The great escape

There has been a spate of posts about the balance between First and Second Life lately, starting with my friend’s Dandellion’s thoughtful and entertaining blog post Going Schizo. At its core is the question how to handle the realisation that the personalities we evolve in the 3D metaverse of Second Life might seep back into our atomic life (a distant echo of some of Dusan Writer’s earlier thoughts). Besides a fair number of comments, it has also spurned Kit Meredith to ask the question if atomic her is jealous of her avatar, and Botgirl Questi to complete her schematic of the relationship of metaverse and meatverse. Independently of those, Zippora Zabelin has touched on the same topic in her beautiful Life is a game.

The funny thing about all these is that, much as I wanted to give feedback and tell the authors how much I enjoyed their posts, my own uneasy balance between First and Second Life has not let me do so until now. Consoling and supporting a friend much in the same situation as Dandellion’s unknown avatar, but also saying a chance good bye to another one who was leaving SL, as well as finally accepting some other friends and lovers will never come back, has made me painfully aware how ephemeral our second life can be — and how fragile whatever fleeting balance we find is.

It also made me think. Because while we often discuss how, and why we leave this world for good, we rarely dwell on the question that maybe should have been asked first : why bother with the effort of two lives at all ? Why come to Second Life, and stay ?

I have an answer to offer, Continue reading

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So say I all

About two months ago, some of you might have caught a discussion panel sporting Robin Harper — aka Robin Linden — and Jack Balkin — professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School. It was hosted by the USC Institute for Network Culture and Global Kids as part of the MacArthur Series on Philanthropy and Virtual Worlds and was somewhat curiously called « Philanthropy and Virtual Worlds: Do Avatars Dream of Civil Rights Considering Civil Liberties ».

Of course, the event was not actually held with that fancy strike-though title ; it went live under the simple heading « Considering Civil Liberties ». But it was originally announced as « Do Avatar Dream of Civil Rights » (see here and here ; and take note of the above mentioned Global Kids URL while you’re at it). One week before the event proper, the title suddenly changed.

I have been trying to put this curious title morph out of my mind for a while (in fact, I had latched on the whole issue originally for the panel’s content, and was hoping to get my teeth into that. Nothing more be said than that it was rather anti-climactic, though it did cure me of my dread of Robin Linden). But somehow, I can’t. It irks me.

Granted, it is entirely possible someone just noticed that another paraphrase of Philip K. Dick’s best known novel title sorely lacks in originality, and decided to change the title because of that (not that the new one shone in that regard). Still, I find it a rather surprising thing to do on such short notice, and I’m left wondering… What if, instead, someone realised that they had leant so far out of the window, trying to be funny and clever, that gravity was taking over ? Pondering how soft that concrete sidewalk will be on landing can do wonders for a change of mind.

For a sidewalk there is : one week before the sudden change in title, Tateru Nino posted A person chooses, a tool obeys on Massively. And sparked a discussion which took me by surprise. I would not have expected that alluding to the avatar as an entity in its own right would be such a contentious matter. Neither did the panel organisers, it seems.

The gist of Tateru’s argument, in case you haven’t read her post, is that an avatar is nothing but a tool, a « device without intention » no law can directly apply to, and that the tool’s user is the only actor in the play. It was followed Continue reading

Amuse-gueule

I have to apologise. No, not for me, though I am the one unable to post the grand thoughts my numerous fans are clamouring for, but for my typist. My operator. Whatever you want to call her. Until a few days ago, I have been calling her my atomic me, but we have had, well, you might call it a spat.

The reason, you ask ? She has a new love. No, not a man, nor a woman. Worse. A machine. She has been stroking it, toying with it, and, honestly, drooling all over it in a disgusting way for days.

Poor Rheta, of course, only got the crumbs. A perfunctory « well, SL Y-K-W is in the app folder, now get off my back while I set up [oh yeah, right] things » was all I got for three days. When I finally got the run of the thing, it turned out even worse than expected. I mean, before, I had a very cosy little off-world home in the barren wasteland of Windows called Firefox. it was snug, fitted with everything I needed (Google Mail, Google Reader, Open ID identification, my Notefish notes, j’en passe et des meilleures). She said she had relocated it, and that I would miss nothing. But when I went to visit, finally, and after having had to listen to her waxing lyrical about how pretty it is, how polished everything is, how —well, you get the idea — imagine my dismay when I found out the one thing butt ugly was my home. The horror.

She promised to improve it. She had me try something called Fluid, saying « your mileage may vary ». Vary it did indeed, to the point Google Reader was about the only usable thing on it. And whenever I turned to her, she said not to pester her. All the while my news, mails and other things kept piling up. I would feel like crying just looking at my inbox. Insupportable.

Tonight, we had words. It was ugly. We were at each other like harpies. She said she would not spend more money for stuff only I would use. I yelled she’d spent enough already, and I that I was fed up getting the scraps from her ladyship’s table, and what the hell did she mean by « only » me anyway ? True to the law of opposite motions, tempers went up and things went downwards from there.

I have won. I think, at least : I now have a small budget to buy a new home. Strange names — Mailplane, Twitterific, gSync, PixelMator — are going through my head. I feel giddy.

And her ? I don’t know yet. She’s in a huff with me, but I don’t care. We will make up, that much is certain. After all, we are inseparable. But you, my dears, will have to be patient, just for a little while longer, until I get my home nice and cosy again. Things will be better after that, I promise. Stay tuned.