P O S T E D B Y A L B E R T
I was constrained in my choice of body. All the human avatars looked a little too perfect, in a distended, Giacometti kind of way. So I chose one with a human body and the head and tail of a raccoon. I chose the name Pfrank Pfeffer. I wanted to go as Al@n T_ring, but to do so I would have had to pay for the privilege.
Buy and Sell Linden Dollars!
Own Virtual Land!
This focus on commerce, on the buying and selling of property, objects, and the tokens of identity, was one of the first things that struck me about Second Life. “Your World. Your imagination,” the tagline assures you. But ultimately it’s your money that enables you to make a mark on this online virtual world of some 5.7 million souls.
There are buildings in Second Life, and carefully rendered water and trees. And there are fanciful objects that In-Worlders construct from “prims” (short for “primitives”):
A Prim is a cube or sphere or other shape that you create using the build tools, and which are combined together by linking to make much of what you see in Second Life—houses, vehicles, furniture and so on.
The number of prims you can use will depend on the amount of land you own in a region—simply put, more land equals more prims.
You mix your labor with prims and make yours the objects you produce thereby; you’re given prims in proportion to the amount of land you own; you take land out of the State of Virtual Nature by laying down cash on the nail.
Thus Second Life is reassuringly Lockean in every detail.
There’s a Nonprofit Commons under construction in Second Life, described as “breathtaking” on the Nonprofits in Second Life blog. The virtual land was purchased and donated by Anshe Chung, the first “virtual world millionaire.” The Commons will cost $200 a month to maintain.
TechSoup’s apologetics for the virtual world are compelling:
- The American Cancer Society raised more than $40,000 through its Second Life Relay for Life event. ...
- Educators are using Second Life to present seminars and stage performances and storytelling sessions designed to help youth learn about other cultures. …
- People with disabilities reportedly have been using Second Life to explore environments where physical constraints are minimized and where they have almost absolute control over their avatars’ features and actions.
More money for cancer research, young minds expanded, people with disabilities free to roam at will, unfettered by crutches and wheelchairs.
I catch a glimpse of the New Eden when I arrive and find myself surrounded by handsome young avatars with perfect skin and teeth, flying above my head—the preferred method of In-World locomotion. I see wonders on Help Island—a colourful, 700-pound parrot bending a telephone wire, a holographic news service, fantastic sculpture floating in mid-air.
The spell is broken the first time I open my mouth to speak.
A young man dressed in urban chic, with an unpronounceable name, sidles up to me and types into an invisible keyboard, “Are you from the United States?” Chagrined that I’ve been so quickly found out, I respond, “Yes. Was it my tail that gave me away?” He says nothing. After a long pause, he does the hula, one of the avatars’ pre-scripted “gestures.” I reply in kind.
Embarrassed perhaps by my boorishness, by my apparent lack of interest in his country of origin, he takes a few steps away and begins to examine a mechanical rat.
The biggest problem with Second Life, as I see it, is that we can’t help but bring our selves to it. Our feeble turns of mind, our bad manners, our overweening concern for the effect of our tails.
How does the saying go?
Sow an act, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny
—for this life and the next, it appears.
I’m in my garden as I type this. Nothing moves. My strongest impression is the sun’s light on my skin.
My body pushes against the wooden bench on which I sit. I sense the rough, weathered texture of an old pillow against the small of my back, the drip of sweat down the inside edge of my upper arm. I feel the purple glow of the azaleas, the sticky green of new growth, the yellow-green of bamboo reborn. I feel the heavy green of a tired hemlock. I see—almost taste—the rust color of a young pine that didn’t survive the winter. I smell grass and magnolia blossom mixed with the scent of my own body.
A sparrow’s chirrup announces the slightest breeze and suddenly I’m in the moving, indescribable Infinite.