I’m sat on a train (again) for the next three hours and we’re currently held at a signal, (‘Arriva Trains Wales would like to apologise for the delay to your journey – this is due to the line being blocked following an incident’). Having nothing better to do whilst they decide how they are going to shift this particular incident, I’m gazing out of the window at a gorse bush covered in yellow flowers and a willow loaded with catkins and wondering how they have become so deluded that they think it’s spring, even though it’s barely February, (OK, March – I wrote this a month ago!). Beyond the befuddled foliage, a rotten and broken-down pier stretches or into a grey and misty sea – a relic of Victorian grandeur now long past.
It’s a snapshot – a moment in time and place, briefly captured in time. I gather together a great many of these mental snapshots on my journeys; glimpses and fleeting impressions of places and people, framed in train windows, and always, tantalisingly, just beyond my reach. I may never see the full picture or the who, where or what of what is passing before me, but each in its own way, is a moment of recollection, a memory and a record of the places I’ve been and the circumstances surrounding them.
Maybe these things stand out in my mind because I’m a very visually-oriented person. I take many, many photographs and, almost without exception, I’m able to conjure up the precise details of the circumstances in which they were taken, right down to the most intimate details. For me, a photograph has the power to transport me back to the moment it was captured, with every detail crystal clear, along with the events, people, sights, sounds and even smells that accompanied it.
I also take lots of photographs in SL, perhaps not as many as I used too, but even so, they take up a sizeable chunk of hard disk space and, in figures, I’m well into four digits now. However the reasons that I photograph SL are different to those in the real world. It’s true that I do grab the occasional image as a reminder of an event or memento of a special location or occasion; at times I may produce a portrait or group photo of friends; but the vast majority of the pictures I save are for entirely different reasons and hold far less of an emotional connection.
My inworld images tend to be purely documentary in origin and style. Their only real purpose is to capture and document the incredible diversity and fecundity of our virtual world – the scenery, the creativity and madness of a user-created virtual environment and ecosystem. Certainly, they are a record of the places that I’ve been and explored, but I don’t see them in that way, instead I’m more interested in maintaining a record of SL itself, than what it means to me. Although, if pushed, I’d probably find it hard to explain why I feel the need to do this… It’s not as if the images have any intrinsic value, and it’s unlikely that anyone but myself will ever even see the majority of them, it’s just that I feel a need to record and preserve, even if there’s no real reason to do so.
I suppose it could be, in some way, connected to my personality – I tend to be well-ordered, methodical and meticulous, with a thirst for knowledge and information. Since this is me in the real world, it’s no surprise that I might want to document and accumulate data about the virtual world, even if it is of little relevance to anyone but myself. That’s just the way I am, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever change.
And maybe, at this point, you’re wondering whether I’m human after all… Maybe I’m really an AI – some sort of Android, programmed to gather data and store it for some higher purpose.
And sometimes, that’s something that I wonder myself!
Looking at the trees on the roadside
Feeling it’s a holiday
You and I should ride the coast
And wind up in our favourite coats just miles away
Ocean Colour Scene – The Day We Caught The Train