Without the people behind it all, nothing happens. That’s not only true for SL11B or any of the other big events that take place around our virtual world; Burning Man, Relay for Life and all the fairs and events that we love to take part in, it’s true for sl itself. SL is, first and foremost a community – but not a community in the sense that so many other social networks are: brand leaders like Facebook, Twitter and Plurk are all – for all their ‘social network’ tags – very much all about me, me, me! They’re composed of egocentric micro-worlds, where every contributor is the centre of their own tiny universe, pulling in friends, followers and latch-ons through the attraction of their personal gravity, often resorting to downright coercion. It’s all about ‘follow me, I’m oh so important and that importance will rub off on you through association’.
SL is fundamentally different – while i won’t deny that it’s still all about creating our own personal worlds, and there are indeed parts that are selfish, self-serving and very exclusive – there’s a hugely important uderlying element of selflessness about it too. We very much enjoy ‘real’ socialising – the sort that involves listening and giving of our time and energy, as well as receiving. We love to create for ourselves, but we also enjoy sharing our creations with others just as much, and without this sl would be an empty, dull and endlessly repetitive experience… Facebook in 3D!
Is it the platform, the ethos or the people that make sl what it is? Personally i think it’s a combination of all three, but the backbone is definitely the people. Certainly, if the sl platform was more prescriptive we’d lose something – the very fact that we’re given an empty canvas, upon which we can paint our own picture, in our own style, with our own materials is extremely conducive to the open-source, open access, shared experience. Unlike other networks, we’re not constrained to a timeline, social groupings or fixed methods of expression, and neither is it necessary for us to sign-up, subscribe to, or follow, in order to partake of what our fellow residents may be doing. Then there’s the underpinning ethos – ‘Your world, your imagination’ – which, even if it’s not been given the high profile that it once enjoyed in recent times, is still very much the basis of what we do and who we are: nobody’s telling us what to do, or how to do it, and i believe that really can bring out the best in people.
And it’s the people themselves who take this platform and ethos and make it not just their own, but everybody’s – this is illustrated perfectly in microcosm at SL11B. The sims, the builds, the performances, the activities: none of them would would happen if the virtual world revolved solely around personal gain and egocentricity. Of course, i won’t deny that people and businesses do benefit personally from it, in many ways, but i very much doubt that the payback in any way equates to the amount expended, on top of which there are many who just get involved for the experience alone.
You’ll find little in the way of boasting and bragging at SL11B – elsewhere on the Grid you may be the best builder, the best scripter and the most awesome DJ in your community: at SLB, you’re one of many – equally brilliant, and frequently far, far, better. It can be a humbling, yet enormously inspiring experience. Even those who could claim to be the ‘big noises’ of the birthday celebrations, and the real movers and shakers – known across the Grid some who’ve been around almost since day one of sl – are just another resident, and it’s a remarkable experience to casually bump into somebody who commands enormous respect and kudos Gridwide, yet they’ll stop for a friendly chat and be as blown away by the things they’re seeing and experiencing as you are. It’s a hazard of wandering around the sims that you’re going to become hopelessly starstruck at some point, yet – unlike rl – almost without exception, the rule about ‘you should never meet your heroes’, simply doesn’t apply.
Even so, there are some people you’d never expect to meet, and certainly wouldn’t expect them to come across as ‘normal’ and approachable. To spend time, for example, with Ebbe Linden is effectively the sl equivalent of hanging out with God. He’s the last person i’d have expected to see out and about in public, particularly in the light of his recent announcement about second sl (SSL?) and the resultant maelstrom it’s caused in the metaverse, but…
[15:26] Ebbe Linden: I’m back!
[15:26] Resident #1: wb.
[15:26] Resident #2: Welcome back Ebbe 🙂
[15:26] Resident #3: ~~*~~ Welcome back! ~~*~~
[15:27] Resident #2: One question … has your impression of SL changed any since getting The Big Chair?
[15:27] Ebbe Linden: Not much, but continually blown away by cool stuff…
[15:28] Resident #2: Cool Good to know. Thanks. We’ll keep it up.
[15:28] Resident #1: got any scoops ebbe?
[15:28] Ebbe Linden: No major scoops but happy to take questions…
That sort of exchange, to me, sounds like a guy who is completely in control, knows where he’s going and has no concerns when it comes fielding what might be tricky questions. You know what, i’ve liked the guy since he joined the Lab and now, having met him, i think that my first impressions were correct. Whilst the storm about SSL rages, it’s good to know that the guy in charge is so composed and relaxed about the whole thing: i’ve got a sneaky feeling – whatever anyone else might say – that sl is in safe hands.
With your feet on the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
If there’s nothing in it
And you’ll ask yourself
Where is my mind?
Placebo – Where Is My Mind