Following up my SL13B retrospective (yes, I know it was an age ago, but surely you know better by now than to expect timely reporting from me), this year’s theme was one that will have struck a chord with many of us, and indeed, it went right to the core of the SL ethos – the shared adventure.
After Philip Rosedale left Linden Lab to concentrate on High Fidelity, the Lab begin to diversify under the leadership of Rod Humble and, rather than the focus being on ‘creator of virtual worlds’ and ‘your world, your imagination’, the mantra became, ‘shared creative spaces’, which some might argue is a more accurate description of what the Lab is about. Whatever your opinion in that regard, it’s not difficult to appreciate that SL is a social platform that only really comes into its own when people interact with each other in the wide diversity of ways that SL encourages and nurtures. None of the things that we take for granted in SL would work terribly well if it weren’t for the collaborative element… Music and dancing; selling and shopping; hunts; role-playing; competitive games and a whole host of other inworld activities would simply not happen if people didn’t get together and share their virtual lives and experiences.
Even so, SL can also be an intensely personal thing. A huge amount of the activity that we undertake whilst inworld is self-motivated: designing and creating, exploration, even such mundane things as clothes shopping tend to be solitary activities, instigated and pursued by ourselves alone, without the involvement or any direct interaction with others. And indeed, specific activities that lend themselves to individual pursuit aside, a great many of us spend an awful lot of our time inworld in a very private and insular manner. In a way, it’s a reminder of the old watchword… ‘your world, your imagination’ – because, the way in which we ultimately live out our virtual lives is essentially our own private perception and interpretation of that place in which we find ourselves.
I would say that for every hour I spend inworld surrounded by people and interacting with others, I probably spend an equal amount of time doing my own thing, in private, and far from the madding crowd. There are times when being inworld is an intensely personal thing for me – not time to be shared with others or tied up with communal activities.
I will often choose to be alone when logged in, not necessarily undertaking any particular pursuit or activity, but simply enjoying the moment, whether that means just hanging around and doing nothing in particular, or perhaps enjoying the freedom to explore and relax with no distractions and no agenda. There are times I spend inworld that I share with nobody else, when I get to be ‘me’ – times I jealously guard and protect, and to which nobody but myself are privy, or indeed welcome to share.
Sometimes SL is mine, all mine, and nobody else’s, and that particular piece of virtual real estate belongs solely to the moment and to me. It’s a private place, a special place… My place.
I’m I’m sorry… But you’re not invited!
I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
Keane – Somewhere Only We Know