Posted by Bettina Tizzy
Let me first say that I understand Linden Lab's motivations for rating (see "Upcoming Changes for Adult Content and sections of the Second Life® grid. In fact, about three months ago, I decided to rate my own sim PG in support of my desire to make it newbie friendly. Newbies already have a lot to deal with when they arrive, and rezzing next to a couple that's copulating in the woods (I still don't get why people do this in very public spaces, but eh) is, in my view, too much of a test, not that I enjoy coming upon these situations myself.
However, I do prefer environments that provide for the greatest level of individual freedoms within a framework of accountability, and I always worry when any entity takes it upon itself to tighten controls over what is right and wrong. I do believe that Linden Lab will rue the day it ever decided to walk this lawsuit-happy path. Notwithstanding special viewers and other automated processes, they are going to devote copious amounts of precious time and resources in arbitration.
Tateru Nino over at Massively is still working on her coverage of this story. "I can't find three people in SL that can all agree on what's allowable in a PG sim," she told me. She shared a few more very fascinating insights in a Not Possible IRL group IM immediately following the announcement, so I'm especially looking forward to her post, which may come as soon as tomorrow.
I was immediately curious to hear what people in Second Life's art community opined on this topic so I did a quick roundup.
New media superstar Gazira Babeli was busy making some interesting changes to how the Odyssey sim will appear on the map when we spoke (we'll have to wait for the next system refresh to see it). Gaz and I agree that this is going to consume a great deal of Linden Lab's time and resources. "That means decadence. Resources lost in details always result in decadence," she said.
Artist and lead creator of many of the grid's most popular sims, including the Greenies, Pavig Lok: Part of me says "about time" and part of me says "best option available" and part of me says "dammit the unicorns and fae have gone from our world, curse you loss of innocence!"
Artist and founder of Second Life's art-critique mecca Brooklyn is Watching, Jay Newt, responded to my email this way:
"It's a really interesting question. It seems to me a little like the movie rating system, and I like the movie system, because it is voluntary. There is the category "unrated" and you know that that means: "who the hell knows what it is going to be." I wish they would make these categories for SL content voluntary in that way so you could advertise your content as fitting into one of those categories or you could elect not to participate in that particular categorization scheme and then people would know that they are just taking their chances coming to your sim.
I also think that SL artists will likely get upset over this because of what they think will happen as a result and the truth is that none us of us knows what will happen as a result. It could be that most places will list themselves as "adult" just to have the freedom to do what they want, even if they aren't about sex or violence, and there will be no stigma attached to that label...
We're all jumping ship from SL as soon as there's a large enough community on some un-regulated open source distributed server system anyway, right? :)"
Hyperformalist and producer/director of ZeroG SkyDancers DanCoyote Antonelli offered an intriguing perspective: "If any company leans on the US legal system in their Terms of Service and are protected by US laws, they should also follow through and support the right to free speech provided for in the US Constitution. Want to be protected by US law? Then provide US rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights.
Leading fashion designer and artist, Eshi Otawara: "If the concern is children, this still will not stop them from entering Second Life and pursuing their curiosities. It's the responsibility of the parent to supervise their child. As far as adult content being 'offensive' to adults, I am sorry to say- there is far more of both natural and less natural human activity that offends a lot of us on a more profound level then adult content ever can. But in those cases it is socially acceptable so those who don't agree must conform or keep quiet in the least.
"For me, this is just another step that Linden Lab, unfortunately, must make - to protect the company from the people whose state of mind is so unfortunately fragile they cannot handle functions of their own bodies and who are indoctrinated into false pretensions that assuming what is commonly and unfortunately for human kind referred to as 'purity' vs. embracing the human nature provided to them at birth by whatever/whom ever one chooses to put faith towards makes them somehow more in control of anything. For the rest of us, there are always contentedness, laughter and hope Darwin takes care of it in the long run."
Finally, artist and co-founder of Arthole, the often-controversial arts center that will surely be affected by these new rules because it sits on the mainland, Nebulosus Severine, wrote back a very thoughtful response.
"As you know, I have some very strong opinions on the upcoming changes in SL that would restrict a lot of so-called Adult content. The way LL is handling it is still so unclear to me, and I keep going back and forth from optimism to pessimism.
I don't have to worry about all aspects of this new policy. I am already payment verified, so my presence in SL won't be limited; that is at least some relief to me.
However, I have already taken preliminary steps in considering what will have to be done with Arthole. Arahan and I will be talking soon to figure out what to do. I know he and I both agree that we must have absolute creative freedom to address any subject matter with our art. As we frequently choose controversial topics, I think the safest bet would be to move Arthole to an Adult piece of land.
However, this will limit the access of several friends who, although adults, are not age-verified (for their own personal reasons), and wouldn't be able to come visit Arthole, if it does end up on Adult land. That is really frustrating and heartbreaking.
Not to mention that I have had the same piece of land in Kress for nearly 4 years. I suppose a move isn't that big of a deal, but it's still an inconvenience to say the least.
When it comes right down to it, I believe that LL is censoring SL. I've read their arguments to the contrary, and I don't trust their supposed reasoning. And with their proposed definitions of what "Adult" is, it seems as though they'd have an easier time making a new PG continent and keeping THAT all together. The Mature rating is effectively useless, too. Why not divide the grid geographically into "Adult" and "All Ages" and keep it simple?
Seriously... "illicit drug use" will be considered "adult"? I have never been to a live concert in SL that did NOT have an avatar (or three, or ten) smoking on a prim joint or tripping on scripted 'shrooms.
Anyway, I could go on and on. My bottom line is that I distrust and despise ANYTHING that would seek to restrict freedom of expression. I consider censorship to be one of the biggest violations of human rights. I know LL is a private company, but the more that censorship is imposed on people in any community, the more people start to just accept it as a fact of life, and THAT is dangerous," concluded Nebulosus.
"Why not divide the grid geographically into 'Adult' and 'All Ages' and keep it simple?" suggests Nebulosus. This sounds appealing, smart and effective doesn't it? And cost and resource thin, right? Oh, wait! Isn't that what is already in place? Which leads me to conclude...
Why change a system that just needs to be implemented properly?
Is this just busy work that will result in the same-ole same-ole put in place just to hush some fundamentalist and ultra conservative groups, at the great expense of art facilities like Arthole?
See also: What will happen to art?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Posted by Bettina Tizzy