The Drax Files Radio Hour: the reality of virtuality

radio-hourThe sixth episode of The Drax Files Radio Hour  is intriguingly entitled the “reality of the virtuality”. This is presumably a reference to the core of the show, in which the inter-relationship between our real and virtual activities are examined, firstly through a look at One Billion Rising, which features an interview with Saffia Widdershins, followed by a discussion with Peter Ludlow (Urizenus Sklar in SL), looking at issues of trolling, griefing, governance and human nature within virtual environments.

Note that timestamps are given in braces within the text, and refer to the recording available here.

The show opens with a look back to the (in?)famous IBM / Linden Lab experiment in teleporting between Second Life and OpenSim. The video and discussion which follows is more a of preview of the show’s planned expansion into more coverage of OpenSim in future broadcasts rather than a detailed discussion of the attempt itself, although one of the “gridnauts” from that experiment will be featured in an upcoming interview.

Fitted Mesh is covered, unsuprisingly, given the announcement that the code and updated avatar skeleton are now a part of the official SL release viewer. Opinions are gathered from designers Eboni Khan [6:56] and Shai Delacroix [10:38], both of whom make some valid points, although I think Shai is perhaps a little too critical of the Lab when she refers back to the initial blog post on Fitted Mesh made in 2013 as if it were a part of the announcement made this week.

Getting new users into SL is touched upon [14:33], with reference to the Lab’s new CEO Tweeting (prior to joining the company) that he’d signed-up, gone through the initial experience and had not enjoyed it.

The new user experience is something we all have opinions on, and while it is likely to be a controversial statement to make, I’m actually not entirely convinced that established users in SL have any better idea as to what is required than does the Lab, in that the knowledge we’ve acquired over time perhaps unduly filters our perceptions as to what is actually needed. While this may sound counter-intuitive, it is something I’ll eventually get around to explaining in a blog post which is (again) waiting in the wings.

Overhead view of a new Learning Island, July 2013
Overhead view of a new Learning Island, July 2013

But that said, I do agree something needs to be done in order to ensure more people can enter SL, get a hold of the essentials (especially finding things that interest them and connecting with people), because it is retained, engaged users who will give rise to growth in Second life, not more (or even necessarily cheaper) land.

Turning to VR, mention is made [17:00] of the Sixsense MakeVR / Stem systems to manipulate prims using hand-held controllers (which can also be combined with headsets like Oculus Rift).

The Fin, a wearable ring for gesture-based control of smart devices using bluetooth connectivity, is also touched upon [19:37]. A video is available on the radio hour’s blog page.

Saffia Widdershins is interviewed [21:49] about One Billion Rising, a world-wide event to raise awareness of the extent of violence inflicted upon women, and which is supported from within Second Life. The interview is far-ranging while also clearly focused, with Saffia once again demonstrating why she is the ideal spokesperson on this topic.

Peter ludlow, courtesy of Wikipedia / wikimedia commons

Similarly, the interview with Peter Ludlow [31:36] makes interesting listening. Founder of the Alphaville Herald (originally for the Alphaville city in the Sims Online, hence the name, prior to a migration to second Life), Ludlow is a journalist and philosopher in real life and provides some insights into griefing and trolling.

In particular, he offers-up an opinion on the likes of Esteban and those of his ilk which is sure to find favour among many (myself included) in reference to their attempts to justify their actions in terms of “I’m just showing what’s already there” – which runs in something of a parallel to the “other” mentality to which Saffia refers in her discussion with Drax, while being far more passive / aggressive in approach.

There is much food for thought in the chat with Mr. Ludlow on the topics of griefing and governance (and self-governance), and he makes some very valid points, underlining the inherent issues common to virtual communities – including that of vigilantism. The historical context he gives to the issues make fascinating listening, particularly with reference to how different organisations have approached and dealt with matters.

Equally, his comments on freedom of expression (and the illusion thereof) within the Internet and the web make interesting listening, albeit perhaps uncomfortable to some on several levels, particularly when coupled to his earlier comments on people’s need for tools to resolve issues.

Feedback

Another interesting show in which the main interviews again shine and provide much for contemplation and reflection, as indicated above. Both deserve to be listened-to carefully. The opening touches nicely on the plans to expand the show into looking at the broader “metaverse”, presenting a suitable teaser / reflection.

When “tuning-in”, do make sure you catch the opening announcements, rather than jumping to any of the time-stamps. There’s a giveaway this week, with the opportunity to claim a couples dance system from Humanoid animations valued at L$3,200. All you have to do is answer the question asked in the opening segment of the show and e-mail your answer to the show before Friday 21st February.

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