Going up in the world

As i continue my sl heritage journey, i’m starting to see a more coherent picture, not just of our virtual world’s roots and origins, but i’m also getting a feel for how the sl culture views its past and i can’t help wondering whether this tells us anything about the maturity of the sl community… that is, what point sl has reached on its evolutionary journey.

Perhaps that requires some explanation: If we take the real world as our benchmark, an understanding of history has only really become important to society over the last couple of hundred years. Throughout the major part of its existence, humanity has largely chosen to ignore what has gone before, preferring to focus on the future, as being far more important. Documenting historical fact and chronicling the past was an occupation reserved to those who, for their own reasons, felt it necessary to explore the past and it was only with the growth of the science of archaeology in the Victorian and Edwardian eras that the desire to understand history began to demonstrate its importance to us. Nowadays we take great pains to preserve surviving relics from the past and can be fiercely critical of our forebears who, through ignorance or lack of understanding managed to obliterate or vandalise what we would now consider to be precious artefacts and architecture. Coming to think about it, it was only back in the 1970’s that someone thought it would be a good idea to knock down half a 12th century castle in my own home town to make way for a roundabout!

Today we’re hopefully a little more enlightened and not only do we value the past and what we can learn from it but we also realise that today’s present is tomorrow’s legacy – it’s amazing just how often you hear how we must preserve what we have for future generations to enjoy. To me, this is a sign of social maturity – a society that recognises that there is much that can be learned from the past and therefore, what reminders of it we have should be preserved; indeed,  the important pillars of our heritage of today, will one day inform the generations yet to come.

This is not the impression i’ve gained from my travels in sl. Most of the historically important sites i’ve visited, or are on my itinerary for the future, have only survived by accident or because someone has preserved them for reasons that are not always immediately apparent. There’s very little sense of rationale or reason behind keeping many of these places and, equally, there are many locations and historical items that really should have been preserved that are lost forever. Every site i’ve visited has exuded an air of neglect – rarely does any effort appear to have been made to preserve the integrity of the surroundings or to otherwise signpost these places as noteworthy and there’s really very little to suggest that anyone actually cares. This was brought forcibly home recently when i visited a region of immense sl historical interest, only to realise that i’d been there before, completely ignorant to its importance.

Much of the historical sl has been ploughed over, lost or destroyed – such is the march of time and progress – but, to me, it’s a sign of an immature society, that is failing to recognise the importance of the past and feels that it has nothing to learn from it… even more surprising when you consider that it would have taken relatively little commitment to set up an sl historical region, where snippets of the past could be preserved for future generations.

One piece of the past that has been preserved in sl is Steller Sunshine’s beanstalk in the old region of Welsh – somewhere i’d visited previously but felt the need to return to. The whole region and its surroundings have a kind of primal feel to them – they’re not as polished and accomplished as what we might be used to these days but they are no less interesting, quirky and enthralling for it. Legend has it that one night the Lindens packed up at the end of the day but forgot to turn off the server and Steller, seizing the opportunity, whipped up the beanstalk overnight. i can’t speak to the veracity of that story, but the thought of Philip Linden and his crew turning up for work the next day, to find a giant, magical beanstalk had sprung up overnight in their absence is a compelling one!

The beanstalk was always meant to be climbed – indeed Steller offered a reward to any resident who could demonstrate they’d been successful – this however is no walk in the park. Once you’ve mastered clambering up the first couple of leaves, you realise what a gargantuan task you’ve taken on – the beanstalk is seriously tall… over 100 metres and, although the leaves may appear strategically arranged, it’s not to assist your progress, but to hamper it – it’s very much a case of AOs off and a lot of nimble fingerwork! As you climb, you’ll come across beanpods, flowers, and spiral tendrils that wrap around the stem and test your balance to the limit; finally, you reach the top and, surrounded by bursts of blue butterflies, your hard work is rewarded by great views from your lofty perch, (be daring – i pushed my draw distance up to 1024, to make the most of it!).

Whilst you’re up there, surveying the vista laid out before you – Governor Linden’s Mansion in the distance – take a moment to consider this remarkable piece of SLengineering, created long before sculpties, mesh and even linked prims came onto the scene. Yet it is still as challenging, fun and impressive as the day it was made – that’s quite an achievement for something that is basically just a few textured prims! For the engineers amongst you, it’s worth a visit just to see its spiral prims – an early type of prim that is denied to us today – apparently the servers really don’t like them. You can also spot a couple making up the chandeliers in the Governor’s Mansion but i’ve yet to find any other extant examples still surviving in sl.

Having enjoyed the view from the top, there’s the journey back down to enjoy… great fun, and probably more of a challenge than the ascent!

There are many ‘must do’ things to be found in sl but if you only ever do one of them, let it be having a go at climbing Steller’s beanstalk – and, while your at it, just think of all the thousands pairs of feet belonging to the great and the good of sl’s past – that have climbed that path before you. It’s kinda humbling.

s. x

I can see for miles and miles
I can see for miles and miles
I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles
Oh yeah
The Who – I Can See For Miles 

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This entry was posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, SLarcheology, Tour Guide. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Going up in the world

  1. Pingback: WHAT IS THIS CRAP? » Justice delayed, denied, deloused…

  2. Folks in many other parts of the world have long been very meticulous in preserving their histories.

    Asia, Africa, Central and South American people kept detailed records.

    Colonialism discovered the importance of wiping out another culture’s history in order to downpress them, and make their descendants feel as if the occupiers had brought civilization. Learning the importance of destroying such history helped spread the importance of preserving western history – as a way, originally, to make it appear grander than that elsewhere were records were meticulously being wiped out.

    Its only into the latter half of the 20th century with the end of colonialism’s militant side that a recognition of the value of the greater world history comes back into play – and only with the dawn of the 21st century that non-western sources, what is left of what was so destroyed, is again being given recognition.

    Wiping out a history is a very powerful tool of regime change… and we’ve seen it repeatedly in SL as the meme’s of what will be acceptable have changed. Not likely by such as intentional means as in RL – but more just a “happy coincidence” of the way tier works… though a few blogs here and there have preserved snapshots of ‘days gone by’ – both the good and the bad.
    – More often the bad.

    Much as during colonialism for the RL analogy; it was much more useful to preserve negative historical relics of conquered people; to help uphold notions that they used to be savages, while conveniently not preserving positive images, records, and traditions.

    So too in SL, when we want to recall the great works of SL days gone past, it is easier to look and find images of adfarm blight or XXX-clubs gone crazy, than some of the more artful and educational builds; thereby helping “reinforce” the theory that changes in policy were good…

    • Thank you for a very thought-provoking and insightful response, Pussycat.

      Unfortunately, we’ve seen the manipulation of historical fact to assert power and for propaganda purposes all too often a feature of the real world and one that we could do without seeing replicated in the virtual world. Sadly, in a closed environment like sl, which can sometimes feel like a kind of benign dictatorship, the potential for ‘losing’ or altering history is both tempting and easily achieved – something that Orwell demonstrates spectacularly in ‘1984’.

      The power that historical imagery holds can’t be under-estimated and i agree with you that negatively-focussed historical artefacts can be misused to deliberately mislead and tarnish – even though such things may be factual and accurate – as with so many things in life, a balanced and unbiased view is essential if we’re to make an informed appraisal of what the truth is.

      s. x

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