Life. It seems one newly formed effort in Second Life, the Centre for Business Development, might be attempting to address these questions and services. You can read more about their mission and goals on their website at: http://businessdevelopmentcentresl.wordpress.com/about/.

SL Residents Weigh in on Infrastructure and Land

Infrastructure

This month, New World Notes highlighted a blog series on the Digital Pasture written by Penny Patton. Her posts are a comprehensive assessment of existing infrastructure and tools in Second Life. She also adds suggestions for improvements. You can read through her insights through the links below:

A Critical Look at Second Life – Presentation

A Critical Look at Second Life – Bringing Content to People

A Critical Look At Second Life – Part 3 "Improving the Content Creation Tools"

 

Land

Also this month, Prim Perfect is conducting an opinion survey of land in Second Life and what it means to you. The survey is closing soon with results expected to be released over the holidays. If you want to add your thoughts to the survey, make sure to take it now by clicking the link below. And we look forward to the results:

Prim Perfect Survey: Second Life Land and You

Collection of Views on Participation in Second Life & the Metaverse

Recently there's been a few articles in which current and past members of Second Life have expressed their thoughts on participation in virtual platforms. I'm listing them here because they express what appear to be several common attitudes or views on the benefits and challenges of the Second Life platform. Some also offer insight into what people are looking for from a virtual experience.

Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later – by Chris Collins (Fleep in Second Life)

My take on the future of the Metaverse: If there has been a failure, it is ours – on Botgirl's Identity Circus by Botgirl Questi

More thoughts on the present and future Metaverse – on Botgirl's Identity Circus by Botgirl Questi

Comment: On the Metaverse – on Cyberbehavior and Cyberworlds by Dr Matthieu J. Guitton

Second Life is Not the Metaverse — But That's Not What It Was First Invented to Be – on New World Notes by Wagner James Au

Snow Crashing – on Andromeda by Will Burns (darianknight) 

Second Life, the Metaverse, and Everything – on Honour's Post Menopausal View (of Second Life) by Honour McMillan

A Glimpse into the Development of Second Life

Part of the purpose of a community plan is to take time to reflect and capture how and why a community formed and discover the early visions driving its development. By exploring these questions, we better understand how we got to where we are today. Recently there was an amazing opportunity to hear Philip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life, provide the answers to some of these questions at the 2012 International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference. Gentle Heron, who interviewed Philip, asked some great questions, and Philip's answers were thoughtful and informative. The video of the interview has been embedded below:

 

The Viewer is Critical Infrastructure

In the world of Second Life, the viewer has to be considered critical infrastructure. It allows us to access the world, and it's the method through which we control our experience. Without it we don't get in. And if the viewer has problems or doesn't work well, our experience and quality of life suffers. Yep, definitely critical.

Currently Second Life provides an official viewer along with a Beta version. When we all first join, we are most likely downloading and using the official Second Life viewer. But once we spend some time in world, some of us eventually realize not everyone is using the official viewer. We realize there are other viewers available  – these are referred to as Third Party Viewers (TPV). Some people try out these other viewers and never go back to the one provided by Second Life. Others regularly switch between viewers. And there are many who never use anything but the Second Life viewer. In May of this year, the New World Notes blog posted a story with some user statistics indicating 65-75% of people in Second Life were using the Phoenix/Firestorm viewers with Phoenix being number one, Firestorm number two, and the official viewer being the third most used viewer. The story generated many comments – another indication of how important the viewer is to users.

Over the years there's been a lot of changes to the official viewer and even more were recently announced. Many blogs have been posting articles about the changes. So I'm listing some articles here that capture the conversation because they are an indication of what Second Life members need and envision for this critical piece of infrastructure – the viewer. As I find more, I'll continue to add them to this post:

 

For General Viewer Information:

Second Life Forum – Viewer Topic (note it's one of the topics with the most posts which is another sign indicating its importance)

 

Reactions to recent viewer changes:

Raising the Walls  – from the Telling: Like it Is blog

Linden Lab cuts viewer link to OpenSim – from the Hypergrid Business site (while the focus of the article is on OpenSim, a portion of the article and some of the comments specifically express opinions about how this affects Second Life)

 

What is the Second Life Community’s Message?

In the process of developing a community plan, we explore the core values of its members. This can be determined by answering questions like:

  • What is important to the community?
  • What does the community want to accomplish?
  • What does the community care about?
  • Where does the community want to concentrate their time and money?

 Today I read some interesting thoughts in Paul Graham's essay called Cities and Ambition that made me think there is another important question to ask:

What is the community's message? If you are a new person joining Second Life and beginning your exploration of that world, what is the initial message you receive? What is the message you receive from the community if you're an older resident?

Graham has given this some thought as it relates to offline cities where he has lived or spent time. He said the messages he has picked up from cities have been ones of "wealth, style, hipness, physical attractiveness, fame, political power, economic power, intelligence, social class, and quality of life." Which of these messages are the ones sent by the Second Life community? And which one do we as a community want to send?

And why is this important? One reason it's important is because the community will be most successful when the message matches the values. For example, if art is the most important value, but visitors or residents do not get that message, then the community will not be as successful in its pursuit and enjoyment of art.

To get an idea of the impression Second Life is sending, we set up a quick poll with Graham's categories in the right sidebar on the main page – if you get a chance, please add your vote for the message you think is the one sent by Second Life.

 

Understanding the Infrastructure

The ability to enjoy your time in Second Life is significantly affected by hardware and software performance and capabilities. And this is why infrastructure and services stands as a separate planning category in this effort. While our discussions haven't yet touched on this aspect, I have recently read a few blog posts discussing this subject and wanted to share them here. As I find more, I will add them to the list. 

