Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can Second Life Be More Like Real Life?


 

If good things lasted forever, would we appreciate how precious they are?

Bill Watterson

 

 

          Recently, a lot’s been happening in and around Second Life (SL) which has got me thinking.  (Significant Other always claims to begin worrying about now.) 

          In no particular order, there has been SL Go, the new mobile app for SL.  Oculus Rift has been offered up as a 3-D immersive SL experience.  Philip Rosedale is doing something over at High Fidelity and Ebbe Altberg is promising a brave, new world with SL 2.0 (or whatever it’s going to be called!)  I even stumbled across a device that gives the experience of holding hands with a loved one over the Internet! 

          This is where I began to think.

          What’s the end result of all of this development?

          Could SL become more like Real Life (RL)? 

          Yes, I know.  Some of you are going to begin moving towards the exits right about now.  But, for the rest of you, humor me please.  (Significant Other says it’s the best way to handle me.)

          Just think about this for a moment.

          With all these potential new products and what will come after them, and there always is something to come after, where do we end up?  There’ll probably be better graphics with less lag.  Improved interfaces with more tactile abilities.  Open standards with social media applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  (The latter which has by the way now permits avatar names to be used.) 

          Alright, you may say, so what?

          Well, we may have a highly realistic virtual world that might be difficult to distinguish from RL under certain circumstances. (I’m not talking about being under the influence either!)  We might be crossing the point where reality is indistinguishable from virtuality.  (Yes, I know, I just made up a new word.  You heard it here first folks!) 

          Think about this for a moment.  We will have arrived at the The Matrix before we even got to Mars!  When people first started predicting space travel to Mars, no one even had imagined virtual reality yet! 

          But, (There’s a “but” isn’t there?) would this be a good thing?  (Significant Other feels I play devil’s advocate so much that I’ve forgotten whose side I’m on.)

          We would have a virtual world separate from RL which would offer us pretty much everything our cerebral cortex may require.  (I’m staying away from nourishment for now.)  Though would this be more a game than a community?  Would it even be real?  What would this mean for RL people?  Would they spend more time inworld?

          Or, instead of being a standalone environment, could this new virtuality (Sorry, I really like this word!) become an extension of RL?  (Significant Other mumbles something about cutting me off.)

          Just a couple of examples.  Relay for Life (RFL) raises money inworld for cancer research in RL.  The Mieville sim recently had a yard sale to help raise money for a member suffering from leukemia in RL and who didn’t have health insurance.  Finally, First UCC maintains a ministry inworld helping congregants, and anyone else who needs it, with their spiritual and other needs. 

          Some may dismiss this out of hand as simple charity.  (Which I might argue is the best kind but I’ll save that argument for another time.)  However, I see a blending of SL and RL activities.  Virtual faces are given to RL activities.  There are RL consequences to SL actions.  Monies are raised, people are counseled and helped, and communities start and begin to flourish. 

          How do we do this?

          We do it anonymously in most cases, on a global basis, and much of it is experimental.  We make the rules up as we go. 

          As I’ve blogged about before, I do believe a scalable virtual economy which permits transactions, has free exchange of currency (Bitcoin perhaps?), and protection of intellectual property rights is necessary for this to happen. 

          Things are still in the early innings.  Who knows how any of the initiatives I started this piece with will turn out.  A lot is going on.  Most of which many of us have no clue about.  Social media is still a wild card in my mind.  Will Mark Zuckerberg really launch into virtual worlds with Facebook?  Events presently unknown will probably have the biggest impact in all likelihood. 

          I opened with a question and I’m not sure of the answer.  All I know is that things won’t be the same! 

I’ve included a few pictures of some SL events that approximate RL ones.  Just some food for thought! 

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

 

 



Photo No. 3 Mieville Yard Sale


 

8 comments:

Lyl Witch said...

Interesting to think about but how I have always perceived SL is that it is a social platform, there are games within the 'game' but most of the time it exists as an outlet, something through which users can explore avenues otherwise closed to them in the real world, such as long distance friendships, photography, fashion, or simply meeting people for those too ill or too strapped for cash to leave their homes. Of course the closer to 'reality' the platform becomes the more popular it will be in certain circles, but it also may alienate the escapists, who use SL to create an entirely fantastical world where they can disconnect entirely from the everyday.
As far as Facebook and social media goes, with the amount of people from SL that I know not wishing to connect their avatar with the person behind it, I doubt it would realistically take off as a virtual world, with many people having separate 'family' vs 'friends' or 'work' vs 'personal' facebook accounts, the whole concept seems too fraught with real life accountability. If we are too scared of our boss seeing us call him names or owning up to pulling a sick day because we went out on a week night, I don't see the long term profitability in a facebook connected virtual world, but that could just be my own short sightedness :P

webspelunker said...

Lyl,

Thanks for reading and commenting!

I have the same question myself about Facebook and virtual worlds. Many use Second Life and other virtual worlds to blow off some steam and do things they wouldn't otherwise do IRL.

Given how Google+ has finally given in on avatar identities might Facebook not be too far behind?

TC

web

Lyl Witch said...

I know a good few people who do have an FB account for their avatar, in that respect it may be more promising for people who already have an assumed online identity (I wont say 'persona' because I think most people tend to be themselves but just under an assumed name with an avatar's face). I guess my point is, what would motivate SL users to migrate themselves from SL or SL 2 or any other current or potential grid, and what would motivate new users to try out any social media linked platform? They would have to bring out something pretty show-stopping, or offer a vastly different experience from the one we have at present, and with the advent of things you mentioned like Oculus Rift, what more can be done that will be easily (financially) in reach of any potential consumer base? Social platforms do probably have the capability to become a lot closer to 'real' but at what cost? Would any of us be likely to be able to afford funky virtual touch suits?

As for legitimacy of avatar accounts, I guess until they become more profitable for Facebook to store and sell the data they will remain in somewhat of a limbo.

webspelunker said...

Lyl,

Good points!

I hope we never have to wear funky virtual touch suits!

Cost will definitely be a factor. But, time will be a cost too.

How much time will people put into virtual worlds?

TC

web

Whitburn Blackburn said...

Firstly, sorry, you didn't invent 'virtuality' as a quick google will show :(

And sorry again, I hope you don't mind, but you have fired my imagination so I am going to do a blog post about this (with reference to yours of course!) as I have too much to say to write here :)

webspelunker said...

Whitburn,

OK, I tried and thanks for keeping me honest!

Look forward to your post and please send me the link so I can pass it along!

Many thanks for reading & commenting!

TC

web

Whitburn Blackburn said...

OK, here it is - https://whitburnblackburn.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/115-whither-goest-thou-sl-in-thy-shiny-virtuality-in-the-night/

xx

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