Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why am I naked (and why aren’t you)?

When I was a little girl living in the same house I again live in today there was a swimming hole I used to spend my hot summer days, swimming and playing with my siblings and cousins.  One particularly hot day after a morning of riding and grooming our horses a group of us decided to take a swim at “the hole”. We had one major problem though, earlier that day after our ride we tramped dirt into the house.  Needless to say my mother did not see our need to get out of the heat in the same uncoordinated cat herding way that we did.  After we pretty much made a complete mess of her just recently cleaned kitchen we were banned to outside for the remainder of the day.

Well after about thirty minutes of playing with a water hose in an attempt to stay cool we turned the stable yard and ourselves in it into a complete mud pit.  We then made the austere observation that if mom went nuclear about dirty feet and hands in her kitchen this was going to cause a some kind of a hemorrhage somewhere. This was not something we wished to see so we had to come up with a plan. Now let it be known to all reading this that the following idea was not my own but my older cousin’s CJ’s idea. I’m already sure you have it figured out by the title of the piece so yes, CJ talked us all into going down to the swimming hole, strip ourselves down to nothing but a smile, wash ourselves and our clothes and leave them out on the bushes to dry while we soaked up the sun and stayed cool in the water. Now you may think of all of the innocence of young children here and for the most part we were a collection of pre-teens between eight and fourteen. I was thirteen and budding out nicely and many years later CJ told me the idea that day was formed up by him and some of the other boys in our troupe to see me naked, being the oldest girl there. Innocence my ass!

I learned two very important lessons that day. One that my cousin CJ was a typical hormone driven guy who would over the next four to five years try anything he could to get me naked. The other was that I found that not only did I not have issue with exposing myself in a public place but that I found an incredible awakening in myself. My personal illumination was not sexual in nature. Quite the contrary I found a new kinship with nature that was to say for me, an incredibly exhilarating experience. Of course, the thrill of being naked in public also brought on an allure that was also hard to pass up. I was being naughty and my anti-establishment teen years was just beginning. I vowed that day that any time I found myself in that swimming hole I would enter that clear chilly water with nothing between me and the refreshingly hard shock of coldness that it always promised me.

As I continued to grow up my fondness for showing more of myself became a local curiosity. While the local southern culture prevented me from just baring it all in a moment’s notice I always had friends visit at our little swimming hole and regardless of who I was with I would warn them that while I have no issue with what they wore they were not allowed to have issue with what I didn’t wear. This of course did cause some consternation with my parents, the local clergy and pretty much any fella who considered my nakedness to be only seen by their much privileged eyes. In all three cases I rejected their logic in me covering myself up when I visited “my naked place”.

Today, over twenty years later, I am now the mom in the very same home that I grew up in. And every few days each week during the deep sultry summers we get in North Carolina I visit that very same swimming hole. Yes, every year it changes a bit. The sand bar there gets a bit bigger or a bit smaller. Parts of trees deposit themselves there after the last flood and then leave with the next major thunderstorm, but the hole is there today and I visit it regularly, and privately as I did that day when I was thirteen; and still, naked as a jay bird.

So is that it? Do I love to bare myself for all to see because of the attention I get? Is it because I get the whole hippy with nature thing? Or is it because I’m just a horny bitch and need to constantly get laid and getting naked is a great advertisement for that? In all cases the answer is no, though I wouldn’t mind the advertising to entice more “snuggling” to come along more often. After many years of self-reflection I’ve come to the following conclusion. I don’t have issue getting naked in public because I really don’t give a damn about being shy. By being able to express myself in my own fashion, whether I’m fully nude, in a full black latex bodysuit with ballet boots, a spring dress with white heels, a glamorous evening gown with an open plunging back or in a t-shirt and jeans I feel what I wear or don’t wear is my own business. That being said I am also aware that I don’t live in an opaque bubble and need to be considerate of others around me.

Now before you hit the delete button give me a moment to explain why I’m writing this article. Too many times each day I see so many people around me try to “fit in”. While I don’t have issue with fitting in I don’t believe that people should try to be somebody they are not. This became intuitively obvious when I realized that seeing that football quarterback in high school made me a bit weak between my knees but his hottie prom queen girlfriend did it to me too. I learned from my family history with a propensity to acquire cancer (thank you Camel unfiltered cigarettes for that) that life is too short and that we need to live like today is our last day. Now I don’t mean do the whole Groundhog Day thing like Bill Murray did but instead when the time is right and you’re in the right company, let your hair down and express yourself! Open up and let people see the real you. They are going to judge you regardless so let them judge the person you are, and not the person you wish you could be.

This leads me to my question in the article; why aren’t you naked too? While I understand in our real lives many of us are embarrassed to show everything about ourselves, I don’t agree with “modesty” if you are with friends. Though it’s perfectly understandable that many do. I was raised to be a good little Christian girl and god did not intend us to show off our bodies. This I was told constantly as I learned more about myself. Not to turn this into a discussion of Christianity or religion in general but let’s just say I reject that. Whether you believe in evolution or creationism there is one truth. Our bodies were perfectly designed for our home here on earth and should be regarded with the awe and respect they deserve regardless of how you think we got here. Yes I do believe our bodies are our own little temples and we should be proud that they are. But there’s more to it than that. Most people that know me tend to agree that my personality is “outward”. Some may even say outrageous. My grandmother's personality was what my mother called a “free personality”. She pretty much did as she pleased but was courteous about how she presented herself around others. When I was struggling with my bi-sexual tendencies trying to figure out “what was wrong with me” she sat me down and told me to find myself. "Find that place that makes you happy in my life, grab it and don’t let go until the lord takes your last breath away", she told me.

I took that to heart and live with those words today. In my coming out about my sexuality (not many people seemed surprised by it, go figure) I also realized that a great burden was lifted off of me. Not only did I feel better about myself but I felt more inclined to be whom I was and to do the things that made me feel good about myself. Being naked, while swimming, sunbathing, sleeping, or even riding my horse (I don't recommend you do that often, if ever) gave me an inner confidence about myself. And that is the point of my question. Overcoming “the embarrassment” of being naked publically taught me confidence about who I was and how I should interact with others. Having that confidence gave me other opportunities in life when it comes to social interaction. While I’m not publically displaying my nudity in any moment’s notice the knowledge that I could do so, and do so with my head held high and my eye’s saying “Yes world, this is me in all of my glory. You can love it or hate it, but you'll never keep me from expressing it” tells me that if I have confidence for public nudity, and then for coming out about my sexuality then why not be confident in everything I do? My inner spark was ignited. 

Second Life has taught me a lot about other cultures. And anybody that knows me knows that Sedona will on a whim or at any time bare it all without remorse or concern. This is my personally being personified though her. But why do I do it? Why would I even care if my cartoon avatar gets naked in public? Nobody in Second Life could ever admit that while I was naked I asked or looked for sex. I don’t because I feel being naked is a not much of a sexual turn on for me. Ask me about latex or binding-wear like corsets sometime and how I feel about them. I press the issue in Second Life because I’m am so surprised how many others I meet are still having hang-ups about their own cartoon avatars being naked too! I’m sure there are many reasons, some having to do with men having female avies not wanting to “advertise sex” when other men are around (I see naked women at lesbian SL sites all of the time, can you guess why?). But other times I wonder if there is a lack of real life confidence by the man or woman holding the strings. That the aversion to public nudity in his or her real life culture is being carried over to Second Life. If so, then I hope by being an example that lighting doesn’t strike when Sedona is naked will show that it won’t strike them too if they do the same. 

I’m not looking to make people naturalists in their real lives. Getting naked in public isn’t for everyone I agree. But there must be those who say “I’m too shy” who want to take that step and wish they could, but lack the confidence to just do it because of what may said about them in hushed behind their back tones. I feel that if I can show somebody that there is enough confidence in them to at least take the clothes off of their cartoon in Second Life that maybe, just maybe it will spark more general confidence in their real life too. Maybe it will help them ask for that raise, or to speak up in the conference room. Or maybe someday realize they are their own person and they need to take control of their own life. 