Your router could be screwing up your connection to Second Life – from Dwell on It by Tateru Nino

There goes the neighbourhood…. – from and by soror Nishi

Project Shining to Improve Avatar and Object Streaming Speeds – from Second Life by Linden Lab

Content Creation Improvement User Group Week 29 – discussion of requests from content creators from Nalates' Things & Stuff by Nalates Urriah

 

Summary of Community Planning Workshops #1

During SL9B we hosted a couple workshops to start the discussion about Second Life. For these first talks we tried to focus only on general aspects of Second Life – why are we here, what do we like about it, what is challenging, what are our general expectations from the platform.

Several people showed up at each event to share their ideas, outlook, and thoughts. We were fortunate that the group represented avatars of all ages and experiences, and they all had great comments and insight. It was a wonderful start to the community plan.

We are now contacting specific groups in Second Life to see if they have an interest in hosting discussions about the different aspects of the plan. If you or your group are interested in hanging out and discussing your vision of the Second Life community, make sure to send an IM to Pam Renoir in Second Life. And if you want to be on our informal committee to work through the plan and its draft, be sure to let us know!

 

Below is a summary of the ideas and feedback we received. (After you read through it, you can also read a great thread on the SLUniverse.com Forums about "What retained you the first day in SL?" Many of the comments there are relevant to this aspect of the plan.)

 

Summary of Community Planning Workshops Held at SL9B at the Virtual Vision Exhibit

Why are we here? Are people really aware of why they are here? And are they aware of how the world is created/maintained?

The impression is that people in SL fit into one of two categories depending on their reason for participating in Second Life (and this can be different for the same person each time they log on):

·        To make, sell, learn, teach

·        To enjoy recreational/social aspects: clubs/dating/roleplay/games

Second Life is the result of people's dreams and visions. It is an ever evolving project. And the perception is that although it is user created, few probably realize the degree to which this is true.

 

What people like about SL:

  • Hint of anarchy
  • Presentation of few barriers
  • Lack of judgmental attitudes in general
  • Overall friendliness and helpfulness of the community
  • The ability and encouragement for anyone to create
  • The ability for anyone to present themselves any way they want
  • It's not just another game
  • Its objectives are the same as your offline life objectives
  • The pace is slower and more relaxed
  • Shared experiences are possible similar to the type shared offline
  • There is the ability to keep your personal information and/or identity private
  • People can create the type of life they desire
  • There is also great potential to test ideas before implementing offline
  • Because of the unlimited resources, people can create in Second Life what would be too expensive to make offline
  • This environment allows us to see life's bigger picture and encourages us to move forward into the future
  • For some people, SL helps them become less afraid in their lives in general

It was observed that while machines were made to extend muscle power, Second Life was created to extend brain power

And even though there was acknowledgement of griefers, the thought was most griefers are doing it for attention or don't realize there are real people behind the avatars. People also did not have a lot of exposure to griefers.

 

What is our view of the avatars in SL?

Some think of avatars as their actual self while others view the digital representation as the avatar, not the actual offline person, but still believe the avatar has feelings and emotions.

 

What keeps people in SL?

  • Other people! A welcome into the community. But while this was acknowledged as critical, the concern was it was not scalable – need about one to two hours to orient a new person properly
  • A newcomer packet explaining things and what you can do as an avatar would be helpful to those just joining
  • Infohubs were mentioned as helping along with communities like Caledon

 

Some challenges to retaining people

  • Challenge is that people need time and patience to understand SL, but it's difficult to do this when you do not know the outcome or end result.
  • Computer hardware required for a positive experience
  • Lack of direction for some people who like guidance on what to do
  • Some people experience fear in Second Life on levels other than for personal safety
  • A few people have experienced some arrogance and elitist attitudes from others in the community
  • Competing interests

 

What people would like to see:

  • More community discussions
  • More social technology/tools and integration with other social media tools
  • Confirmation and understanding of security
  • Enhance Second Life's ability to jumpstart our future and improve our offline lives
  • Enhance the ability of Second Life to develop a new type of psychology, politics, and science
  • Enhance and encourage Second Life's ability to speed up research and development in the offline world and expand that exponentially
  • Enhance and encourage Second Life's ability to help people learn to interact and develop better relationships and improve their own understanding of themselves and their critical thinking skills.
  • Improve the ability to find and work with those who have similar interests within Second Life
  • Improve the ability of people to find work in Second Life

 

Challenges for planning and setting community goals:

  • The presence of communities within communities – this is primarily seen as a weak point only because it has hurt the external perception of Second Life
  • Lack of interest by majority of the community in a community plan or goals

 

 

Latest Infrastructure Suggestions

We heard a lot of good suggestions, comments, and ideas at our open discussion events at SL9B. I'm still in the process of summarizing them, but in the meantime, wanted to list a few of the recent blog posts discussing infrastructure in Second Life.

Linden Lab's recent infrastructure improvement project:

Linden Lab recently announced a concentrated effort to work on some of the issues related to graphics and performance. And a few people have offered their thoughts about this project. Below are some links to a few comprehensive articles on the topic.

A Shining announcement: major improvements coming to SL – from Living in a Modem World: Thoughts on Virtual Living

Second Life Changes Coming – from Nalates' Things and Stuff 

In addition, a couple people have offered ideas about improving other services. You can check out their posts here:

 

A couple of great posts covering improvements to communication:

Improving groups – from Jo Yardley's Second Life

Improving out-world possibilities for in-world situations – from Jo Yardley's Second Life

 

An older, but still relevant post about scale and how it affects our experience in Second Life:

A Matter of Scale – from The Digital Pasture