Aimee Weber and her FIC cronies; the new round of Metaversals who style themselves the Meterati, a kind of Metaversal FIC, like the “investor John Lopez”, gravitate naturally to the Platformista and the Yoon Goon position because they love power; they want to be *where it’s at* and they want to make sure *they come out on top and don’t get left behind*. They are driven by that awful even inter-generational fear of the Internet’s Vietnam Syndrome which you might call the Prodigy Syndrome or the Compuserve Syndrome. Their fear is so enormous that it blinds them to the fact that this round, perhaps the walled garden or silo (and why is an intranet any different than those things!) option will be a good thing, desirable, wanted, needed, and in fact merely networked with privacy and access sliders.
Their Vietnam Syndrome is so ludicrous that they fail to see that the Internet is in fact made up of a lot of sort of Prodigies and Compuserves and AOLS — university sites, health sites, work sites, intranet sites, downloaded games, virtual worlds etc. etc. that are accessed only by closed groups with their own software and databases. It’s one of the more silly fallacies of the open-source extremists that they go around with a pious face telling you The Internet is Based On Open Source. It’s not, as any company or actual inhouse geek somewhere will tell you ROFL. In fact, if the Internet was that fabulous Based On Open Source Thingie they imagine, there’d be no such thing as “viruses” or “hacking” because it would all be what they claim ROFL. Why don’t people ever notice obvious things like that?
By the same token the perjorative attitude to Immersionists, based on a desire to disparage and control other human beings, is merely an age-old atttribute of tyranny — in fact, making immersion for others isn’t always undertaken with the best of motives, and far from the best of results (think of all the broken marriages and hurt relationships that Second Life has engineered!)
The theory of these illusionist debunkers, however, is pretty pathetic. It starts with a notion that we’re hobbits — we’re quaint woodland creatures who frolicked in an illusionary woods in Lindenor, and now the harsh light of reality, modernity, and civilization is being shone on us and we will all scatter. Of course, part one is there are a lot of people happy to be the flashlight-wielders on other people, and they’re probably the same sort of geeks who read science fiction throughout their adolescent years lol.
But part 2 is we’re not hobbits because hobbits are merely a manifestation of the real. People often accuse me of “role-playing a man” or “playing transgendered” or “having some kind of wierd sexual fantasy” by having a male avatar. In fact, my male avatar, just like some male’s female avatar, is a very ordinary and actually pretty dull thing, and in time will be understood and accepted. Dogs can hear frequencies that humans can’t; in time humans make equipment that can recognize and record those frequencies anyway. Some people seem to be in a persistent vegitative state after a car accident; but with the latest technology it turns out they even remember their social security numbers and can communicate normally.
Second Life is merely a technology that manifests a wider and broader bandwidth of the human being, merely the latest in a series of things that have always done that, whether a drum or a telephone or a camera. Nobody accuses you of living in a world of illusion if you multiple in your head 3x=6 and say “x=2” out loud instead of pressing buttons on a calculator. Why is the avatar Prokofy somehow “less real” than doing 3x=6 *in my head*?
By the same token, if people use a 3-D streaming software with interactivity and the ability to create and transfer objects and manipulate the environment, they need not be pushed and shoved and relegated into a closet, stripped of their humanity, decoded into avatar keys, and told they are a burden on the servers.
They made a world because the software is for world-making, and world-making is ok. No one says to a bed manufacturer, OMG you have created an evil product causing unwed pregnancy, illicit teen sex and even rape! A bed might be used for those purposes, but then it’s up to parents, law-enforcers, society, the church, whatever to exercise whatever they wish to exercise in terms of morality or law not on the bed-manufacturer, but he who makes his bed and lies in it. A telephone user might be jailed if he uses the telephone to stalk someone and make obscene calls, but that doesn’t mean the telephone company is shut down. Columbia University doesn’t give up teaching students because they are a few blocks away from crack dens. And so on. In the same way, separating out the need to control the use of the platform here and there for various purposes shouldn’t either enable an amoral and manipulative attitude in the platform-makers, nor an overly moralistic and controlling attitude. Those services or political programs are provided by other things outside the software — and it’s more than fine to separate and demarcate them from social software, no matter how social it gets.
John Lopez commenting at Metaversed.com is first of all shocked himself at Ginsu (we’ve seen this all on the forums for years, from Lindens and the FIC, so it doesn’t come as a surprise), and his first instinct is to extirpate this evil in himself, subjecting himself to a harsh self-criticizing session where he will “re-evaluation all his evaluations” like the Marxists say. Sigh.
I fail to see why, say, the Sheep and CBS get to make an “immersive world” called “the game related to CSI:NY” which is a fantasy TV show, using Second Life, and that’s ok, but people can only legitimize themselves in the Platformista worldview if they partake obediently of the controlled and sanitized environment of a CSI sim with giant arrows telling you where to go, helpers tripping over each other, and ejectors ready to remove you for the slightest “infraction”. Why is that ok — world-making for the domination of others — but a world made for the enjoyment and democratic and free participation of everybody *isn’t* ok? Oh, I get it — because YOU don’t get to be in charge, John Lopez! ROFL.