I know some of this is far reaching but I believe showing self-confidence is contagious. In Second Life just as in our real lives we are always looking for that muse, that mentor or guide to help us along down our own paths. I don’t believe I am any of those. We are our own guide and all of us must find our own path through life. My hope is that my path can be used as an inspiration to others to find the confidence to listen to their guide and find their path too. Will showing my confidence to embrace my sexuality and my proclivity for public display do that? I don’t know. But I know you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time and it all starts with that first bite.  Maybe that works in confidence building too. So if you feel inclined and the situation is right to bare it all, be bold and be brave and just do it! At least in Second Life you can do so knowing that you have full control around what “it” will look like. So why aren’t you naked already? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Future of our Virtual Selves.

Over my real life, which I consider significant but many others say I’m still just a youngster, I’ve seen technology gain so much over our lives I many times sit and wonder what the future holds.  Before I begin my rant let me start with a little real life history.  When I was a small child I was introduced to computers by the learning games. While I cannot remember specifically what those games were some of my oldest memories are of me being in wonderment of the sights and sounds laid out before me.  I remember the joy I used to get playing what were games to me, but were actually tools teaching me about colors, shapes and numbers.

As I continued to grow computers were always in my life.  My first computer was a Commodore 64.  I had that computer for about eight years and over that time I learned I had a talent to be able to make it do what I wanted it to do.  I learned programming, well the BASIC language that came with it and with that I found my other loves of math and science, specifically physics.  As my life moved on so did my C-64 as it was replaced with my first DOS computer.  A Tandy T-1000.  A hand-me-down of my fathers, it had a modem thing built into it and a giant 20 MB hard drive!  While that computer was simplistic even then it was a significant step up in my life.  I learned a whole new world called online bulletin boards and then soon after, the World Wide Web.  I became connected to a whole new community.  Mostly of perverts.

Over the years I’ve seen many upgrades just to the personal computer market alone.  In business and industry, and in the military computers have transformed how we work, how we live, how we entertain ourselves and how we protect ourselves.   Miniature machines now capable of many things has given rise to many wonders, including virtual three-dimensional worlds like we’ve never seen before.  Now virtual worlds are everywhere, from the Sims, to World of Warcraft and yes, to Second Life, probably one of the most open ended virtual environments in the world.  And with it being free, everybody has the promise to start over as a better looking, cooler version of themselves.

So in the short term, what may be next for Linden Labs and Second Life in particular?  One of the possibilities is that Second Life could become the next social media outlet.  With the creation of Twitter. Facebook, LinkedIn and more who’s to say that Second Life could be an extension of that phenomenon?  Already today avatars have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.  Social media does not only extend to the real world any longer.  Eventually Linden Labs will discover new ways to earn revenue from Second Life.  One day our browsers could be 3-D representations of web sites.  Our avatars 3-D representations of ourselves, real or imagined, surfing the metaverse for not only virtual goods, but for real items like we do today using simple two dimensional websites.  Second Life could be one of the greatest targeted-marketing opportunities in the history of advertising.  But that’s just the start.

How long will we be happy being tied to our laptops or desktops?  Technology advances at an incredible pace.  Morre’s Law states that every two years the number of transistors on integrated circuits will double.  This has held true since the 1960’s when he described the trend.  While current futurists believe the law will stop around 2019, when we are creating circuits at the molecular level and can’t go any farther others believe that new technologies being worked on today will continue our advance in information processing for many years to come.  But think about what that also means.  We are very close now to building computer systems where size doesn’t matter.  Where circuits capable of huge computations are common and nano-technology is the new engineering of the world.  What does that mean to us, the Second Life avatar?  Well for one thing who needs a monitor or screen?  Our eyeballs themselves can become the monitor.

Head’s up displays are used today by the military and are becoming more and more common in the private sector.  Pilots and soldiers use them to gain insight on strategic, tactical and battlefield conditions in a real time manner.  Companies are now looking at ways to make those clunky visors move to something the general public will love.  As our technology continues to shrink in size to a point where size doesn’t matter, a time will come where devices will beam the image directly onto the back of your retina using a simple set of sunglasses and a Bluetooth connection.  Don’t believe me? Google is looking to launch their Video Glasses this year and Vuzix has a set of glasses that can show theater quality video using sunglasses that look fairly normal to the casual person.  Oculas VR is also providing new technology that gamer developers are now looking to include in their new games that provides a total immersive experience for gamers.

Another technology that will allow us to be more mobile is the advances in wireless telecommunications.  Today I can use a laptop anywhere in my home to play Second Life.  The wireless network I have provides me plenty of bandwidth. But what happens when I move out of range? I’m still a prisoner in my own home when it comes to being “virtual”. But soon that will change. Today the 4G networks are providing more bandwidth, and more content to devices specifically made to leverage the technology. Not only are smart phones tied to 4G but so are tablet computers such as the Apple IPad and other media pad devices like the Amazon Kindle.  While playing SL on a global commercial wireless network is on the technology fringe I see in the next five years this technology being a standard worldwide.  Let’s just hope our wireless bills don’t exponentially grow too.

In the future we may have the ability to have completely augmented vision incorporating real time global wireless communications, and images sent directly to our eyes. While I can see many advantages to this in many way I also see a major disadvantage. Commercialism. Since we will be at the mercy of large corporations feeding information to us it wouldn’t take long to have that augmented vision plastering advertising on just about everything you look at. See that hot girl walking towards you, up flashes where she dances at the local strip club and at what times. Passing the hot dog stand and you see a giant wiener holding a menu up, even if you’re not hungry. Yes everywhere we look we could see signs plastered on every surface possible. Our virtual augmentation could become nothing more than another means to get the masses to spend what little free cash they have.

So to continue on our little journey to the future what else could provide us a better virtual experience?  Some of the newer technologies coming out today involve how we think.  Specifically how our brains control our bodies.  Over the last few decades extensive study has gone into how our brains function.  Not only do we have a better understanding of how our synapses work inside of the brain but also what regions of the brain perform what tasks. Today new prosthetic devices are being invented that are controlled directly by the brain waves emitted from our minds.  While it takes a bit of learning from the individual to “think” how they want to limb to move the fact that we can control devices using a technique where an indirect connection to the nervous system is employed is fascinating.  How would this technique be used in a newer version of virtual technology?  The implications are pretty exciting!

Consider a device that is totally mobile, small enough to wear on your head like eye glasses and at the same time allows you to control the device via non-intrusive methods with your mind.  No more mice, no more keyboards, no monitors, no large computers or bulky laptops, no wires, just you relaxing in that Lazy-Boy recliner, moving around in a virtual world, that only you can see, that you can control with your thoughts, in a high definition almost real-like environment.  I believe that this is the next step to modern computing.  Once we have achieved that technical capability not only will Second Life or whatever virtual world you roam become a much closer reality, but computing in general and connecting to others to do what we do today in a non-virtual environment will be open to us.

Conventional web pages would no longer be necessary.  The internet would become a true 3-D environment.  Not only for games or simulations but for conceivably anything we do.  This includes our daily chores like shopping for food, or working on a new project proposal at work.  Instead of just typing up words on a document or putting three dimensional drawings in a PowerPoint presentation we will be able to use simple tools like the simple prims we have today to create a virtual environment to express our ideas.  Web sites will become “web sims”.  Our avatars will become more of an extension of ourselves in real life and just as it is today when we play they can still be our expression of whatever fantasy we wish to portray.  But does it have to stop here?

