Altas Obscura offers a clear-eyed image of Second Life

Second Life has been enjoying something of a positive resurgence in the media in recent months, and with May now passing us by, and June and SL’s 12th anniversary  sitting just over the horizon, it is inevitable that there will be more media coverage forthcoming on SL as the Lab’s media team crank things up.

Eric Grundhauser: touring Second Life with Ziki Questi
Eric Grundhauser: touring Second Life with Ziki Questi

One of the first out of the gate in this regard is an article in Altas Obscura, which describes itself as the definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places. Penned by Eric Grundhauser, Forgotten Wonders of the Digital World offers a positive insight on SL with a novel twist.

Rather than asking a few questions of the Lab or relying on images grabbed from Flickr and cobbled together with a little staggering around in-world, Eric Grundhauser is, with the assistance of the Lab, able to gain none other than Ziki Questi, photographer and blogger (together with her partner Kinn), to act as his guide to all that is, and can be found, in-world.

The result is an engaging and informed piece which neatly encapsulates SL’s history, presents an assured view of the platform devoid of the usual clichés and asides, and which focuses on the rich tapestry of content which can be found in-world – role-play, art, personal spaces, with even the broader uses of the platform touched upon, such as the US Army’s use of SL (and OpenSim) to help service personnel deal with PTSD. What’s more, with some of the images supplied by Ziki, the article looks good as well (Mr. Grundhauser’s own snaps aren’t too bad, and kudos to him for taking them, rather than seeking to raid an archive from 2008 or so!).

Ziki and I are a lot alike in terms of taste, so for me it was good to see RocheA Petrovsky Flux and Haveit Neox’s City Inside Out referenced in the article, with Insilico, Kowloon and The Far Away – which Ziki herself rescued from oblivion and now curates – also getting a mention (and photographs).

Roche, a favourite of mine, and featured in the Atlas Obscura article
Roche, a favourite of mine, and featured in the Atlas Obscura article

Such is the impact of his time in Second Life exploring with Ziki and Kinn, Mr. Grundhauser willingly re-evaluates his thinking about the world, while remaining open and honest:

To be honest, when I decided to delve into Second Life, I half-expected to find a dying world of outsiders and bronies gleefully recreating pornographic impossibilities. But that simply doesn’t seem to be true. What I found, and mind you, I was only able to visit a strikingly miniscule portion of the available spaces, was that Second Life is still a fascinating and vital world that is constantly changing and pushing the boundaries of what a virtual space can be…

More telling I think, is the somewhat widespread perception that Second Life is no longer an active digital playground. The Grid is still a vital and evolving space that hundreds of thousands of users create and evolve each day.

Nor is “the sex thing” shied away from – kudos again to Ziki for being open on that subject as well, and the fact that – just as in the physical world and the Internet as a whole – there is an awful lot of it in SL. But as Eric Grundhauser demonstrates very ably – with or without established guides – just because there is a lot of sex in-world, it doesn’t bean it’s the be-all and end-all of the platform. As he notes when describing the diversity of activities and those using SL:

Doctors, universities, hobbyists, sci-fi fans, artists, and inexplicable curiosities can all be found operating in SL, by those willing to look.

Well done to him for making the effort to delve into SL and spend time exploring and getting to know at least a couple of residents, rather than simply taking the hoary old trail of slapping a few outdated headlines (and images) together in an attempt to underline a preconception.

All told, a good, light read.

Related Links

With thanks to Ziki Questi for the advanced notification that this article was upcoming.

7 thoughts on “Altas Obscura offers a clear-eyed image of Second Life

  1. I love Atlas Obscura, and this article is impressive; thanks for posting about it.

    [In the interest of search engine effectiveness, may want to correct two typos in the name as it appears in the title to this post.]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And that is why the lab should really be thinking about having some kind of assistants that are in fact active users of Sl, to welcome newbies when login the 1st time. I bet the retaining usage would improve a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And as the Lab has pointed out – doing so doesn’t scale very well, is hard for them to supervise and (in their eyes) can lead to issues of its own. It’s also been intimated that metrics suggest that retention through the use of helper groups, etc., doesn’t seem to be that much greater than without them – although the Lab was, and fairly recently, carrying out assorted A/B testing in that area (I do not know if those experiments have been discontinued or not).


    2. I couldn’t agree with you more, Pearl! Having just been through the new user experience, a freshly rezzed resident really is dropped unceremoniously into Second Life with little direction and absolutely no on-sight helpers or mentors to offer guidance. I tried my best with a few newbies, but dealing with language barriers and having to try and compellingly convince people that there was much more beyond bare, uninteresting Learning Island was quite the challenge. 🙂

      I really do hope that LL considers setting a busy, well-staffed place like NCI as the landing zone once someone completes the Learning Island tutorial. The Social Island hubs where one presently *does* land leave a tremendous amount to be desired, and could easily serve to damage member retention in their current forms. With any luck, folks at the Lab pay attention to excellent blogs like Inara’s and take these concerns and suggestions into consideration. A hive-mind of active, passionate veteran residents could probably come up with some fantastic ideas!


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