some thoughts on Second Life

one of the main “attractions” of this years’ festival was Second Life. This 3D virtual world has been praised by many because it is unlike other virtual worlds. In other virtual worlds  the user is assigned an avatar with no possibility of modification, or  the user is interacting with a non-modifyiable  environment. in SL, virtually everything can be built, reshaped, or worn by the user. it sounds very exciting, if it wasn’t for the technological demands it asks the user (old computer with no decend graphic capabilities? forget about SL), its time-consuming features (hours and hours on SL to become fully familiar with programming), and its appropriation by corporations, institutions, private property and the entertainment industry (everything comes with a price, unless the user knows SL very well).  In sum, what could possibly have some true potentials for creativity tends to look more and more like a cartoonish version (or a disneyland version) of the first life.

 

Second Front, SL performance

what surprised me most is the hype that this type of technology has caused within academic institutions. The Ontario College of Arts and Design (OCAD)  joined other universities and colleges building a SL version of its campus. During the entire course of Subtle Technologies it was offering users around the world the opportunity to attend the festival “for free” (provided the user had the software, the account, the right computer and the right bandwidth). result: the average amount of attendees was 5 to 10 users. While it is important that such a promising piece of technology be promoted and improved to create larger networks of like-minded people, collaborations and sharing of knowledge, its structure is far from being accessible and user-friendly. with the number of social networks that populate the Internet and are used everyday to broadcast, share and provide information to people around the world, SL was the only “default” choice, and not a very accessible (without going into the tired discussion of haves/have not) and/or democratic one . the reason for this is still a mystery to me.

at least, I would have appreciated that the presenters be allowed to speak through their avatar, instead of being featured with their own hardly distinguishable “human appearance”. Knowing that my presentation would be broadcasted to “the (virtual)world” I had even chosen to wear a “no one is illegal t-shirt” to send some political messages ….impossible to be seen during the presentation…