I don’t believe so.  Many futurists believe not only will our technology become smaller and more compact, but with the benefit of smaller size there will come massive computing power on a scale that dwarfs today’s top microprocessors.  There will be a time, probably in many of our lives where computers will have the same capability to “think” as humans.  And that all past and current human knowledge will be able to be held electronically in real time.  This is a point that a technological singularity would occur.  Today it cannot be predicted exactly what will happen when this eventuality happens. There have been many movies like Terminator that portray a world taken over by electronic minds.  Personally I don’t believe that will be the case.  Even when computers are intelligent enough to write their own software, the basic premise of why an electronic intelligence exists will still need to be programmed by humans.  Basically we still have control over the basic nature of an electronic intelligence.  I see more a HAL type computer envisioned in 2001 A Space Odyssey being the future and not an electronic Armageddon.

With the technology of miniaturization driving computing forward it is also driving forward many advances in nanotechnology.  Now you may be wondering how nanotechnology can assist in our virtual playground. Well beyond the obvious ideas of incredible lifelike video let’s really take a stab at some really whacked out ideas. One of the many and most interesting applications with nanotechnology is in the medical field. Today we have to correct most of our serious medical ailments by using technology that has been around since the dawn of human civilization.  Basically we have to use a knife and cut open the body to get at whatever the doctor needs to fix.  But what if we could engineer nano-bots with a specific purpose of correcting whatever medical ailment you may happen to suffer.  From a broken bone to cancer, tiny machines could be injected into you to specifically move to the problem area and deal with the situation they were designed and programmed to correct.  While it sounds creepy today so did the idea of putting camera’s into one’s body to get a better view creep people out not to long ago.

While using nano-bots to improve our health is a benefit, with that technology, and with the ongoing knowledge of our brains, couples with a computing power unimaginable by today’s standards, is it not within the realm of impossibility to have nano-bots build a direct electronic interface inside of our minds?  To merge our thoughts, our feelings, our very being to an electronic world?  Crazy you say?  This is not as far off as you may think. Our children or grandchildren may very well obtain “internet connectivity implants” in their minds at a young age to assist them in learning.  And think about what that does for any type of virtual existence.  The true question is when the existence of being able to connect our minds directly to a networked real time virtual reality happens, is that reality truly “virtual” any longer?

Think of the games we would be able to play.  Games that are so smart, games that can feel our thoughts, or our feelings so well that they could react to them.  To play a game and be in that epic space fight not only would seem real to you, but it would feel real.  You would experience true exhilaration of blowing up your opponent and feel true fear knowing that you yourself may be vanquished. Would you really stay and fight then or run? When we get to the point that we cannot differentiate between our real environment and a virtual one, do virtual environments then be considered real?

So are we done with our little trek down a possible future of virtual reality?  Not yet.  So far the premise of all of this technology revolves around us, the human race, of us living our lives in a similar manner as we do today.  We are born, we grow and we learn, we work, we love, we sacrifice and raise children and eventually we die.  But if we have computers that rival or exceed the human brain’s capacity to hold thought, feelings, ideas and memories and if we have the medical technology to tap into that electronically.  Then what keeps us from moving our being from corporeal bodies to electronic minds?  Could this be our dream of immortality personified?  Think of the implications of this.  If we move into an electronic world are we still ourselves?  If we give up our bodies for immortality does our soul come with us? Does the inner essence of what makes us who we are follow us to the electronic realm or are we merely electronic copies of an entity that once existed in a biological form that now exists in a permanent “virtual” reality?

The future always hold wondrous marvels to be explored and found.  This small look into a possible future by me is just that, a possibility.  I stayed away from some of the scarier thoughts such as what corporations or governments would do if they had complete access to our minds.  I hope that mankind is intelligent enough to know that above all privacy is still the one fundamental freedom humans must have to be considered human.  The philosophy I’ve described here does have a utopian aspect in it for sure and with mankind’s lust for power and wealth, we have some serious evolving left to do as a species and we had better hurry.  Technology is moving forward at an insane pace.  The human race will need to learn how to use these advances for the betterment of mankind and not for the advancement of power and wealth for a few.  The only other options we have is to reject our own technological advancements and revert back to a more simple life or to allow those in power to take us over completely and live to fulfill the dreams and desires of only the very powerful few.  I hope for our children’s sake it is neither and that we have the fortitude and intelligence to embrace our technological marvels and use them wisely, virtually or otherwise.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why we Shop

I remember back in my early days of noob’lier innocence or as many of us remember, our first day in Second Life, we came to the very basic question; “Okay, I’ve learned to walk. Now where in the hell do I go to get rid of this horrid hair!”  As with any new intelligent being brought to life we realize the basic need to acquire stuff early on. Now not that I’m professing that everyone that logs into Second Life is intelligent, I wouldn’t even begin to believe that.  I can say that we love to have ‘stuff’.

I listen to other people while I make my way around the sims. Yes, I actually do while flashing my ass and pouring any word that finds itself in my brain out through my mouth with little to no regard.  In doing so I’ve learned that people love to amass just about anything.  And that is not just something we do here in Second Life.  Think about it, what do you collect in your real life, or in Second Life? Or, in your World of Warcraft life, or your Eve Online life, or your Lord of the Rings Online life or in Farmville or Cityville lives?  Or in the countless other games and adventures we find ourselves involved in.  Now I’m not a big fan of gaming but my son is and I can say that he has accumulated more crap in those games then Fred Sanford on a buying binge!  It’s in our nature to do so.  Face it, we shop because we love to collect… “stuff”.

So. I guess this article is over! Why do we shop? Because we like to collect crap and horde it away!  I’ll see you next month!

Okay… that was just plain silly.  But it’s really that simple.  I’m sure when you read the title you were like, oh my god this dizzy bitch is going to put twenty-five hundred words down on why we shop?  Oh hell no I’m not! So what is this rant really about then?  When I thought about that it really took me some time to think it out.  Let’s go back to my original premise about why we shop in general.  People love to collect “things”.  And in our western real life societies just about everything we are exposed to plays to us on that premise.  Whether it’s buying a car or buying sneakers, whether it’s online or offline, and whether it’s in real life or Second Life we are constantly bombarded to get our fix for more stuff.

Earlier I remarked that in the online community we have plenty of outlets to find that needed fix.  Even social media on the internet is all about it.  Anyone that wants to sell you something is on Facebook.  Every web site you go to, including many blogs has advertising.  It’s pervasive and it’s everywhere.  So, really the question I should have put the title of this opinion piece to is “Why do we Shop in Second Life?”

There are many reasons people come to Second Life but I don’t believe shopping is one them.  I have never heard anyone say they came to Second Life to get that hottie dress or awesome Harley.  Some come to find friends or some form of companionship.  Some come to get a sexual high.  Some come to find themselves and given the low cost of personal exposure, see just how far they would go in just about anything if they could shackle the bonds of “respectable culture and etiquette”.  There are lots of reasons why we bring ourselves initially to Second Life, but I’m pretty sure shopping isn’t one of them.

 So assuming that, why do we, once we get here, make it a key aspect of this simulated world and for many a central aspect of our avatars lives?  Why does Linden Labs advertise Second Life as a great shopping experience?  Why is the “fashion world” so big on Second Life?  And yes, why are there more clothing stores then just about anything else, including which amazes me, places of sexual fantasy on the grid?  I understand we like to acquire things.  It’s in our nature and I’ve pretty much established my understanding of that.  But why do we use Second Life so much to also fill that need?  Especially when we can go anywhere and in any environment in our collective universe and fill it there too?

That is the basic question I’m asking.  If you don’t believe my hypothesis that people massively horde in Second Life then take a look at the statistics.  The amount of value of goods that changes hands every month in Second Life is approximately 1.4 million dollars! The technical infrastructure of storage to store our assets that Linden Labs publishes proves that I’m not the only person with a 40,000+ item inventory.  Many people I know have significantly larger inventories.  Many of us use Second Life for many reasons but we also acquire much in doing so.  How come?

