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[This post got to be pretty enormous by the time I was done writing it, but fortunately it’s really three topics, so I’ll post one each today, tomorrow and Thursday.]

The Elephant

Maybe you’ve heard the analogy about blind people trying to describe an elephant. The idea is that each of the people involved can feel one part of the elephant and talk about what that’s part like, but none of the people individually has any real understanding of what the whole elephant is like. In building a Second Life portal, as I did this past week, I’ve come to feel that Second Life is an elephant, and we’re all the blind people (all of us).

I have a deep-seated urge to try to deny this point. I keep thinking that surely Philip Linden/Hamlet Au/Torley/Prokofy Neva/Codebastard Redgrave/somebody has the whole picture, but when I think carefully about it, I realize it can’t be so, because there are too many things to understand and keep up with: technical capabilities; builds; sims; fashion; social and cultural issues; entertainment; clubs coming and going, winking on and off like Christmas lights; Linden Lab company culture; Second Life economics; First Life economics of virtual worlds; griefers; new dances; surfing; steampunk communities; rival virtual worlds; compatible open-source virtual worlds; in-world business; First Life business; forums; hackers and pirates; education; love; sex; polyamory; the blogosphere; photography; live music; sculpting; scripting; animating…phew, I have to stop! And I haven’t come near to covering everything!

This isn’t a strange concept, in a way, because it’s exactly like First Life: nobody knows near to everything about that, either. But what is strange about it is that in a way, any one of us could connect with practically any aspect of Second Life we wanted. Sure, you may be a 58-year-old technophobe whose main skills are in gardening and teaching literature to 9th graders, but could you become a well-informed scripter if you wanted to? Yes. It would be long, and painful, and you might be behind the curve, but you could get scripting and be in the loop.

And not only that, but you can get in touch with practically anyone you like in Second Life! Have a question for a famous designer? Have a post idea for Hamlet Au? Going all fannish over one of Second Life’s most popular musicians? You’re never farther away than an IM, or at most dropping a notecard. True, they don’t have to read it, but can you get a letter onto the desk of Madonna or Barack Obama or Stephen Spielberg? Me neither.

It was Chestnut Rau who got me thinking about this in a recent post she made about Second Life celebrity. I wouldn’t go quite as far as Chestnut does when she says “No one is more important or more worthy of adoration than anyone else,” but I would quote Captain Hammer to say that everyone’s a hero in their own way. Even if that heroism is just, for instance, always wearing incredible shoes. OK, I’m stretching the meaning of “hero” here, but in my defense, so is Captain Hammer.

(By the way, the elephant in the picture is from Sculptie Paradise, Neum 99, 154, 27.)

Tomorrow, Part II: The Wireframe.

^^^\ Kate /^^^