For episode 21 of The Drax Files: World Makers, Drax turns his lens towards perhaps one of the most iconic names in Second Life design and publishing: Editorial Clarity, owner and operator of Love to Decorate (LTD) magazine and website.
LTD is the go-to magazine on home and garden design, and has a deserved reputation for high quality articles and images focusing on the very best in SL design, and Editorial himself has a perfect eye for design and decorating, something which is stunningly reflected in his SL home designs (he admits to changing house fairly frequently just for the joy of decorating it and creating an ambience around it!).
However, this isn’t a segment focusing solely on Editorial’s work in Second Life. While this acts as a springboard for the film, providing insight into the publication and the work that goes into it, this is very much a personal piece, focused on the way in which the digital and the physical can intertwine and lead to relationships which, while started in the digital, can cross the invisible divide into the physical and flourish in both.
“In 2010, I met my partner, Rico,” Editorial says, half-way into the segment, “who lives in the United states now, he was originally born in the Philippines. He’s very artistic and does express that with his avatar; he would come up with these crazy outfits with flowers all over the place and top hats. They are the clothes that he would like to get away with in real life…”
Since meeting, the two have gently and naturally extended their relationship, through an in-world wedding, to Skyping by voice to Skyping with video, right up to crossing back and forth over the Atlantic to spend time together in the physical world. Throughout it all, their shared passion for Second Life and design has furnished them with the foundations upon which they have been able to build a strong, trusting relationship, with both environments allowing them to fully and freely express themselves to one another.
That Second Life can lead to lasting relationships in the physical world isn’t exactly unknown; just recently, television production company Back2back in the UK were still seeking couples who had first met on-line through communities such as Second Life for a Sky Living documentary, Happily Ever After. However, Editorial’s open description of his relationship with Rico demonstrates an a very simple, no-fuss way just how long distance relationships can not only be enjoyed more easily thanks to the use of technology, but can actually be as immersive and as engaging as anything shared in the physical world, allowing memories to be gained and shared of events and times together – as the images of their wedding so clearly demonstrate.
In this there is something of a feedback loops as well – not only does the digital relationship help build and reinforce the relationship in the real world, the latter can also enrich the former. Witness the photos of Rico’s and Editorial’s time together in London, all beautifully framed on the wall of their in-world home; allowing them to again share in the memories – and look ahead to future visits together.
Returning to LTD magazine for a moment, and taking a slight digression from the video. At the start of the segment, Editorial holds up a physical coffee-table edition of the magazine, and in doing so demonstrates the potential Second Life offers someone looking to expand or change their physical-world career. For example, LTD may be something of a labour of love, but in bringing it together, Editorial demonstrates so major skills which clearly have value in the physical world: graphics design, layout, editorial management, fiscal management, project management, and so on, and he has a finished, high-quality item which could – were he so minded – be presented to potential employer as proof positive of a strong track record in publishing.
Obviously, not all businesses in SL are quite so portable when it comes to demonstrating talents and abilities in reference to careers and work in the physical world, but nevertheless, the skills we acquire through this virtual medium should never really be discounted, and if it is possible to develop a portfolio of achievements in SL with reference to a career or job opportunity, then it is something to be seriously considered and worked upon, and we shouldn’t necessarily be put off the idea of doing so on account of SL’s “poor” reputation.
Leaving such diversions aside, and returning to the video, Editorial himself comments on another power of Second Life which, while it’s likely to have been the subject of studies and research, may not be something that’s really commented upon in day-to-day discussions about the platform – and is likely not even considered in media coverage; and that is its power to help us grow as individuals.
“I had issues with confidence,” he says towards the end of piece, “And with SL, it helped me to discover what I’m good at or what I’m not good at, or what I’d like to pursue. I’m still not the life of the party, but it made me realise that I don’t really have to be. It taught me that I can be who I am, no matter what.”
And when it comes to understanding oneself, and facing the world openly, there can perhaps be no greater testament to the positive impact second Life can have on a person’s life than that.