Have you ever gone shopping in your real life for something you know you cannot afford?  A new car or home perhaps?  Or maybe you go to that high end clothing store and “look around”?  I know I have.  I love to shop in real life.  I especially love to shop for clothing.  So of course Second Life also gives me that outlet.  I’m an easy target here.  But let me explain why I love shopping.  I don’t get off buying expensive clothing to say I have expensive clothing, well sometimes I do.  But many times I can’t afford what I want and I don’t purchase it.  But getting dressed in what little high end clothing I have and then hitting those boutiques that cater to those who can, and being pampered there is a personal high for me.  To put on something I know I can’t afford, to see myself in that wonderful flowing gown gives me a rush.  It’s my way of building my own fantasy.

Can I have that same look that I see in those magazine?  Can I be glamorous too?  Going shopping and being able to put myself into those wonderful clothes and shoes, to try them on, to feel myself in them makes me feel better about myself, who I am, what I can be, and motivates me to get myself there.  Tell me you don’t do the same thing!  Whether you are shopping for a new car, a new home, or even a new spouse I’m sure you imagine yourself there with that new bobble or prize.  We all do it in real life.  However, many of us cannot either afford it, or in some other way, maybe due to our physical appearance, or time give ourselves the luxury for such endeavors thus we really never engage in such activity.

But now we have Second Life!  We have an environment where we can be exactly who and how we want to be!  How we look, how we act, our gender and now for many of us, the ability to afford those wonderful things we so covet in our real lives.  Whether it’s a big home, a new car, that awesome ride, or those incredible boots we now have the ability to completely fulfill that fantasy and do so without a huge investment.  It’s not so much our gender or our sexual preference that drives us to shop.  Those attributes may dictate what we shop for but the feeling we get when we see our avatar, our personification of ourselves, enacting out a real life fantasy gives us a similar rush, just as if we had done so in real life.  Whether that fantasy is sexual or materialistic in nature, fulfilling it gives us that good feeling inside of ourselves.

Can it get better?

One of the fascinating things I love about technology in general is that it’s always getting better.  In my short life I’ve seen technology vastly change how we communicate and how we entertain ourselves.  In many ways it has made some of the mundane go away.  Second Life is no different.  While many profess that many of the recent changes in Second Life is a bane to their existence I am not one of those people.  I have invested in my own personal infrastructure to take advantage of improving technology, including improvements in Second Life.  I don’t profess to be crazy tech-head silly about it, but every few years I invest a little into something newer to make my experience a better one and to keep up.  Many of the developments of the new viewer base code that Linden Labs opens up has provided significant improvements on how I use Second Life to keep my “stuff” organized and to have a more realistic look.  Namely;

•    Outfits: The ability to store links to items in our inventory has completely removed the need for a copy of an item for each outfit.  In the past we stored outfits in folders and needed a copy of the specific items in those folders to make up outfits.  Now we have links and can manage our inventory much better based not on now how we wear or use items, but on what those items attributes specifically are that identify them.  I see a future article on how to leverage outfits and organize your clothing inventory coming soon.

•    Multiple prim attachments to a single attachment point: Before multiple attachments if you wanted to wear many rings or earrings or piercings you were stuck with one item per attachment point.  No more.  Now we can “add” multiple items to any attachment point we wish.  We can now “load up” on jewelry or fashion accessories.

•    Multiple attachments to a specific clothing layer: How many times did you have both a bra and top that only had undershirt layers?  You had to choose another item for an outer layer or go without.  No longer are we saddled with that limitation.

•    The tattoo layer: Adding this new layer and being able to attach up to five different articles has opened up a whole new world to how we present ourselves.  Not only does it free up a layer for more clothing options, it releases us from having to by a huge amount of skins for each makeup look.  Now we can buy that standard un-made look and then find makeup choices from other artists.  It totally changes how we can present our naked selves to the world.

•    The alpha layer: In the past we used “invisi-prims” to hide specific parts of our avatar that got in the way.  Shoes used these heavily.  Now we can add multiple alpha layer “items” just like tattoos.  This has a better effect on our visual appearance as you no longer have the invisi-block showing that plagues us when we are rendered over another texture with some form of transparency.

•    Mesh: While my good friend Gudrun is not a proponent of mesh because of incapable backward compatibility, I am a big fan of mesh.  Yes there are limitations to it but the final presence that mesh provides is a magnitude better than anything else up to this point.  Also due to the technology and how it’s implemented I now can try something on before I buy it.  No more guessing how that item will look on me instead of the picture.  My online shopping experience is now very similar to my real life experience.  This is a wonderful technology and will improve and I for one am excited to see that happen.

The visual and modeling technology of Second Life has seen some dramatic and exciting improvements.  However, what hasn’t improved significantly over the years is how the shopping experience that Linden Labs provides in its simulations happens.  Today, as in the days when I first started we still have basically three options for everything we create; copy, transfer & modify.  Based on the enhancements we have seen which I noted earlier these three options are sorely outdated.  In next month’s rant I’ll discuss some of my ideas about how our shopping experiences could be even better with some thoughts about how to improve the viewer to make that happen.

If you have read any of my past articles you may have come to realize a common thesis to my opinions about Second Life and why we are here.  We are sexual creatures by nature.  Most of our early adult lives are all about acquiring a mate for one night or even for life.  Shopping is no different.  While many times we shop because we have to for food and necessities, when leisure time is involved our shopping usually drives us to enhance our personification of ourselves to the world around us.  And in most cases to bring attention to ourselves.  All of us have that primal need for sexual gratification even in small doses and in many ways we don’t consider sexual in nature.  We shop to provide that need.  Second Life gives us the ability to do so in our own way, and without the limitations we deal with in our real lives.

Many may come to Second Life for sexual pleasure, most don’t realize that they get fulfillment here through shopping.  But I’m sure Linden Labs does.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Before you take a read on this opinion take a read of my post above in the labels called "A Dancer's Life".


Let's just say that I sure was fooled when I first came to Second Life. Making money, real money in Second Life is just as hard as making money in the "real" world. In fact, I tend to think it's much more difficult. While I'm sure that many people have made money in Second Life, I tend to think most of them make enough just to pay the tier enacted by Linden Labs, or the rent they pay to greedy landlords, or not so greedy landlords.
I have many new women coming to me asking me how to make money in a virtual world. The biggest problem I see is that many do not have or wish to learn the skills or make the investment that it takes to earn a virtual living. Other than camping or becoming a skilled and lucky Zyngo player, every money making venture requires an investment in time and capital.. which is money for most of us.

Let take an example of a dancer, or even a club host. Many say that either job doesn't make a lot of money. Well that's not entirely true. I danced and brought in over one-thousand lindens a week, sometimes in a night. Now before I get a plethora of comments about that being nothing, to a new member of the Lindonean race, one-thousand Lindens is quite a bit of cash. So yeah, you can make money in this virtual world. And at four-thousand Lindens a month you have enough to invest in a small plot of Linden Land and have some cash left over.

But before you can make that kind of cash you need to invest. You need a decent shape. You need at least one and preferably a few top notch skins to cover that shape. You need clothes. While freebie clothes may do for a start. Don't expect customers to throw Lindens your way until you really invest in good sexy lingerie and exotic wear. Hair, oh yes. Not that spiky worm like hair.. oh no.. you need the good stuff. How about shoes, belts, jewelry and dances!! Before you know it, you have invested at least a few thousand lindens into your avatar to make it look good.

Now jumping on a dance pole and wiggling your ass isn't going to get you rolling in the dough. Most people, that's men AND women, are you ready for that too; need a little verbal stimulus. You have to be good at getting them turned on. And not virtually turned on! You have to invoke a REAL feeling in this person you’re wishing to extract money from. Because like you, they know that Lindens are worth real value to. You have to give them the feelings they came seeking you out for. And what is that feeling? You have to find out! Does this sound easy? Let me tell you it's not. So, after dropping a couple thousand now you have to LEARN how to turn on the person on the other side of that avatar with your words. Are you ready to spend another valuable resource, your time, to learn that skill?