My takeaway was that, while the some rank and file Lindens still believe in parts of the Virtual World Utopia, the corporate offices have seen the long term financial picture (and liability risks that have been dangling the the breeze) and are acting to protect the long term viability of Second Life.
Having a world that has been vulnerable to child pornography, fraud, and intellectual property theft doesn’t mean the world has to be shut down, any more than the Internet is shut down. Naturally, they’ll want to take steps to remove their liability for litigation, and remove the ease with which this sort of activity has proliferated by making it clear that they won’t permit it and that responsibility for it lies on those who make the bed and lie in it. And there is likely going to be a moral (not legal) fight coming down the road if SL continues to grow, but continues to make little effort to keep out kids, and forces adults to flag their activity even on some remote private island parcel. At some point, Philip might have to declare defunct his romantic vision of everybody accessing an Internet page as all being able to be in a kind of fun guild together and interact and go on quests — but we’re not there yet.
John, however, wants to rap everybody’s fingers and send them into detention just for being in a 3-D world in the first place — like that teacher who punishes the entire class when only one kid stole the exam answers:
This of course means tearing their gaze from the shadow puppet play of the virtual and focusing on the actors behind the shadows. This is guaranteed to aggravate those of the immersionist camp, who wish to remain focused on the shadow puppet’s play, but I’m actually heartened to have finally heard an analysis of Second Life that I could wrap my head around. (Frankly, it comes as a pretty harsh realization for a long term immersionist such as myself, as it paints a lot of my prior virtual activity in an interesting light that I’m still processing.)
Um, I don’t have my eyes distracted by any “shadow play”. I run an inworld business. Those people who come online and also make small businesses, or educational projects, or even merely date and have sex aren’t stuck with a shadow puppet play — they are merely living, doing something very real, like they’d use a camera or a telephone or watch TV — things that nobody feels the need to club anyone over the head about as “unreal” anymore.
A person promoting a business proposition, a teacher promoting an ideal from literature, a couple promoting more perfect versions of themselves in cybersexing — how are they quantitatively different than users of cameras or telephones? They are all exercising faculties of the imagination that this virtuality machine happens to be able to record and display, just like the telephone could record and send the voice rapidly, just like camera could record and store and be accessed to show events far away or people even after they died and were buried. This is merely the next invention showing the broadband of human presence on this planet. Naturally, some people will want to change the channel; that’s no reason to put the radio into the hands of only one kind of ideologue and “debunk the world” — it would be like telling everyone who took non-medical or non-industrial photographs and merely posed their families or pets were “mired in illusion” and Kodak had better “get focused on the bottom line”.
The comment I worry about most is the lack of concern for competition. Yes, this space is expanding rapidly, but the “infinite expansion” model looks pretty grim in the face of the various toolkits that are coming online and I am deeply concerned that there will be way too many players and not enough converts to support them. How many dot-com players drew a hockey stick graph of growth? Almost all of them. I hate hockey sticks when I’m consulting; they almost always represent unbounded enthusiasm, not a realistic view.
Who is to say hockey sticks are wrong? Maybe they aren’t. Many things need irrational exhuberance just to get off the ground, then they naturally taper off — but that doesn’t mean they were hobbits that had to be banished from the moor as merely literary creations. It’s horribly fashionable now to say there’s all this competition springing up against Second Life, and even Lindens seem to fear it. But clearly, none of these other platforms can hold a candle to the capacity of Second Life for serving as a broadband to relay the human being. Other platforms will in fact likely dial it down low or more narrowly and perhaps not have accomplished anything.
The last thing people who make disruptive media imagine is that they themselves will be disrupted. Indeed, they are often cackling with insane malicious glee at the disruption they are going to cause others. Social media is disruptive *even* of the disruptors and naturally we are to see many, many convulsions — like those we’re seeing in Gene Yoon or John Lopez or Valleywag, for that matter — that will incite a backlash in them. It’s only this round of the “long march through the institutions”.
I also think that that pointing out that their concern for their customers is solely financial and that changes will be made to roll over them at their whim (if more money is to be made by doing so) was a pretty gutsy move. It is all true, but such a stark statement clearly left people shocked. On the upside, people providing products and services within Second Life have finally been given a good model to hang their projections on: Second Life is a service provider and will react to real world pressure just like any other. This is a lot more predictable that the Utopia view that many have subscribed to (and Linden Lab has promoted up till now).
