Escaping the virtual rat race!

New Frontier - A mountain range in OpenSim
New Frontier - A mountain range in OpenSim.

Funny how a virtual world can start to feel claustrophobic. Second Life with its colossal Openspace confusion (read VintFalken for an explanation), and now this infamous Second Life Divorce case make me want to open a virtual window for fresh pixelated air. (See the Guardian for its view on the sorry divorce tale.)

Avatars, or (to be more precise) their operators are used to the idea that other avatars are not all that they may seem to be. A young nubile woman might really be a six foot tall, bearded male who plays rugby, but chose to switch gender in Second Life for more clothing options. After all, many things are forgiven in Second Life when you sense the social presence of a ‘nice’ person, and share a meeting of the minds… It is not surprising to see how easily someone can be duped into a state of trust. In this case, a reporter rooting through the messy trough of emotional confusion found a salacious scoop. They simply manipulated inadequate people by emoting sympathetically. Now we hear the numbers of new registrants to Second Life are soaring (see VintFalken again) as people swarm in seeking out its synthetic version of animated sex and debauchery!

Oni Kentons Creations (OKC) Theatre - OpenSim
Oni Kentons Creations (OKC) Theatre - OpenSim

As people arrive through one door looking for jollies, others are taking their leave through the side door. There is a quiet exodus taking place as those who could be described as ‘the creatives’ (see NPIRL post ) head for new virtual worlds. I reloaded OpenSim myself and managed to get into the beta world this time! (Last time I ended up stuck on the seabed). There were only 57 people online in OpenSim (while there were 60,745 in Second Life) and I met no other avatars on my visit. I was struck by the sense of enormous space and I am now wondering if there is an optimum size to virtual worlds? Perhaps Second life is really at its limit at around 50,000? Perhaps Linden Labs cannot cope with greater numbers? Hence their clumsy policies and ill conceived measures to control prim counts? The thought even crosses my mind that Second Life likes educational institutions ‘in-world’ as they provide an air of respectability? (Helping to pull the digital veil over other more seedy enterprises?) Certainly stories like the ‘Second Life Divorce’ case don’t help those of us who are looking for support to use Second Life for online learning!

Movie titled 'Free Speech - Fear Free' at the OKC movie theatre complex
Movie titled 'Free Speech Fear Free'

I started my explorations of OpenSim on what looked like farmland, I found a lovely old farmhouse and an empty Barn. The scenery was beautiful and I flew high over trees, islands and mountains to see what I could find. Eventually I discovered a huge movie theater complex (OKC Theatre 118, 148, 32) (Note: English spelling if you are trying to locate this spot). Each theater had two couches and a Quicktime screen, the quality of the films and sound was excellent.

'Coke Supply's Alien Statue' created by Nebadon Izumi
Alien statue sculptures created by Coke Supply

Opposite the movie theater I saw giant alien sculptures made by Coke Supply, these were impressive and demonstrated that there is an abundance of prims available for use in OpenSim!

OpenSim exploration
OpenSim exploration - looking into the future.( Arizona Bay IV 84,14,72)

The picture above shows my avatar standing on a mountain top breathing in the clear, clean air of OpenSim! Now, where are the researchers and reporters when you need them? I have a question… I am starting to wonder about the relationship between avatar population density, virtual space and stress behaviors! But as I said, there was no one around to answer my question and the new world stayed serenely silent.

7 thoughts on “Escaping the virtual rat race!

  1. The connection between 3D space and social space is very interesting! People who run clubs (like me) know very well that having enough avs is very important for their very existence. If there is a significant chance noone else is there avs stop coming altogether.

    In “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson (supposedly an inspiration for SL) the virtual world is deliberately structured without instant teleporting, but with fast transport between hubs, from which one more slowly travels from. In this way one can have lots of space but with social concentrations around the hubs. The infohubs do exist in SL but dont have the same effect due to instant teleportation. Strangely TPing flattens SL and destroys the feeling of space. After all, if you look at the map *most* of SL is empty most of the time – it is, in fact, thinkly populated. However since we TP only to socially significant locations (places with art, commerce, known beauty or other avs) we feel more crowded!

    San

  2. Interesting comment San. I guess I was thinking about ‘psychic space’ here. There is a relationship between the number of users and the inevitable complications, and confusions, that big numbers generate. At the moment the virtual worlds that have few people are more concerned with technical issues, and establishing stable environments that don’t crash or freeze. Second Life still has those issues but it has become relatively technically stable. Now the main issue for SL is that everyone must share resources. Sometimes it is reminiscent of playground politics! (And Linden Labs are on dinner duty!)

    There is a ‘sense’ of space and freedom in a virtual world with fewer people in it. That sensation comes because there are fewer people! This observation gives rise to the question whether all 3D synthetic worlds have a ‘natural’ size limit? Especially when it comes to sheer numbers of users? There has been talk about elected government in SL – perhaps that would help? But why would Linden Labs want to deal with elected officials or resident-union leaders? All 3D worlds are run by people who want to make money. This means that there will always be a limitation on all virtual world models as they must be managed by small groups of business people. (Now I am thinking about the collapse of the Roman and British Empires as lessons from history for virtual worlds!)

  3. You are right that the kind of social regulation/organisation is very important and ultimately changes the feel of a virtual world. LL attempted a sort of anarchy with property rights enforced via software, but this is being slowly changed.

    I still think the feeling of crowding in SL is not due to too many avs – if you look at the SL map at random – most of SL is completely empty most of the time. Currently there is 1834 million square metres of land with 60 thousand residents logged on – that is about 2 avs per sim.

  4. When I log on as an alt with no Friends and no Groups, the ‘psychic space’ is completely different. (llPlaySound ‘owl hooting in the distance ‘).

  5. Thanks San and Corcosman. I guess then that ‘psychic space’ has more to do with what we ourselves bring with us into our virtual worlds?

    (Sound of wolves howling across the vacant sims of Second Life…)

  6. That alien was created by me!!!

    I let Neb use it in OSGrid when I first found out that he was an administrator for that grid – I have now given him the avatar version, which is on sale for just one linden within SL 🙂

  7. Hello Coke, Thank you for the correction! I have amended my post so that people can see you are the person who created the alien sculptures. They are fabulous! You are very generous to sell them as avatar versions for just one linden in SL! Sorry I misunderstood your name, I thought the statues were a commentary on a certain drinks company!

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