No, even a simple job like dancing in the virtual world can have a steep learning curve. But let's say you are open-minded. You have no issue turning on men and women (remember, were talking about really turning them on now, not virtually; and know that the woman you’re turning on could be a man in real life, or vice versa). You have no moral issues about going nakie when the coins drop into the till. Let's say you learn to emote. You know how to start a conversation and how to keep it entertaining. You're doing everything right and yes, you're making three-hundred to one-thousand a night. Now what are you going to do with all of that cash?

Here is where it gets interesting. You dance to earn cash. Why? To spend the cash of course. So you do. You spend your hard earned Lindens on.. CLOTHES! That's right, because while you are dancing in yet that same ol' bra n' panty set. The girl next to you is in that super-hot latex second skin with just enough exposed to make YOU a little warm. And you want one too because all of a sudden, she is making more tips then you. And her boots!! Wow.. if you only had boots like that. And her hair and her skin and prim nails.. Raggedy Ann looks better then you next to her. So you take your hard earned money and you buy clothes. And not clothes that you can wear anywhere, nope. You buy "stripper clothes".
Now the vicious circle is complete. You are dancing to earn money so that you can purchase items that allow you to be a better dancer and earn money. So, what is a dancer to do? Well there is always modeling or escorting. Good luck with that too!


Boy it sure sounds like the Sedona of yesteryear was a fairly cynical woman!  Well not really.  When I wrote that many realizations were coming to me.  An epiphany of sorts occurred to me around the fact that no matter how hard you work in Second Life, doing the typical jobs one does here is not going to make you financially independent.  I became a student in the Second Life economy and I found that in reality there are two economies in play here.

  1. The Linden Economy: Wealth in SL is based on the accumulation of lindens, our in-world currency.  Everything can be purchased with lindens and in truth many created in-world items are very cheap or even free.  But what makes this economy thrive is not the massive consumer market or the desire people have to accumulate “things”.  What make this economy work is that a single Linden is incredibly cheap when compared to any real world value.  Okay I hear you saying; “dammit Sed not another analogy to that other place where bad things happen!  I love my fantasy!”  So do I, but in comparison to real wealth, a Linden or even many of them are pretty cheap.  I feel discussing the other economy will bring some light to my reasoning around this.

  2. The Land Economy: While everything in the linden economy is considered virtual everything dealing with the land economy is not.  The big irony about our little fantasy world is that in truth, the basic existence of it still aligns to the fact that it is directly tied to real life value and wealth.  In simplistic terms, the wealth you pay for your virtual land is really nothing more than you paying for computer resources.  That’s right; in truth Linden Labs is nothing more than a giant, extremely advanced web hosting service and Second Life is in a sense, a social network for the anonymous.

So, the genie is out of the bottle here.  You may be thinking I’m full of crap because you can “play” in Second Life for free.  You can accumulate crap for free.  You can do everything for free in Second Life and still participate just about fully in the environment that Linden Labs provides.  And you’re correct if you look at the investment you made AFTER you log in.  But what about before you log in?  Ask yourself this, when you purchased your computer did you think about its capabilities?  If you were logging into our lovely virtual universe when deciding to purchase your computer I bet you made damn sure well that it could run the SL client you use in probably the high or the “OMG it looks so real” mode.  Because shadows are important too.

You may not realize it but what real value you invested in before you even log into Second Life is part of the land economy too.  Hopefully by now you are beginning to see my point.  The land economy is directly tied to the real world economy!  Land in Second Life has nothing to do with the social experiment I’ve talked about in earlier columns.  Land in Second Life has nothing to do with the virtual goodies that end up in your inventory.  Land in Second Life exists so that Second Life can exist.  And EVERY single person pays for that economy, regardless of whether you actually own, lease, rent or use free land.  Everybody pays some real value to be a part of the Linden’s virtual 3D anonymous “Facebook”.

So do the two economies I’ve laid out have zero relationship to each other?  We all know that you can convert Lindens to real currency and that real currency can purchase Lindens.  But is a Linden actually considered “currency”.  Linden Labs says it’s not.  They consider Lindens “tokens” used for the transfer of virtual items in their virtual universe.  Personally I disagree with that premise.  I spend Lindens each month to lease land that I can use to make a virtual home.  Those lindens are used by my land owner, converted to real capital, to lease the server that allows my land to exist; with a tidy profit she keeps for herself I’m sure.

So why would anyone want to become a SL gazillionaire?  Most likely for the same reason I discussed in my blog article.  Because those “tokens” are really just like the tokens I use in my real life.  But we call them coins, or dollar bills.  And if I made a gazillion of them in Second Life I could probably pay for at least my bi-weekly trip to the nail salon.  Yeah, I want nails like Sedona has now!  Well, not as long.  So the question came back to me.  If I could get pretty nails via Second Life how would I do it?  What economy should I invest in?  Do I invest in the linden economy or the land economy?  My answer really came down to this; how much real world financial risk am I willing to take?

Either way I knew that any investment I made into becoming rich in Second Life would incur a cost.  Again my blog article clearly spells this out.  It could be a financial cost, or a personal cost in time and energy spent learning skills to accomplish the task at hand to acquire the virtual wealth I desired.  If I take the financial risk then to me, the land economy seemed the prudent choice.  I’m already in for a dime, why not for a dollar so to speak.  I’ve spent the money to have the computer necessary to invest my time in SL, so why not invest more in hopes of getting a return?  I did this for a while.  Basically land flipping with some financial partners and I did find it very rewarding financially.  But the costs and risk compared to the linden economy was huge and I found I didn’t have the stomach for it.  Second Life wasn’t as much fun for me as I always worried if my tier costs would kill any profit from my flip if I held onto the land to long.  So I gracefully exited that scene.

I then turned to the linden side of the economy.  I first looked at building content.  I tried clothing, homes, anything.  I even pursued scripting as I have a real talent for computer programming.  While I feel with time and energy I could become a great creator of content, the time involved to learn the skills and to come up with the imaginative designs required more than my real life allowed.  And I just don’t have the patience to keep a long term vision relevant in my priorities.  I’m sure if you ask Sky she will agree with me on that.

My last attempt was to try the typical route of starting a club.  Since SL is a big ass social washing machine I felt a well-designed club, managed properly with just the right theme surely would be profitable.  The club I came up with which was actually a resort was successful.  We had a good sized following and anybody that came always said they loved it there and had a great time.  But two problems cropped up.  The first was that running a club full time was like having a second job.  I would at time regret logging onto SL because I knew I had to deal with personnel issues or plan events or god forbid, do accounting.  Managing a club is work!  And I work hard enough in my real life.  My other problem was that while we got paid in linden economy currency I had to pay out costs in land economy currency.  Since a dollar is about two-hundred and sixty times more in value then a linden.  Whatever lindens we took in made barely made a dent in our tier costs.  So I paid a lot of my real world cash (my business partner paid a lot more) to keep the club open and expanding.  In the end I just didn’t see the reason to pay to do something that seemed like a job to me.  So I closed the club down.

Do all of my failures, or learning experiences as I like to call them, mean you cannot become a gazillionaire in Second Life?  Absolutely you can!  If you look at the first two attempts you will see had I had the entrepreneurial spirit or patience to keep to a long range goal I’m sure I would be hip deep in lindens by now.  But since I don’t does this mean I’ll never have any wealth in Second Life?  No, I have tremendous wealth in Second Life.  My wealth does not come in the form of financial treasure.  It comes in the form of personal gain to me as a person. 

The personal gain I speak of is not Sedona’s, but of her puppeteer, me.  A couple of months back Harry Bailey wrote an article about “What would Friday do?”  Reading this article made me think about how Sedona’s virtual life affected my own.  When I came to Second Life I strived to make Sedona’s personality my own, but with a twist.  She would be less critical of people, more patient of them, and more understanding and caring of others not like me.  I know those traits were inside of me I just needed to be in a place where exercising them would produce less real emotional risk to myself.  Could I open myself up to others, be more empathetic and be that “sweet little girl” my mother always reminded me I was?

