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!
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!
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.
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!
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.