There are many unexpected and unplanned avenues that spending time in SL leads us to explore. Despite being a rather expansive social media platform, with a strong emphasis on creativity and community, there are a vast array of spinoff experiences that even the least adventurous resident can find themselves drawn into: experiences that broaden the mind, provoke and stimulate free thinking and can even encourage the narrow-minded into philanthropic acts in the most pain-free manner.
When you consider the academic, educational and experiential wealth that SL offers, it’s no surprise that many can, and do, benefit from some form of directed or self-motivated learning with an inworld basis, whilst events such as Relay for Life, and so many other worthy causes provide us with an easy, low-risk, minimal commitment method for supporting deserving enterprises, and even if we shy away from the more blatant forms of giving, there are few of us who would begrudge shelling out a few lindens in a charitable hunt for a a desirable set of new clothes.
Those are some of the more overt ways in which SL can stimulate the old grey matter, but behind the scenes there’s frequently a whole array of subliminal learning – an accrual of tacit knowledge and understanding – that one day springs out at us, leaving us bemused but smiling, with the question forming on our lips: “Where on earth did that come from?”
‘Where’ it comes from is the rich and incredibly vibrant pageant of virtual life that goes on around us all the time whilst inworld – a background murmur of information that we absorb, almost without knowing until it becomes part of us: An extension of who and what we are. Whether it’s the experience of mixing with people from such varied backgrounds, cultures and countries, the process of interacting with ideas and concepts that may be quite alien to us, or simply the way in which the sounds and colours of SL accompany, flow through, and are ultimately absorbed by us… it all has a tangible effect.
Music is probably an area where most of us have experienced that subtle, but persuasive power of suggestion that SL so capably wields. I’ve written before about the way in which inworld music can be a conduit for our tastes and can complement our SL experience, and how being exposed to other people’s tastes and preferences can expand our own musical vocabulary as well as set the scene for our virtual travels, but there’s far more to it than the ‘in-your-face’ method of delivery alone is able to achieve. Take the simple, and very much non mind expanding activity of inworld shopping – perhaps one of the last things you’d think of as a vehicle for broadening our musical horizons and exposing us to new genres, but – for me – it’s been highly influential in expanding my music collection to encompass styles and new experiences about which I had no idea even existed, before experiencing SL.
Background music in real world shops tends to be banal, boring and piped on the basis that shoppers don’t want to be challenged or exposed to anything less than mainstream or safe, but in SL such reservations are thrown away in favour of creating an atmosphere… an experience… an homage to the parcel owner’s own musical tastes. That can lead to some incredibly jarring sonic experiences as you TP from store to store, but at the same time it’s seldom boring, and just occasionally you can discover some absolute musical gems that cause you to stop in your tracks, turn up the volume and head off to the .net in search of more of the same: A new passion is suddenly born! A shocking amount of my post SL residency music collection owes its roots to inworld shopping, and my already eclectic tastes have blossomed far more than they ever would have done otherwise.
I love it! Consider a recent shopping excursion, taking in maybe half a dozen stores and goodness knows how many different styles of music, some of which found its way onto my hard disk simply because of the way it made me feel. As I shopped, the moods and music changed with each sim… From Chouchou to throbbing techno that transported me instantly and effortlessly to memories of shopping at Cyberdog; a quick TP and suddenly I was in a gothic horror musical morass, only to be thrown back onto the shores of movie-theme unreality to kick back, unwind and wallow in celluloid mellowness. Another store, another genre, before nipping across the road only to recoil somewhat at the rather cool. yet disturbing, background track that now accompanied my shoe shopping.
As I said, there’s plenty of ways in which SL can expand our horizons, without us even being aware of it… and it’s not just limited to music, I promise you.
[And now, the end is here] [It’s on America’s tortured brow]
[And so I face the final curtain] [That Mickey Mouse]
[My friend, I’ll say it clear] [has grown up a cow Now the workers have]
[I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain] [struck for fame ‘Cause Lennon’s on sale again]
[I travelled each and ev’ry highway] [See the mice in their million hordes]
[And more, much more than this] [From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads]
Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain – Life On Mars