It’s been over five years now.  Sed has always been here. She has always been active.  And after reading Harry’s article I reflected back and thought how often in my real life did I ask myself “what would Sedona do in this situation”.  My answer was not always “the answer”.  But it always gave me pause to look at the real life situation in another perspective.  I get asked a lot how do I keep my interest in Second Life for so long with the same avatar.  I do because today I still meet great people every day, have wonderful virtual experiences (no, not sex) with my friends, and find amazing creations that come from peoples imagination from all over the world.  So did I ever meet my goal of becoming a gazillionaire in Second Life?  If you say yes you’re damn right I did!  I’ve gained more personal wealth then I could ever imagine in Second Life.  And I do so for less than a night out every month.  My return on my investment has been remarkable.

I am a gazillionaire in Second Life.  But in ways I didn’t even think existed.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What is love in Second Life

Hello again! This is my second article for Rez magazine.  I've thought about what I should write about this month.  I've had lots of help from friends with ideas.  In the end I felt that y’all wanted my opinion on everything Second Life.  Is it because I feel my Second Life pontification is edge of your seat must reads?  No, my goal is to spark thought and reflection.  So please take my opinion not as gospel, but as a starting point to your own reflections about this virtual world we all inhabit.  And hey, if you want to share your opinion with me, please send me a note.  I’d love to hear from you.

So yeah, what is love when it comes to Second Life?  When I first posed the question to myself the first thought that came to me was those head bobbing skits that SNL put on.  The skit portrays a slick bare chested fella coming up to some hapless woman with some one-liner that you've heard before, over and over again with the song “what is love” banging away in the background.  The irony about this is that in many cases I've seen that same art of the pickup applied to me regardless if it’s from a man or woman avatar in our virtual world too.  And yeah, in some cases the bare chest is on a woman.

In Second Life as in the SNL skit, love was not really a factor in the blossoming courtship at hand.  Lust was probably the stronger motivating emotion driving many of these impending train wrecks.  But sometimes, not often, but sometimes those trains heading for that cliff don’t crash and burn but explode in a frenzy of emotion.  Even though the aggressor acts like a proverbial coyote painted the train tunnel on the mountain and the road runner, for reasons unknown, ran right through it.  We don’t know why this miracle happens and we don’t ask.  But here is the real interesting part about love in Second Life, we… are… cartoons!!

So what ignited that spark to draw an interest?  My personal experiences in our virtual universe always lead me to question this.  Is my avatar that sexy?  Does she interest you that much?  When I’m approached I usually get these three basic questions;

1. How old are you – My profile says I’m about five and one-half years old.  Oh you mean how old am I in my real life?

2.Where do I live – Well I have this really nice little 8192 sqm corner plot on a private island sim.  Oh you mean where do I live in real life?

3. Am I really a woman – How can I not be a woman? I have cleavage from my neck to my legs! Oh you are asking if I am a woman in real life.

Don’t think of these questions as trivial.  In every case when I get that unsolicited IM and these three questions come I realize this person that wants to know about me isn't interested in Sedona and her life.  This person is interested in Sedona’s Puppeteer, in other words, me.  So this begs another question.  If my avatar was not appealing visually would this same person still contact me?  I think not.  But am I wrong about my cynic viewpoint here regarding first encounters?

The conundrum I find myself here is why does this person want to know about my real life when the initial attraction is most likely Sed’s physical appearance?  I’m sure we can talk about the obvious answers around the certainty of my real life womanhood and my suitor’s issues with their own sexuality.  But that discussion would lead my rant on love off of the rails.  Or would it?  I’m one of those crazy people that does put a little bit of something about my real life in my profile.  I do this in hopes that I don’t get those basic three questions that much.  It doesn't help.  But when I do get asked about my real life I usually point people to my profile.  And then it gets interesting!

In my profile I have a real life picture of me and yeah, I made sure it was a nice one of me.  What usually then happens is interest in me becomes very significant, not Sedona, but me.  Sometimes the offers for sex range from the innocuous “let me show you my place” (yeah I learned what that really means in real life) to just a simple abrupt “I want to fuck you let’s go now”.  At this point you’re probably asking yourself “what is this dizzy bitch Sedona trying to convey to me, get to the point”.  My point is that even though in many cases somebody is just looking for a cheap thrill with a woman in real life, what got their attention is Sedona the avatar and in some cases they may be looking for more than a cheap thrill.  They may be looking for a virtual relationship and in those rare cases, hopefully something that translates into a real life relationship.
If you think I am nuts ask a friend that is in a virtual relationship or examine your own.  Exactly how did it start?  The ice had to be broken somehow.  And I’m sure a hot looking avatar probably helps.  While we see the avatar and that spawns the initial interest what many of us are looking for in a virtual relationship is a real life lover.  Maybe not physically, not initially but in soul, spirit and mind what holds our attractions for each other in Second Life is not the hot avatar.  In the end the real interest of a relationship lies in the puppeteer pulling those strings.  In many ways love in Second Life, in the long run, is very similar to love in real life.  While the eye candy is nice initially it’s really the person inside that we all fall in love with.

So if my assumption is right, love in a relationship in Second Life is really the same in many ways as love in a relationship in real life and if so why do many Second Life relationships fail so quickly?  Well probably because in real life they do to and most likely for the same reasons.  People can fall out of love as quickly as they fall in love.  So is there any difference in how we love each other in Second Life in regards to how we love each other in real life?  Ignoring the obvious physical differences in how we love each other virtually (and I really hope that virtual reality solves that problem before I get too old to not care any longer) how we fall in love and feel for each other can feel the same for some people but not in all.  One of the realities I learned early in my second life is that there are two extremes when it comes to how people interact with each other here.  Like everything else in the world I've given them labels.  They are the “Realist” and the “Role Player”.

Now understand I feel these are the two extremes with most of us falling somewhere in the middle of the scale.  The Realist brings their real life with them into Second Life.  They feel their avatar is an extension of their real selves.  Many times you hear them say “Avatars have real feelings too”.  This is the mark of a true realist.  The Role Player on the other hand thinks of Second Life not so much a simulation of real life social interactions but more of a game.  A place where they can be someone they would not most likely be in real life.  They look for the fantasy element in Second Life and don’t take their virtual lives too seriously.

We all have a bit of both in each and every one of us.  For me, I feel I’m about half way leaning on the realist side.  I bring my real life into conversations.  I take my relationship with my partner Sky seriously and think about her every day in my real life.  I discuss my real life family with my close friends and as you can tell from my writings I interchange my use of Sedona and myself in conversation.  However, I also love the fantasy elements of Second Life.  It’s not so much that I don’t have to worry about periods or cellulite but that I can express myself in any fashion that I wish or try just about any fantasy that would like to explore.  And for those that know me they know that I have. 

Everybody falls somewhere in this scale and depending where you do can have some serious implications about how you feel about virtual relationships.  What is even more interesting is when the role player begins a relationship with a realist.  This usually ends up in disaster.  Many times Sed's shoulder has had tears applied to it from that realist who realized that their role playing partner really didn't feel the same way they did about the relationship.  While this can also happen in our real lives, we even call those types “players”, it can usually be detected by most of us early in the dating period.  But here in the virtual world that successful player detection can be significantly more difficult.  This is where I feel love in Second Life can be dangerous for those that don’t realize some think “it’s just a game”.

Where this becomes even more tenuous is that people in the virtual world can take on completely different identities in the form of alts.  This has serious ramifications as now your partner can cheat on you and there is for the most part no way you can know or find out.  For the role player this really isn’t an issue.  The pure role player again doesn't believe the social interactions they have tie to their own reality.  Any feelings they would portray would all be a part of the role.  However, the realist allows their feelings for their partner to migrate into their real life.  That partnership has true meaning in their real life and carries with it the emotional baggage similar to a true real life relationship.  In most cases the relationship is not as strong as a real life one but in some, it can be.  These can have the potential to allow the virtual relationship to then move into the real world.

