Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hello OpenLife®?

I have been away from Second Life® for one week. My mother died and my sorrow as well as all the things that needed to be taken care of after her demise kept me in Real Life.

The support and the affection that I received throughout this week from my RL friends and relatives (and especially that of my students who came out in full force to be with their nasty old school marm) has made me wonder as to how wise of a thing it is from an emotional standpoint to be spending such extended periods of time in a second life, to which I am after all only connected to through this ephemeral thing called technology. One power outage, one satellite failure - and I am pretty much on my own here, aren't I?

The trouble with all of these good intentions of cutting down on my virtual life and giving my real life more of a priority is that at this point Second Life has become the place in which the very concept of creativity excites me in a way that I have not felt excited about creativity in a very long time indeed.

Real Life art and design had been leaving me thoroughly cold for quite some considerable time before I had even heard of Second Life: Real Life art I gave for the reasons here, and Real Life design for the deplorable symbol of status and income that it is. The remarkable thing that metanomics has brought about is a world in which neither the production nor the consumption of creative output is an indicator of financial resources. After all, the poorest of poor avatars can create the most stunning of outputs in a sandbox. And kitting yourself out through the acquisition of the creative output of others is not an indicator of your financial status but only of your ingenuity, your imagination and your resourcefulness. After all, in a world where the equivalent of a few real life dollars will buy you the fanciest of cars how can what your Rolex watch tells us about your wallet be of any possible consequence?

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that at this stage the Residents of Second Life are in the process of creating a social structure unique to the metaverse. But unlike the one in Real Life, what seems to me to be happening here is that (maybe even for the very first time in human history?) we may have the emergence of a true meritocracy. A meritocracy in which nothing but your imagination, your creativity and ultimately your hard work will determine your social status. Wow!

I returned to my second life this morning to find out that in the meantime all hell has broken loose. The Openspace pricing and policy changes announced earlier this week by Linden Labs are very hard to forgive indeed. Surely, Openspace abusers can be held under check through different means? How about charging such Residents based on the calculation of additional prim usage on an Openspace? And not only is this hard to forgive it is also hard to understand: Second Life is no longer a sole option. The competition is already here and it is hard core. Bett has already signed up at OpenLife®, I shall be doing so the very minute after I have posted this, especially now that I have read that OpenLife is also expected to have a working economy by the end of this year. And surely Linden Labs must be aware of the colossal resources that are spent at IBM for the development of a fully three dimensional world wide web which, as we are given to understand, will operate very much along the model of today's virtual worlds.

I am hoping that Second Life will revise this decision. Although it does not personally affect me, it bothers me: My island is an educational island and who is to say that tomorrow there will not be policy changes related to educational islands also? That what we have here today is only the thin end of a truly nasty wedge yet to come? But beyond that it bothers me since it tells me something about the governance of Second Life that makes me very uncomfortable indeed: Shortsightedness.


Godeke said...

I see your "true meritocracy" and raise you one "rudderless corporate entity".

Linden Lab is currently being pulled in many different directions and the new leadership did *not* solidify the vision into something coherent. Quite the opposite I would claim: they seem to be experimenting even more heavily with the knobs and levers that earn them their keep.

Sadly, I'm getting the feeling that the "rudderless corporate entity" will be re-raised to "greedy faceless corporation" in the near future. This is the nature of for-profit entities.

Alpha Auer said...

Very much so, I'm afraid.

The meritocracy I was talking about has nothing whatsoever to do with the Lindens or indeed Second Life® as such anyway.

Anonymous said...

My heartfelt consolences to you. Five years ago, I began walking down the path of parental father five years ago; my mother a little more than one year ago. Please know that you are not alone...that others - even people you haven't met, like me - are hugging you and are here for you.

Alpha Auer said...

Oh thank you, thank you and thank you - again and again for your wonderful kindness!

And I know! I really do know that what you wrote here is so utterly true...

Izzy said...

So very well put, and I share your dreams of the social aspect of SL. Perhaps OpenLife is our future. It all remains to be seen.

My sincerest condolences on your loss, as well.

Alpha Auer said...

Izzy thank you!