Second Life is terribly educational – it’s only after you’ve spent some time inworld, (around five minutes is usually more than sufficient), that you begin to learn that everything you ever thought you knew and understood is hopelessly warped and inaccurate. SL manages to re-define pretty much any concept that we’ve ever held dear and present us with a whole new viewpoint that, had we confined our activities to rl, we would never have known existed.
Take, for example, the concept of ‘normal’ – in the real world, we tend to have a pretty good grasp of what is ‘normal’ and, by the same definition, what is ‘abnormal’. In sl, it’s not quite so straightforward – in the virtual world, normality takes on a whole new meaning; one which few of us would dare attempt to pigeonhole or define. Consider the straightforward and everyday occurrence of a conversation between a group of people in a social setting. In rl, this is a relatively simple scenario – with usually, fairly predictable topics and outcomes – not so in sl. When i consider some of the surreal and, frankly bizarre conversations i’ve been party to in sl, it’s not difficult to come to the conclusion that i’ve accidentally wandered into the day room of a facility provided for mentally inept savants. That’s the funny thing about it, although the topics of discussion may be the verbal equivalent of some of the odder works of Salvador Dali, they’re executed with the brilliance and panache of a room full of Nobel Laureates in literature!
Some of the peculiarity of sl discussion arises from circumstance and the virtual environment itself – in a room full of people, where perhaps two or three conversations may be going on, it’s inevitable that lines will get crossed and, often hilarious, misunderstandings will occur. Throw in a good mix of nationalities, perhaps the odd drop of alcoholic refreshment, chat lag and an ever-so-slight attack of mischief at appropriate points from the participants, and the chances of the most bizarre threads emerging is almost guaranteed. That, in itself, is not particularly confusing – what i find completely baffling however, is the completely bonkers range of topics that we constantly find ourselves discussing.
Take last night – a small gathering of friends who, in rl, would probably talk about music, work, holidays and the type of low-key topic that forms the mainstay of most conversations that occur in a social setting. So, what did we end up talking about? Glue! Yep… a full blown discussion, all around the subject of the stuff that we use to bond materials to each other. It was an enormously wide-ranging discussion too, which at times provoked strong reactions – we covered everything (no pun intended) from sticking people to boards under helicopters with Solvite, through Gloy (remember that?), Pritt, Copydex (everybody’s favourite – shame about the fishy smell), superglue and – (not without some controversy) – UHU. Question of the night had to be ‘If they invented a glue that stuck everything – what would you keep it in?’ – all in all, a fairly typical sl conversation! Here’s the thing though, not one of us thought there was anything remotely odd or unusual in having such a weird and wonderful conversation – in fact, it all seemed perfectly normal!
See what i mean about sl being educational? Although i do worry that, at some point, my understanding of what is ‘normal’ is going to become so confused that i start having those sort of conversations in rl too!
Now, time for a spot of conspiracy theorising… what is going on in the hidden corridors and back rooms of Linden Lab? i’m getting the distinct impression that something big is afoot. On what am i basing my assumption? – well, consider the following: The recent round of Gridwide region restarts – apparently to rollout mysterious ‘critical software updates’; then there’s Rodvik’s announcement about making ‘artificial people’ – bots, to you and me – more integrated and numerous within sl, and dark hintings about gaming environments and MMORPGs. There’s more… check out Torley’s Wiki and you’ll find a message from him about how his responsibilities are drastically changing from mid October – but no indication in what way and, if we’re going to really go down the conspiracy theory route: What about mesh? Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the focus of LL’s energy, effort and resources for so long, now appears to almost have been dropped in support of other projects, almost to the point where one of the potentially biggest markets for mesh – the clothing business – could turn out to be a huge white elephant. Take a look at Paypabak Writer’s blog, where she discusses the need for a rigged mesh parametric deformer (a thing that makes meshes malleable) – basically, without this, we will all have to modify our body shape every time we wear a mesh outfit, just so it fits. There’s a huge outcry about this – since it would allow mesh clothing to conform to our shape and not the other way round – pretty much a showstopper for the mesh clothing sector. Yet, LL have suddenly, changed this from a high priority JIRA to ‘someday/maybe’.
So, where exactly are LL suddenly focussing all their effort and, more to the point, when are they going to tell us?
I’m sticking with you
‘Cos I’m made out of glue
Anything that you might do
I’m gonna do too
The Velvet Underground – I’m Sticking With You