So to finish off my babbling about love let’s bring home the bacon and talk about the variations from these extremes.  One thing I see among friends and perving profiles is that many people have relationships that are more like a “friends with benefits” aspect.  This aligns very well to the same real world instance of the same name.  In this case there is probably some realist aspect to the relationship in that there is a mutual trust between the two sex partners.  Is love really involved?  Possibly yes.  In both the virtual world and the real world many times two people that take on this type of courtship involves one of them that is actually in love with the other.  However the other wants to keep the relationship platonic.  Most of us know how these turn out.

Another common theme I see in the virtual world but not in the real world as much is the three-way love affair or a slant on that theme, open relationships.  Oh sure, three-ways are somewhat common in the real world.  But in truth the percentage of real three-way relationships is quite small while in Second Life it’s very common when looking at it per capita.  Ask around, you’ll find that open partnerships are extremely common in our virtual world.  In both cases here I believe this phenomenon is due to a mix of the realist and the role player coming together.  Feelings are shared between the two partners but hey, it’s not like its actually real right?  “It’s all for fun” is usually the answer you get back if you press why the relationship the two have is not monogamous.

Here love can be an interesting part of the equation.  In many cases both partners do show affection for each other.  However one or both have moved more to the role player side of the scale and wish to keep the partnership open.  Again this can have ramifications if one of the partners goes along with the deal so that they can have the relationship and really bend to the realist side.  Eventually feelings can go sour as the realist leaning partner has to deal with jealousy issues and fear of being left alone or separated from their lover altogether.

Love in Second Life is in many ways more complex then love in our real lives.  Given that real life love is bat shit crazy; think of all of the songs, movies, books, poems, news, scandals, and just general drama real life love has been focused on us and it’s no wonder virtual love often falls to the same depths of drama too.  With all of the added ways people feel not only about love in general but in how they present it in Second Life it’s a wonder any of us can keep a relationship for months or even years.  I can say I am one of those people that have been in a long term virtual relationship with my partner Skiler for years now.  Ours is a monogamous relationship and our rules are simple and have helped us to keep our trust and love for each other on track.  But what really has helped us is that that our boundaries are clear and we both accept them.  If either one of us feels we've crossed over our mutual scope of love, we are sure to let the other know.  So after all of my ranting here I can say from experience that real life love and virtual love do have one thing in common for both to flourish long term.  Communication!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Politics of Second Life

I have started writing articles for Rez Magazine.  I'll be posting the unedited versions here for your reading. These articles are not so much opinion as an attempt to get your own noggin thinking about all things SL.  This article was posted in the November issue.  Enjoy!

Welcome to my first column for Rez Magazine.  I hope my writing provides some serious thought about all things SL.  I also hope a little reflection, laughter and insight comes to you from my writings too.  Friday says I need to make it edgy.  So to keep with Friday’s demands I thought I would begin my first article about the politics of Second Life.  No… really, politics. Okay if you’re still reading I’m shocked.  You should be concerned about your state of mind at this point and thinking about getting some serious professional help.  But regardless of mine or yours mental health I am going to talk about politics in SL.  Why take on such an endeavor?  Well, where there are people there is politics.  In the United States, Americans have to make a big decision this month.  Many will run from that decision or ignore it altogether.  In Second Life, you can run from it, but you can’t ignore it.  One day you’re going to have to face SL politics because it will affect some part of your virtual life if it’s not already.  It may even affect the puppet master pulling on your avatars strings.  So I’m going to discuss it and in doing so I want to start off with a little story.

Jane Doe was new to SL. She started saving her lindens for her own place almost from the first day she rezzed onto the grid (see how I got a plug in for the magazine, editor take note).  After a few weeks she found a job as a dancer in some cheap dive.  There were only ever a few patrons there for her to entertain but she did her best to give them a good show trying to do the best she could with her limited funds and lack of shape shifting skills.  Living in cheap mainland apartments and having to deal with people invading her privacy took Jane’s patience to its limit. The couple next door was again making incredible noises with nothing but a paper thin prim wall between them.  The sounds emanating from the voice channel did nothing if not amplify the sounds of their erotic pixel love and cerebral thoughts behind it.  At first it was fun to listen to but after a while she got tired of it.  Or maybe it reminded Jane of her own loneliness.  In any case Jane had enough.  She also didn't know about the mute button yet.

For months Jane worked and saved her lindens. At the same time she moved up to better jobs, well better dance jobs in better clubs. Money was starting to come in and she finally had enough for a down payment and tier for her own parcel of land. So Jane started looking in the classifieds to find that perfect place to make her new home.  Eventually with a little digging around she found a “new” sim with decent priced parcels she could afford for her to place a home on.  The parcels were quite large for the price so she discussed the terms with the sim owner.  He seemed decent enough and he promised that he would only be leasing out the parcels for people’s homes.  So Jane paid the man the thousands of lindens she had saved for her parcel and started immediately thinking about how she would mold the parcel to her idea of a virtual utopia.

For about three weeks life was good for Jane.  She had purchased a small home, found some low prim cheap furniture to put in it and had actually started molding her land with some nice landscaping.  Then everything started to change.  First of all across the street from her parcel a slum like warehouse popped up.  The place sat right in the middle of the sim and was a terrible eyesore.  She asked the sim owner about his neighborhood rule and he basically told her she had no say.  It was his sim and he needed the cash.  So she erected a large wall on the one side of her property to block it and continued with her design.  In the meantime she got to know some of her neighbors and they too complained.  They all felt helpless even after banding together.

This went on for about two weeks.  Then one day Jane logs into her home and finds it missing.  As a matter of fact not only does she find her home gone, but all of her furnishings, her landscaping, her everything!  In their place are new structures and a new person laying more down, on her land!  She approaches the intruder and kindly asks him what he is doing on her land.  He basically tells her it’s his land and she is trespassing.  Jane immediately checks the parcel profile and to her amazement she is no longer the owner of the parcel.  Her land has been stolen from her.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?  Was it land or something even closer to your heart?  Maybe something you created; something you put a lot of time and effort into?  Has your clothing designs or textures ever been stolen?  Have you had something, anything you've created just ripped from you after many hours of heart and hard work?  Welcome to the world of a government of anarchy in Second Life and the politics that goes with it.  A world with no police, no law, no judges, and no way to right the wrong placed upon you. Welcome to a world where you have the freedom to express your deepest desires and sexual fantasies and a world for every predator to find easy victims to prey upon.  Welcome to the freedom of living in Second Life.  Let me continue on with our story of Jane Doe.

Upon seeing her parcel taken right out from under her Jane contacts the sim owner.  He tells her that he no longer owns the sim and has sold it to another person.  He gives her the name of this “new owner” and tells her she needs to discuss the terms with them.  So Jane contacts this new owner and provides her list of grievances.  After a couple of days Jane gets her reply; “Tough shit, it’s my sim and I’ll do with it as I please”.  This leaves Jane very upset as she spent real money and time on this “investment”.  She contacts her old neighbors only to find that the same situation has happened to them.  Everybody is up in arms and is understandably upset about what has transpired.  Together they come up with the idea to petition Linden Labs about the situation at hand.

This is where the politics of Second Life comes in to play.  In a real world environment there are laws about contracts.  Laws about stealing another’s property (let’s keep discussion of eminent domain out of this dialog for today shall we) and laws of basic civil justice or natural law in most parts of the world.  These laws do not exist in any matter or fashion in Second Life.  Think of that.  A place where there is no natural law, no justice, no due process, no civil laws, no police to enforce those laws and no method of reconciliation or arbitration.  If you need to take care of a wrong pressed upon you inside the realm of Second Life it’s up to you to deal with it.  So, what about Linden Lab?  What is their take on a situation such as this?  The place to look is in their Terms of Service (TOS).

