Sansar: what’s in a name?

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

In the first half of 2015, speculation circulated that the name of the Lab’s new virtual experiences platform might be “Sansar” or “Project Sansar”, after two trademark registrations were spotted. When asked, the Lab would only comment than “Project Sansar” was a temporary name, and that a number of options were being considered (and there was at least one other trademark filing at the same time which seemed to support this statement).

However, on August 31st, in a press release marking the distribution of the first invitations for people to join the platform’s Creator Preview, Linden Lab indirectly confirmed the official name of their new virtual experiences / social VR platform is indeed Sansar.

As the news of the name circulated, there were various group chat comments questioning the meaning and relevance of the name. While there is no reason for any product’s name to have a definitive meaning, in this instance, there do seem to be likely connotations.

Sansar Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr Sansar (TM) Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr

Back when the Lab was poking at possible names for Second Life, one option they considered was “Sansara” (later used as the name of the first mainland continent). This was said to be a variation on the Sanskrit word Samsāra, meaning “wandering” or “world”, associated with cyclic, circuitous change.

The interesting point here is that the Maxgyan dictionary  / lexicon offers sansar (also sansaar in Jainism) as an alternative for Samsāra, and defines its potential meanings as “earth”, “world” or “universe” (with “cosmos” cited as a possible alternative to the latter), depending on the context.

Given that  Sansar is intended to host many different virtual spaces, “universe” might be taken as a good “fit” when looking for a meaning in the platform’s name. Similarly, the idea of cyclical, circuitous change appears to be reflected in the platform’s logo, with its three segments suggestive of movement (/change).

Sansar Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr Sansar (TM) Screen Shot, Linden Lab, August 2016, on Flickr

Of course, other meanings of “sansar” could be offered (such as an”icy Iranian wind”, for example), but it seems reasonable to look no further than those derived from Hinduism / Jainism. There is a certain “fit”, as noted above, and the Lab has turned to Hindu nomenclature before. As most of us are aware, the Lab’s two publicly accessible SL grids are named for Rigvedic deities – Agni, god of fire, and Aditi, the mother of gods.

But even accepting this as a possible derivation for the platform’s name, it might be argued that the Lab should have gone for something more “obvious”. Well, possibly. But then again, it is fair to say that at this point in time, those being drawn to Sansar are doing so by way of the Lab or through media reports on it, and so already have some idea of what it is about. This will also likely be true when Sansar opens it doors to the public (although by that time, the website will hopefully be a lot more dynamic and informative as well). Thus, having a name which “reflects” the platform’s intent perhaps isn’t so major a consideration.

For my part, if the platform’s name is intended to have a meaning, I admit to being drawn to it being “universe”. As noted above, it, fits the idea of an environment hosting many, many virtual spaces of many different sizes, some of which exist independently of the rest, others of which are “stitched together” to form – dare I say – “constellations” of linked spaces. Of course, being a “space fan”, I could also be a tad biased🙂 .

3 thoughts on “Sansar: what’s in a name?

  1. chicaeon

    Samsara also refers to the cycle of life (lives lived – birth, death, rebirth) especially in Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. I had noted the interesting correlation long ago — and then last night the term came up in a TV show. And now your post.

    And in some way, that fits too.😀

    Liked by 1 person

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