[With] every single thing that has ever happened in Second Life people have yelled, “It’s the end of Second Life as we know it!” And in fact it is – because it keeps getting better.
So states Robin Sojourner. And if anyone is in a position to make that point, it is Robin. She has been involved in Second Life for just shy of ten years (her anniversary falls on September 16th). This being the case, and given this is SL’s tenth anniversary, it is perhaps fitting that she be a subject for an episode of The Drax Files.
I’m going to take a little time out here and confess that when Drax confirmed to me that Robin was to be appearing in the series, I was overjoyed. I’ve long been an admirer of her work both inside and outside of Second Life, and it was one of her products which formed my first “really useful” purchase in SL way back in time – and which I still use today. So I make no apologies for dwelling as much on her work outside of SL as in; Robin is someone very much worthwhile getting to know – even if I do only know her distantly – and she and her work very much deserve discussion.
As well has bringing the perspective of being involved in SL almost since the beginning, Robin also brings another unique perspective to the table when discussing Second Life. She is a member of what the UK media refer to as “the silver surfer generation” that is, a member of an older demographic of computer users. I say “unique” not in respect of her seniority per se, but rather because that on the one hand, she represents the very broad appeal Second Life can have with people, while on the other, she represents a demographic that – perhaps – the Lab is gradually shying away from in its push to build an audience among younger generations.
Robin came to Second Life as a result of suffering from Fibromyalgia, which impacted heavily on her ability to create and draw and, being a creative person, she sought alternative avenues by which she could continue to create, and SL offered her one of the most comfortable mediums.
As I mentioned above, I’ve long been an admirer of Robin’s artwork ever since I discovered it back in 2007, which I admit is rather late-on in the day.
If you’ve never visited her website, I cannot recommend it highly enough as a place to visit; it is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave. Within it you’ll find samples of Robin’s art, such as her magnificent Robinton, Masterharper of Pern, a piece which has gained worldwide recognition for its depiction of one of Anne McCaffrey’s most-loved characters from her Dragonriders series.
The image is stunning in its detail, and very evocative, perfectly capturing its subject in his later years, his glass of Benden wine raised in salute, his quizzical smile and eyes hinting at the depth and breadth of his intellect and his wry humour. Little wonder Anne McCaffrey bought the original!
Within the website you’ll also find information on Robin’s books which include a must-read for all cat lovers and owners, The Theory of Cat Gravity, as well as her titles on Tarot and Wicca. Robin’s essays are also to be found here as well, and they make thought-provoking reading for anyone prepared to approach them with an open mind, and reveal much of Robin’s heart, intellect and the warmth of her humanity.
As a content creator within SL, Robin started with the very humble prim – basic shapes, no flexies, no sculpties. Since then she’s been able to observe each and every change wrought in SeCond Life in terms of tools and capabilities for content creation, and to do so objectively enough to be able to recognise their benefits without all of the ballyhoo which all too often marks change within the platform. Instead, she’s simply accepted them, learned about them and been at the forefront of putting them to good use – as the shots of her use of materials in the video demonstrate.
She’s also very aware of the empowerment latent within the platform for people to reach beyond themselves through it – if they are prepared to make the effort. As she says of her own observations of the platform, and her real life experiences as a teacher, Second life offers people who have no idea that they are creative or who have convinced themselves, due to the pressure of society or through some inner self-editing process that they are not the “creative type”, discover that actually, they are.
In this, it makes no difference if people make the discovery using prims and then move on to other tools outside of Second Life. As she says later on in the programme, when talking about the so-called “Second Life / real life divide”, there is no dichotomy in starting out with in-world creation, then moving on to tools outside of SL. It is simply people learning skills, developing techniques and using tools, all of which combine to enhance their creativity, increase their pleasure and self-expression and – ultimately – help to continue to make Second Life better.
In terms of the idea that those engaged in Second Life somehow need to go out and get a life, Robin has a very simple response, one which also offers up a huge an essential fact about the so-called “SL / RL divide” – it doesn’t have to exist.
“I can go out and smell the flowers,” she says of the idea that people need to go “get a life”, “But if I spend all day outside smelling the flowers, I’m going to get a horrible sunburn. ”
She goes on to point out that life is about balance in things, and Second Life very much plays a part in achieving that balance. In her case, it allows her to create a quilt pattern through one programme, import it into Second Life and create a finished quilt there and use the pattern in the real world to create a quilt of her own. Thus, Second Life is a natural part of a blending of the creative process which mixes the real world and the digital world bringing a completeness to both. But as Robin points out, the ability for the platform to bring together the real and the digital goes further than that.
“I don’t think that there is as much difference between virtual stuff and real stuff as people seem to think that there is,” Robin continues. “Emotionally, there is not any difference between doing stuff in real life and doing stuff in Second Life. It hits you emotionally in exactly the same place.”
Which is why there is no need for those engaged in SL to consider going out and getting a life. The vast majority do have a life, and see Second Life as it is meant to be, as another vehicle by which they can express and enjoy themselves. In this, it is actually no different to the freedom and enjoyment some find in painting their faces and going to a large stadium with several thousand others to watch two teams kick / carry a ball around a large rectangle of grass.
Providing one is prepared to approach it openly and honestly, Second Life can provide positive emotional fulfilment; that it can is no reason to shun it or depict the fact that it does as a weakness in those who use it.
Rather the reverse. It’s another aspect of the magic of Second Life.
A Conversation with Drax
Sadly, real life at the moment, coupled with extremely poor planning on my part meant that I didn’t have the time over the last couple of weeks to clear my schedule, sort out thoughts and questions as this episode of The Drax Files was coming together, and get to sit down with Drax and Robin as I’d hoped. So unfortunately, no conversational piece this time around :(. All things being equal, we’ll be back next time around.
- The Drax Files Episode 10
- Robin Wood Ent (Robin’s website)
- Robin’s Zazzle Store
- Robin’s in-world store SLurl (Rated: General)
- Draxtor Despres on YouTube
- Draxtor’s website
- The Drax Files World Makers in this blog
- Information on fibromyalgia:
Print images © Robin Wood Ent, used with permission.