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Second Life Sketches

So a few people, notably Mike of Fabjectory, emailed me with script machinery. The system he gave me creates a central “server” for a networked notecard dispenser.

Now, let me put this in some kind of layman’s framework. A notecard is a frame filled with text, just like a little Notepad window. Objects that contain content in SL are like little zipfiles; you click on them to open them, and, most often, there’s a notecard in there, like the explanatory txt file you often find in zipfiles. You can make notecard dispensers: click on an object, and a notecard will appear on your screen. This is useful for things like creator’s notations on a piece of art or a retail item.

There are one or two long-established “newspapers” in Second Life, but the code for creating the distributor isn’t just lying there for anyone to use. And, as with most things in SL, it’s amateur-level and kind of boring stuff.

Now, in theory, I could just create a new group to distribute notes. The Group system allows you to send Notices, essentially pop-up notecard windows, to everyone in the group (which anyone can join). Which would be efficient, but would also probably start to piss people off. It’s more interesting to see how a networked notecard dispenser would spread, and whether hitting one would become a regular appointment for people.

And it fits in with the current understanding I’m coming to regarding SL: it needs to be treated both as experimental ground for communications, and as the biggest digital art installation in the world. Just using it as an emulator of the real world is kinda stupid. And anyone who thinks it’s some kind of testbed for laws and democracy is spending too much time there.

(Personally, I spend more time thinking about the potential and theory of the place than I actually spend inside Second Life: it’s an interesting thought-experiment for me right now, a warm-up exercise for the day’s writing. Thinking about the future is sort of my job description, after all.)

Anyroad: I’m going to think seriously about setting up a text-broadcast network of some kind.

It’s not been a great couple of weeks for SL, all told, and it holds some little amusement. It speaks directly to what people think the thing is for.

If you pay Linden Labs, the creators and operators of Second Life, something over a thousand US dollars, they’ll create a private island in Second Life for you. The island will be accessible only by teleportation — it’s essentially cut off from the “mainland” of the world, a floating bubble of a place in the virtual space. Most of these are “residential” — it’s where people play house, the Sims2 end of the market. Some of them have been turned into art spaces, club spaces, or innovative installation/games like the wonderfully designed combat space called Carnage Island, a patch of urban warfare illustration complete with burning helicopters slumped in the guts of collapsed buildings. So it’s like a grand and a half up front, and then you pay USD $200 as rent on the space. And you can do anything with that space you like if you’re the sole buyer/renter.

I recently rented on one of those islands — a private island that was cut up into parcels for sublet from the island owner. My little anthropological expedition into the places where people really do play house.

Anyway, Linden Labs announced a hike in the rates. It’s now the best part of three grand to generate a new island, and three hundred a month to keep it going.

Reading the comments threads on the Second Life blog is instructive in how hardcore SLers use the game. Shrieks from people who were saving up to buy an island so they could have “privacy”. People pointing out, quite rightly, that individual users are being charged the same price for island space as a big corporation. And others pointing out not only that the wording of the announcement strongly suggests that the cost of owning smaller parcels of land is also about to be hiked up, but that the protection of the old rates for previous island owners may not be absolute.

That’s not going to bode well for Carnage Island, or for the beautiful and complex Transylvania space. And it does illustrate the emulation of not just properties, but property aspirations, in Second Life. There are a lot of people who want nothing more than to pretend to live on an island where they don’t see anyone or do anything.

This isn’t a completely explicable urge to me. I mean, if you want some privacy, turn the fucking computer off, you know? That said, randomly teleporting into any part of the mainland does illustrate why a serious user may want private space to build. The laissez-faire nature of SL has turned much of the mainland into a retard’s toybox. Second Life is, by and large, an ugly, stupid-looking place, a riot of bad signage, lurid coloured blocks and constructions that’d embarrass a four-year-old playing with Lego. For a lot of people, the attraction of owning a private island is in constructing something interesting without the white-noise of the crap that idiots will fill surrounding parcels with.

Spending six thousand dollars in a year on something like that…well, what would you do?

Either this’ll see a move back to the mainland, and people buying up big parcels there to transform it, or the end of land sales as they’re currently understood, as people revert to one small parcel or even step down to free, non-land-owning, accounts. Rendering Second Life a business space first and an art space second.

Me, I’ll probably step down to a free account in the new year.

ADDITIONAL: Carnage Island, which was running a donation drive, has just closed. After a bad couple of weeks and some inventive donation strategies, it appears this morning that the guy who wrote the scripts powering Carnage Island’s combat system has yanked them all. Thereby leaving the owners of the island requesting donations to run an area that doesn’t work anymore. The entrance to the sim is closed off. Carnage Island had turned into a daily 20-minute stop for me; having a laugh with the other regulars, using the selection of massively stupid, funny weapons available in SL, and gaming the local physics. If it’s gone for good, I’ll miss it.

ALSO; the Linden Labs crew continue to fail to use their blog properly. In discussing a recent economic exploit, a Linden employee notes that the best and perfect way to limit such games would be to put a tax on vendor-machine sales. But that they’re not considering putting that into action “at this time.” Oh, boy. They really need to limit the number of people who can write to that blog — which has a comments system full of volatile, not entirely stable hardcore SL users. Remember when I said much of SL has a libertarian bent? Do you want to use the word “tax” in front of those people? Light blue touch paper, stand well back…

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3 Comments

  1. […] 10 – Second Life Sketches from Warren Ellis “…it fits in with the current understanding I’m coming to regarding SL: it needs to be treated both as experimental ground for communications, and as the biggest digital art installation in the world. Just using it as an emulator of the real worl (tags: problems development futurism communications installation art experiment reality virtual world synthetic metaverse Life Second) […]

  2. […] Transmetropolitan Authoor on Ephemeral Islands Gotta love Warren Ellis: And it does illustrate the emulation of not just properties, but property aspirations, in Second Life. There are a lot of people who want nothing more than to pretend to live on an island where they don’t see anyone or do anything. This isn’t a completely explicable urge to me. I mean, if you want some privacy, turn the fucking computer off, you know? […]

  3. […] Transmetropolitan Author on Ephemeral Islands Gotta love Warren Ellis: And it does illustrate the emulation of not just properties, but property aspirations, in Second Life. There are a lot of people who want nothing more than to pretend to live on an island where they don’t see anyone or do anything. This isn’t a completely explicable urge to me. I mean, if you want some privacy, turn the fucking computer off, you know? […]

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