I set up some temporary land the other night; and, in doing so, got a look at how the other half live in Second Life.
The new address is Integral Island in the region of Rockstar (55, 88, 23)
Integral Island is a long strip of beach in Rockstar, an area that’s the SL equivalent of a gated community. One island subdivided into eight strips, inaccessible by air or water. A residential area, controlled by the Rockstar owners — set up a huge shop there (or a sex factory) and you’ll be kicked out sharpish. You can teleport in to Rockstar, but you’re half-off the grid — for instance, I’ve found that I sometimes can’t buy Linden Dollars from the main exchange while I’m in Rockstar. Which makes it a peculiar interzone in Second Life.
Second Life is a transactional space, after all. You express approval of other residents, for example, by clicking on them and choosing “Rate” from the pie-chart menu that appears. You’re given the choice of rating that person’s behaviour, appearance or building skills — a rough equivalent to the reputation-based economics of Cory Doctorow’s “whuffie” in DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM. But in SL, you have to put your money where your mouth is — it costs 25 Linden Dollars to express your approval of someone, paid directly to the central coffers of SL operators Linden Lab. Ayn Rand would smile indulgently.
SL often has the tone of a libertarian fantasy. It avoids all the bits that traditionally handicap libertarian politics; freedom in SL is the freedom from having to worry about the maintenance of roads and getting water to come out of your tap. You don’t need to eat, but even the obtaining of a penis that can ejaculate is subject to a financial transaction with another enterprising capitalist (two hundred Linden Dollars, according to a design firm whose buildings I was looking at yesterday). In some places, you have to buy a pass to cross owners’ land.
All of which is interesting in light of this week’s news that, in America, politicians and committees and the like are taking a sudden interest in the amount of untaxed money being shot around the Second Life system. That and Reuters setting up an embedded reporter led to Second Life hitting the front pages of most web-based news outlets yesterday — and the resultant rush of people signing up to take a look at SL before the IRS crush it slowed the entire grid to a crawl.
I have enough Linden Dollars from the sale of my old patch to stay in Rockstar for about three months. My new neighbours busy themselves with laying watching the simulated weather (which can be quite beautiful: the SL designers knew what they were doing when they built the sunsets) and building strange things. The guy across the waterway from me is constructing a hideous meatball surgery unit, full of troughed steel operating tables sluiced with blood. Medical fetishists would keel over with love.
Integral Island, Rockstar (55, 88, 23)