Not long ago, I posted an call for pictures of Second Life that would help explain what was wonderful about it to people who don’t use it…maybe even to some of the people who tried it and signed off after half of an hour in frustration or boredom or loneliness or annoyance. I thought this would be an easy one, because really, there are any number of reasons to love Second Life, and a lot of what happens there is what we see on our screens.

Well, that’s what I *thought*. The more I’ve tried to find these kinds of pictures, the more I’ve begun to think that everything we see in front of us is a way to feel involved with what’s going on, but that what’s really going on has more to do with our communication and our imagination.

That seems silly, in a way, because Second Life comes right out of our imaginations. Why should we need to do any imagining on top of what we see? But we do need to, and not just to pretend our hair isn’t poking through our shoulders or that we can hear the voices of people who are only typing to us. Second Life is half technology and half dreaming, because the visuals and a few sounds are only part of being there.

A picture my friend Antaeus sent me of a moment with a friend. I think it’s a lovely picture, but what makes it a wonderful picture for Antaeus probably isn’t even visible.

For instance, think of going to the ocean. The shining sand, the undulating aquamarine waves, the sun dazzling sparkles off the water, the children running across the sand, the gulls crying, the dune grass…Second Life can show us all of that, and a really well-done beach sim can start making us feel as though we’re there. But when I’m *really* at the beach I close my eyes and breathe in the salty, alive smell of the ocean, I feel the wind pressing against my skin, I feel the heat and the heaviness of the sand under the soles of my feet – and when I’m there with someone, there’s the sound of their feet making dents in the sand next to mine, maybe the feeling of holding someone’s hand, a voice close to my ear …

A beach photo from a very nice set by Zyntia Poitier

If I took a video camera and panned across the beach, it would take in all those sights and sounds, but when I watched it again, it would only be a fragment of what it was really like to be there, and if I wanted to relive that day, I would have to imagine it all. Just like in Second Life.

Which means that a lot of what we love about Second Life is internal, is in fact very *hard* to show anyone else. If that weren’t true, then the pictures we post would draw more and more people to Second Life as they saw what we see in those pictures, felt what we feel. Here would be friendship and here would be laughter and here would be love and here would be the shock and amazement of seeing people shopping in your own store or the delight at seeing a friend transformed in some way.

Sure, there are wonderful pictures of amazing landscapes and builds, but (I don’t know about you), those amazing landscapes and builds are just window dressing, like laughing with a friend in a garden instead of while walking down a suburban street. Yes, the garden is prettier, but it’s the moment, the time with the other person, that’s the real draw.

But I’m still looking for those pictures. I may have to go on a quest, finding those experiences and then trying to find ways to show how they feel. I’m really not a visual artist, so I’m really trying to play in an unfamiliar sandbox. But I think in trying that, I may learn a little more about what – other than the obvious, the people I love – has kept me so interested in having a Second Life for the past two years.

^^^\ Kate /^^^