“The problem with creating an immersive 3-D experience is that it is just too involved, and so it’s hard to get people to engage. Smart people in rural areas, the handicapped, people looking for companionship, they love it. But you have to be highly motivated to get on and learn to use it.”
Now, read that again and tell me what you think is being said here.
That particular quote comes from none other than one Philip Rosedale, aka Philip Linden, aka the person who created Second Life – i’m not entirely sure what i make of it. On the one hand, it could be viewed as highly insightful, alternatively you might consider it to be highly insulting, then again, it could also be taken as a back-handed compliment! If you consider it from a public relations point of view, at first reading, it’s a bit of a disaster – perhaps PR should steer clear of PR and confine himself to coming up with new and innovative methods of collaborative networking, which seems to be an area he’s pretty good in!
What are we to make of this statement? Is Mr R. seriously suggesting that sl is firmly aimed at a niche market: The socially disadvantaged, who have nothing better to occupy their time than to hang around in a virtual world that makes up for all the niceties of the real world that those less isolated by circumstance are able to enjoy? Are the most successful and engaged people in sl really those who have so little going for them in rl and therefore throw themselves wholeheartedly into the online community as a means of living a full and meaningful life that they would otherwise be denied? This is certainly one impression that you might form from what he says and i can’t help feeling that, if it is the intended thrust of his words, it’s rather a generalisation in terms; i’d certainly hesitate to say that people in rural areas, the handicapped and those looking for companionship are getting any less from their lives than those not in that position.
Maybe i’m reading it the wrong way? Perhaps he’s saying that those who find themselves in some way disadvantaged tend to be more motivated than their more fortunate peers; in which case, does this mean that those whose lives are not afflicted in some way that challenges them to raise the bar beyond the norm are lazy, unsuccessful and lacking in the skills that sl brings to the fore? If that is the case, then Philip has again done a disservice to a very large swathe of society and tarred a great many people with the same, rather undesirable and derogatory brush!
Could it be possible that i haven’t grasped his argument at all and that his intention is not to be judgmental with regard to any particular segment of society, but rather he’s making a general observation on the peculiar demands of sl itself – although this isn’t something that suggests itself immediately from his phrasing! There’s no doubt that there are elements of sl that require us to be engaged every bit as much as rl itself demands; it’s also true that those who wish to ‘get on’ in sl and who want to take advantage of the vast array of opportunities sl provides really do need to be motivated and pretty dedicated if they are to learn how to use those opportunities to their advantage. Nobody, for example, becomes a scripter overnight, and certainly not without a fair investment of time, effort and determination often with the only motivation to succeed coming from within – there’s little financial inducement and any kudos that comes with mastering such a discipline has little, if any value outside the virtual community.
What about the rest of us, though… The teeming millions who are not particularly experts in any aspect of sl and could perhaps best be termed as ‘enthusiastic amateurs’ – where do we fit in to this interesting take on the virtual world – because, if Philip really is commentating on the nature of sl, rather than having a dig at the people who use it, then i imagine many of us might struggle to put ourselves up there with the high achievers and super-involved, so does it follow that we can’t engage with sl? Surely that can’t be the case, because we certainly feel, act and behave as if we’re very much engaged!
The key to unlocking this dilemma lies in understanding exactly what role we are fulfilling in sl – we tend to see ourselves as ‘residents’. The current incumbents at Linden Lab would prefer that we saw ourselves leaning more towards being ‘players’, but the truth is that both terms are really misnomers. Phil hits the nail squarely on the head in his very first sentence – maybe if i slightly alter the wording you’ll see it – ‘It’s hard to get people to engage with creating an immersive 3-D experience. It’s just too involved.’
Yep, however deeply immersed we may perceive ourselves to be and whether we see ourselves as experts or enthusiastic amateurs, residents or players, every single time that we log in we become ‘creators’… our actions, interactions and activities work together, in concert with those of others, to collectively and individually create ‘an immersive 3-D experience’.
So often we labour under the misapprehension that Linden Lab creates sl, when any Linden worth their salt will be more than happy to point out that they only provide the platform – it is ourselves who populate it, build upon it, develop it and create the world of sl, each one of us contributing our own little bit to the extraordinary whole. To us, it might seem like we’re having fun, enjoying ourselves or doing nothing remarkable at all, but every conversation we have, every prim we build and every single thing that we do is part of the process that creates the virtual world that we are part of.
That takes a certain mindset and attitude – it takes the kind of person who is able to suspend belief, explore their imagination, let go of the real world and – most importantly – contribute and give selflessly of themselves as part of the process. Perhaps this is why Linden Lab can sometimes seem to be so at odds with us residents – neither party has really grasped this fundamental tenet of sl existence. We, the residents, keep making demands of the Lindens, complaining about their mismanagement and generally apportioning blame their way, when really we should be getting on with the job of working with what we have. Sure sl has its problems, but we’re a smart bunch and there’s always a way around them and maybe, rather than expect solutions to be handed to us on a plate, we should be creating solutions ourselves. Similarly, the Lab’s failure to understand this basic point sends it off on advertising campaigns that entice people into sl for what it can offer to them… whether it’s free Lindens for crystals or the chance to jump on the vampire bandwagon. What they should be selling to new signups is not what they can get from sl, but rather how they can contribute to sl to make it even better.
i’m not sure that i particularly like Philip’s tone, or particularly agree with some of the points he’s trying to make but i can’t help thinking that the visionary whose ideas first conceived sl has managed to sum up everything there is that’s both good and bad about sl in just a single sentence… Perhaps we should all take note?
It’s my own design
It’s my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure
Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World