This was my first time in Second Life, so I really did not know what to expect when I went to the website.
[This is a convenient space to admit that I’m a *huge* Law & Order fan. I lived with two obsessed fans a few years ago, who were planning to start a Law & Order cover band. My wife is a prosecutor, who use to watch it, but had more interest in the short-lived “Conviction”. Anyway, my obsession began about two years ago; my favorite is SVU, if I was forced to pick, but Dickie Goren can usually steal any show if he sniffs a corpse’s fingers.
How does this relate? The only notion I had of Second Life was based on an SVU episode, in which the good detectives track down a missing girl by checking out the suspects property in an online game based on Second Life. He had made a near exact representation of the cabin that they were looking for; Det. Benson convinced the game creator/admin to set the sun to rise in the middle of the night, so they could identify which shore the cabin was on.]
I resisted the initial opportunity to design my avatar, as none of the default designs were interesting to me, though the cyberpunk-ish would be my first choice – and somehow was when I got to the tutorial… uh place? space? Chun, help me out…
I spent probably a fast 45 minutes running around trying to do all the tutorials. Normally, I’d launch into “gameplay,” as, well, its for fun, and the games I traditionally play are similar (sports games, first-person shooters, and a hell of a lot of Civ – when there’s time). As this was “academic,” I decided to try and immerse myself in the general nuances and small intricacies with the thought this knowledge of the interface would help me “explore” more successfully. Though, after typing that, I wonder if knowledge and exploration sometimes have the opposite relationship.
After learning to fly and talking to some[thing], I went to find out about building blocks and property and money – and have to admit I was terribly disappointed with these “real world” concerns. I guess I like my games either unconcerned with property or at least not-so-overtly concerned with ownership of space and materials. I’d rather just take things, like in GTA. I clicked on the door to the “real” world of Second Life.
Which took me to something like a transportation hub in a forest. There were groups of people hanging about and some posters about making money. I resisted talking to any of these people, as I wasn’t sure of the social rules of striking up a conversation. Did these avatars know each other? How well and in how many worlds? Did I want to know them or even talk to them, with my slow typing? I decided not, but committed to a search of folks at UWM.
So, in my Second Life, I was drawn to look for folks I might know in my first life. I found a few (6) with UWM ties. I tried to figure out who these people might be, but didn’t think any were from our class this semester, and none were online, regardless.
Thus, I continued on my path of first life habits and looked for some places on books. I found a small and loosely-organized-sounding place (my requirements at the moment), so I teleported on over. It was late at night (I think; still unsure about temporal issues in SL), so no one else was around. Or maybe it was boring and no one ever went. I did find a board that declared itself some kind of record of a contest, with books placed at height intervals reflecting a “score.” I still don’t know how to play, though.
I picked up a free latte and a free book (I don’t know what book ; I don’t believe it has content, rather a little representation for display – a conversation starter?) and flew around. I noticed a green blip on my radar (and had a Perfect Dark flashback) and went to check out who was around. The avatar was in a huge house with a door and doorbell. I could see inside, where he was standing. So, I said hi and asked what the deal with the book place was. My response, for which I was unready: “that’s next door.”
I had no idea of the dividing line between the book “space” and this avatar’s private “space”. To me, it was all book place. I teleported there for books, found books, but there were neighbors, too. I went back to the lodge, where I signed up for the group, found out about an upcoming SL book fair this month, thought about starting a press in SL, figured it would cost money and time, both of which were lacking, and failed terribly at a 19th century lit quiz offered by a gramophone.
I sat in a comfortable looking chair in the lodge and signed out.
I went back in tonight, after thinking about how I projected my first life onto my SL experience. I was also thinking about the breakdown of space and place in cyberspace and how this might relate to transportation and exploration within SL. SL offers the basic ability to walk, the special ability to fly, and the practical gameplay function of teleporting. Clearly, scales of distance and time has to do with these options: if I want to go from the book “place” to that avatar’s house, I can walk fairly quickly or fly if I’m feeling bored with my key-punching. It isn’t economical to teleport, wrt time – it would likely take longer to pull up the map, I’d have to know how to search for the house, which means I’d have to have pre-existing knowledge of the place. The ambulatory function of SL allows for discovery on a local level by allowing an avatar to roam in a continuous path through a continuous world. Flying speeds up the same process. Teleporting, however, allows for discovery based on keyword searches. Thus, it facilitates an exploration based upon preconceived concepts.
And, for me, the continued path of first life concepts led me to weather. One of the reasons for my ill-conceived and oft-neglected little blog on severe weather is to explore the relationship between terror, news, natural phenomena and probabilities/forecasting. My interest in representations of weather in the form of brightly-colored radar imagery and numeric values prompted me to see what manifestation weather might have in SL.
I found the Weather Channel’s home “space”, which, besides featuring ads for upcoming programming, has severe weather experience theme-park rides. These are supposed to simulate hurricanes, blizzards, tsunamis, sandstorms – but in fun ways, like flying through the eye, skiing down a mountain, surfing and riding motocross bikes. TWC has decided that SL is far less dangerous than first life. Which is interesting, since I’m guessing they make their money from high ratings on coverage of events like Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in December 2004, and various North American severe storms that killed people and shut down the normal flow of goods and services.
I guess, what I’m saying is that perhaps my avatar is on his way to becoming an evil scientist, who will stop at nothing to create a machine – built form basic solid shapes of Euclidean geometry – that controls the weather, so long as he can scrape the L$’s together…