For those of you wondering what this is it’s the terms you agreed to by checking the “I accept” box or button the first time you logged in.  The Terms of Service defines what the legal obligation between you and Linden Lab is when using the Second Life service.  Now as far as a legal contract between a service provider and a consumer, the Terms of Service by Linden Labs is pretty standard and affords you some real world protections and rights.  In this particular case I’ll discuss a few of the terms stated in the TOS.

In the TOS, Section 5 states that a Linden Dollar is considered a “token” and is not to be considered any kind of currency. When obtaining “Lindens” you are granted a limited license to use the tokens to hold or barter, trade and/or transfer then for access to content, applications, services and other user-created features inside the “service” called Second Life.  So in the context of living in-world there is a value aligned to content but no value whatsoever in the real world.

So you’re probably thinking to yourself you paid good “real world” money for these Lindens.  You also know that you can exchange them back for currency.  So they do have a real value right?  Not really.  The tokens you purchase have as much value as the tokens you obtain to play games at your local arcade or favorite kiddy pizza restaurant.  Outside of these venues they have no intrinsic value.

Well let’s get back to the story of Jane to see if solutions to her problems can be found.  She and her neighbors send the petition in.  After some time the petition comes back that there is nothing that Linden Lab can do about their lost property or the Lindens they paid for it.  Caveat emptor!  Again the TOS that Jane agreed to keeps Linden Lab’s hands clean of her situation.  Section 4.3 states that Linden Lab is only a service provider of Second Life and is not responsible or liable for any content, conduct or services of user or third parties that use the Second Life service.  It also states they are not required to arbitrate in such matters.  So Jane now learns there is no natural law to speak of.  There is no justice for Jane and her neighbors.  Or is there?

Upon the discovery that Linden Lab will not assist them Jane and her neighbors take the matter into their own hands.  They set up an operation to determine how best to not let the person that now holds the sim deprive them of the land they rightfully paid for.  So they start asking questions.  They search the forums and eventually they discover they are the victims of a standard sting operation.  Here is how it goes.  Avatar A, the good guy, purchases a sim from Linden Labs following all of the rules set forth in the TOS.  Everything is legal and proper.  Then Avatar A advertises that parcels are for sale.  People purchase the plots for a specified price and the parcel is turned over to them.  Then we move to Avatar B in this sting operation.
Avatar B who may be actually the same puppeteer as the one pulling Avatar A’s strings purchases the sim from Avatar A.  Again everything is legal and proper with the service provider here.  However, now that Avatar B owns the sim they wipe the sim clean of everybody’s content and once again advertise plots are available to purchase.  Once the sim is full of new tenants Avatar B hands the sim back to Linden Lab and moves on to repeat the process.  Jane and her band determine this is what happened to them.  Their decision is to let everybody else know what has transpired and to find help in getting revenge for what was done to them.  They take the law into their own hands.

The group begins to post messages on the Second Life forums.  They create a web site posting conversations of what transpired.  They tell anybody willing to listen what has happened to them.  They hold events and lectures for the sole purpose of letting people know what happened to them and who did this injustice to them.  They hire a group of in-world mobsters to locate the other sims of these con artists who then repeatedly “bomb” the sims with adverse content making the sims completely useless.  Jane and her now band of mercenaries do everything they can think of to put these thieves out of business.  For Jane justice is not served by law but by revenge, which is the only law she can find.  However, there is law in Second Life.  And the law found Jane a few weeks later in the form of a suspension notice of her account.

You see, while I said the politics of Second Life is anarchy, which is indeed the case, the politics around how one conducts themselves outside the place of the virtual world is entirely different.  When it comes to the rights of not the avatar in the simulation, but the rights and privacy of the puppet master pulling the avatars strings, the law provided by Linden Lab is very clear, strict and enforceable.  Jane and her band of friends got their first taste of the TOS Community Standards.  The standards are in place to promote privacy, respect without harassment, and to minimize intolerance between residents.  In this case there is no anarchy just swift and decisive justice handed down without regard to circumstance or facts.  And Linden Lab is the judge and jury of the verdict.  How can this be?  Section 11 of the TOS says so.  Yes you agreed to these terms to be in their virtual world.

The law in our virtual world is very limited.  Avatars have little to no rights in the world.  As a bisexual woman in Second Life being in a lesbian relationship I get a lot of abuse and criticism from others about how my avatar chooses to live her life.  Yes in Second Life it’s a freedom of choice not to be confused with real life.  She constantly has to thwart unwanted sexual advances by others.  She constantly has to ignore the requests for sex or threesomes with her lover.  And in some cases the hate that her chosen lifestyle brings on has to be dealt with too.  However, as long as the advances and hurtful words are directed at the avatar and not her puppeteer no “laws” have been broken.  This is the virtual world we live in.  The world we agree to when we check that little box at the end of the wall of text presented to us.

The politics of our virtual world does not protect the rights of its citizens. The politics of our virtual world does not provide a means of justice for wrongs perpetrated against avatars themselves.  The politics of our virtual world does allow the predator to feed off of the naivety and trust of the ordinary citizens and the food are those virtual tokens.  Tokens that carry no intrinsic value other then they can be used in world for all commerce and then exchanged out of world for actual currency.

So what is an avatar to do?  The first is to understand that I do not condone what happened to Jane and her band of would be landowners.  They were played in a sting operation that was entirely legal to the creators / owners of the virtual world.  Once they learned the virtual world politics themselves they understood how to use those same politics to their favor.  They continued to stay banded and created their own community on their own sim.  They actually instilled their own set of politics in the form of rules and guidelines.  They used the land convenient, a political tool to install a sense of rights, responsibilities, guidelines and policies over their new home.  In a sense they formed a new government moving away from the politics of anarchy to a form of egalitarianism.  They created their utopia on their own terms.

So what does the politics of Second Life have to do with anything in our real lives?  Actually it has everything to do with our real lives and nothing to do with our avatars life.  The politics is driven by Linden Lab’s constitution called the Terms of Service.  In the real world we are consumers of the service they provide and we agree to abide to those terms, not as avatars, but as real consumers of the service.  The politics are real and have real implications.  The anarchy of the virtual world and the politics that drives that anarchy has no real implication.  We can remove ourselves from that anarchy by just logging off.

If you understand anything from my ranting here understand this.  Your avatar has zero inherited or inalienable rights in the virtual community.  There is no law and there is no justice.  You are on your own to do as you wish.  This allows great freedom to do as you wish and to be honest that is a great thing about Second Life.  You’re freedom extends to the point of disrupting the service or violating Community Standards used to protect our real lives inalienable natural rights.  Because of this freedom that stems from the politics of Second Life, there are many more implications in how our avatars live and in how we live in the real world with ours and others avatars.  It is these implications you will hear me discuss in the future.  They range from economic to social issues, from in-world technical changes to changes and destiny that leaks into our real lives.

Second Life is an incredible social simulation that opens our eyes to our own personal needs, wants, secrets and desires.  It helps each of us to learn and maybe fear a little bit what we discover about ourselves.  It can be a tool to help teach all of us how to be a better real live person by teaching us that intolerance, bigotry and closed minds have no place in just society.  And yes, it can teach us that with complete freedom comes discovery, but also corruption and hate can find they flourish there too.  I recommend each person reading this really review the Linden Lab‘s Terms of Service.  Not just to know what you can get away with, but to know how you are protected and what actual rights as a consumer of the Second Life service you really have.

The politics of Second Life while not directly protecting your avatar has a profound effect on the environment your avatar live in, just like how the politics of the real world has a profound effect on your real life.  But because of the environment of freedom and what it allows in-world to the life you live, how you live it now comes down to how you socially interact with others, which can cause yet another virtual world reality called drama.  And that I’ll leave to another discussion.