I always have to chuckle at Metaversal Deutcherism — you know, like Deutcher and his followers were always applauding and justifying Stalin for bringing Russian peasants kicking and screaming into the modern era, urbanizing them and making factories and such but killing off many along the way. Some people so love to study instrumentality that they begin applauding it. There’s nothing “gutsy” about rolling over other people at a whim — people who all along, collectively, have been paying some 80 percent or more of these Lindens’ bottom line with their blood, sweat, and tiers…well, sorry, I find that appalling, not “gutsy”. If somebody think this is a good thing, and gutsy, and all the rest, they will see how hard people bite back before they’re done with them. And it’s not necessary to roll over and step on what is a fairly small group of dedicated users who can easily be transitioned with just a little willingness to exercise customer care and accommodation. Nobody wins prizes for cleansing Second Life of hobbies and putting in some corporate dick in jackboots who turns the naughts into the 1970s, using virtuality like some of those nits used to use cultic management techniques like EST or Lifespring for “training”.
Linden Lab has behaved capriciously like spoiled and feted teenagers all along, because they never had to work for a living in a sense — they used VC money, their own money, the savings of all their long-term beta-testers, and their sweat equity and crowdsourced labor to erect their edifice to modernity. We need to help them grow up, not get eaten alive, and not kill us in their thrashing around in this open-source stage.
Though not visible to most people on the chat circuit among the Dr. Dobbs and the Metanomics and the Thinkers and the podcamps and meet-ups and conferencing and such is that the Lindens are really, really trying to fix the crappy software and tattered social policies in ways that are even painful to watch. Who had the bright idea of making the Governance team show up inworld *daily* to hear everybody complain about rampant abuses and the crappy abuse-report and “justice” system?! Imagine the nasty job of the Lindens assigned, or who punitively took on, the job of trying to curb Inventory Loss. And so on — they are even willing to take criticism of their beloved JIRA these days.
We never had any “utopia”. It’s the *Lindens* who had the utopia. Most people who came on Second Life made normal businesses adjusting to the tumult of these lackadaisical hippies — or left. Most of us learned how to have all kinds of insurance and firewalls and back-ups against their depradations. They were the one constantly yammering about a Better World and bending over backwards to to show their leftist liberal credentials by being tolerant — if not participating in — extreme ideologies like BDSM or ageplay or Anarcho-Capitalism. The user base was screaming about ageplay a year before the Lindens thought to merely ban it on a notecard — and before finally under pressure from German TV, banned it as a policy.
Most people outside that fetid Linden circle of Utopianists were just dating and having completely garden-variety vanilla relationships where they made perfectly lifelike houses and had completely predictable missionary-style sex or imagine, not even any sex at all, but a ladies’ tea in Caledon like their grandmothers would have had.
The user base are the *norms* here, people. It’s the Lindens who are the fruitcakes. They need to change. Not us.
The idea that there is this mass of immersed idiots that now have to be “disillusioned” is a fallacy of those who suffer from the greatest illusion at all — that the utopianist and extremist Lindens, who have merely cooked up some new iteration of their Bolshevik-like revolutionary ideology — are somehow “pragmatic” or “looking at the bottom line”. God nows, you don’t have somebody like Torley or even Philip Linden on the payroll lurching around the world and profess to be “bottom-line” oriented. Of course, that means those who come along and take over Linden Lab in one way or another (a board putsch? a VC with a lot of weight) may be tempetd to remove those wonderful creatures and imagine they are shaking all the hobbits out of the world and getting rid of blingtardation, too, in the name of a clean boot for 2.0.
There’s only one thing that has to happen to please everybody, and that might be what you could call the Makena Solution. Makena split its platform/engine/okra into two pieces, which are similar obviously but have different purposes. One is There.com where teens can get together, or even professors in a class, in a PG safe world, and portions can be sectioned off for things like Laguna Beach. The other is Forterra, which makes military and hospital etc simulations for the use of closed institutions.
All Second Life has to do is fork that way — start a 2.0, 3.0 or whatever for business, education, non-profit. That means getting rid of the illusion the Lindens are said to suffer from the most about All Hail the Central Asset Server — and making TWO All Hail Central Asset Servers. I would be troubled about this for other reasons — it removes serendipity, upward mobility, removal of class barriers etc — so that people from other countries, poor people, people who didn’t go to Ivy League schools, can attempt to exchange ideas with the Ivy-Leaguers and Brahmins, for example (of course they still do quite a bit to wall themselves in).
When the code is open-sourced, it’s not clear to me whether connecting to the centralized grid then is mandatory. People might become solo silos, or walled gardens, or possibly even figure out how to link to each other, but not Linden Lab anymore. Some company might then specialize in bus stops or Grand Central Stations or Woods Between Worlds where people can interact and talk and possibly even exchange data or inventory or something, sort of like telehubs or infohubs where the scripts and build are turned off to prevent griefing.
The people who save the Lindens from themselves and Second Life from itself — and they might even be US! — are not necessarily the world-destroyers like Gene Yoon/Ginsu Linden and his reluctant pupil John Lopez or his triumphant amen-corner Aimee Weber. It really is not necessary to destroy the world to save it; while it can be altered, it need not be disavowed in entirety. It is not necessary to force an awful painful and cruel change on people who lived and worked in this world. The world-makers themselves need to tear their gaze away not from some shadowplay of the world itself, but the shadowplay of their own illusion of themselves as Olympic gods.