Second Norway: the future is bright

Second Norway, March 2020

Following my March pieces on Second Norway and Sailors Cover East and the issues of their respective futures (see: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements – March 23rd and Second Norway and Sailor’s Cove East – status update – April 3rd), I was contacted by Vanity Bonetto, CEO of Luxory and Willowdale Estates, asking if I could put her in contact with Ey, as she had an interest in taking on Second Norway.

Given that Vanity has been able to take over a number of smaller SL estates that have got into difficulties over the years and then turning them around (she took over Willowdale some two years ago when it was just 30 regions – today it comprises some 250 regions), I was only too happy to handle introductions and then get out of the way and let them discuss matters.

Discussing Second Norway’s future with Vanity (l) and Ey (r)

Those discussions have now led to a positive outcome, and I’m happy to be able to provide a further update on all that has happened /  will be happening (although those reading Ey’s Bad Elf blog will already be aware of the situation 🙂 ).

In short, all regions in Second Norway will be continuing, but under the management of Vanity and the Luxory team, with Ey, Mialinn, SlaYeR joining them. Going forward, they will be managing the Second Norway Airport and the social community aspects of the estate.

I hope that before long Mialinn, SlaYeR and I can invite people to fun nights in the SN club with DJs, quizzes and general jibberish talk, just like in the old days.

– Ey Ren

To directly support the land management aspects of the estate, Vanity is bringing on a dedicated team of sales and support agents.

One of my experienced sales team members will be leading things. It takes around four weeks for new agents to get up to speed with our processes, so the new team will have time to learn while we’re redeveloping parts of the estate.

– Vanity Bonetto

For the present, the estate is to be split into two working parts. Note that this is not an actual physical divide in the regions, but rather a means to differentiate areas in terms of the work that will be taking place. Under it, the southern regions, which include places such as Bryggen, the stave church and Second Norway Airport (SNO) will initially remain largely unchanged, with the airport re-opening for business.

The development plan
Meanwhile, the northern regions will undergo an overhaul by Vanity’s landscaping team. This work will be extensive, and requires those residents in them to at least temporarily relocate. It’s a hard thing to do, but one seen as necessary; however, incentives will be offered to encourage people to return once the work has been done. The redevelopment also means that the estate’s regional express train tracks will be removed – but the system will return once the work has been completed.

It’s the only way to upload new terrain files – but we will extend special offers to all current and former residents so that it will pay out for them and make it worth to return to Second Norway in some weeks.

The island to the north will be updated, and over time we’ll offer more to the east and then progress south and demand requires. These island will be of different shapes and sizes. There will be multiple parcels close to the airport while the regions in the north, east and south will offer more privacy.

– Vanity Bonetto

To help with the transitioning, some of the current Second Norway residents have been shown the new designs for the regions that Vanity’s team have been putting together in the Luxory Estates “Lab regions”, and the feedback has been positive.

An example of the new Second Life regions under development at the Luxory lab regions. Note the tall columns are the rezzer systems for deploying each island’s features

A further benefit of the transfer of ownership is that the remaining 17 regions of Sailor’s Cove East can be retained, although not as they currently are. Rather than competing with the 24 regions Patrick agreed to take over, these regions will now be relocated to Second Norway and form a part of the redevelopment work.

As it is, the transfer of ownership from Ey to Vanity and Luxory estates was concluded on Friday, April 24th. The path is now clear for the work in overhauling the northern regions to commence, and for Ey and his team to start on a new chapter in the history of the Second Norway Airport and the social aspects of the estate.

I am relieved and happy that Vanity has agreed to take ownership of Second Norway …  I would like to express my gratitude towards the residents who have been living in Second Norway for years and have been very good sports when it comes to these changes.

– Ey Ren

On my part, I’m happy to see the Second Norway / SCE situation resolved so positively, and I particularly look forward to further covering the work at Second Norway. My thanks to both Vanity and Ey for keeping me in the loop on matters, and for spending time with me on April 27th.

Sources

Hand and the art of Bryn Oh – in her own words

Bryn Oh, Hand – Sansar

Bryn Oh’s Hand first appeared in Second Life is 2016, located on her arts region of Immersiva. At the time, it proved a highly popular installation, likely thanks to its nuanced tale that straddled the light and the dark places of life and offered a commentary on the possible future relationship between physical and virtual life. More recently, Bryn rebuilt Hand  entirely in mesh for Sansar, taking advantage of that platform’s particular capabilities, before porting the mesh build back to Second Life and her home region of Immersiva, giving it a new lease of life there, using SL’s particular presentation strengths.

As with much of Bryn’s work and such is her standing as an artist, Hand has been supported by a grant from the Ontario Arts Council – a part of which has required Bryn produce a machinima of the installation; and she is offering members of her Patreon group and readers of this blog an advanced viewing of the film, which you can find at the end of this article.

Hand is the story of a time when society transitioned to living and working in the virtual space. In this society people housed their bodies in inexpensive pods hooked up to food cannisters. They discarded their houses and furniture as they were no longer needed. They evolved past their physical bodies and lived digitally as the person they wanted to be. Overseeing all of this is a singularity AI named Milkdrop, first seen in the Singularity of Kumiko, though only now revealed to be an AI.

Bryn Oh on Hand

Bryn Oh: Hand – Second Life, 2020

In this, Hand, whilst an accessible piece in and of itself, offers a deeply layered story that reaches beyond its own pages. At its core, it is the story of children who have been left out of the VR “nirvana” entered into by adults, and who must fend for themselves. largely surviving by “borrowing” the condensed food used to feed the VR “dreamers” in their pods. For these children, any understanding of life and the world around them comes purely through the ideas of fairy tales and ancient copies of Dick and Jane books. They believe that the dreamers, like Sleeping Beauty, will one day awake and rejoin them – but until that time, they must strive to maintain life and family through the simple, idealised writing found in Dick and Jane.

We follow this story through the character of Flutter, a young girl who yearns for the touch and companionship of a mother. She sates some of this need through the plastic hand of a shop window mannequin, holding on to it as though it were the hand of a mother figure with whom she converses. Through Flutter and her conversations, we are connected to the rest of this world – a place that is perhaps unpleasant to both the rational and the emotive mind, both which may recoil from the themes offered. But that’s intentional; Hand is not supposed to be black-and-white. Rather, and like all of Bryn’s work, it is intended to provide a narrative and to challenge perception and raise questions.

Bryn Oh – Hand, Second Life: Flutter and a sleeper. Credit: Bryn Oh

The layering evident in the tale is highly nuanced, some of it contained within the central story, other elements reaching beyond it. For example, within the story we have the subtle parallel of between “dreaming” adults and awake children. The former have escaped reality into a virtual existence, whilst the latter find a more acceptable order to their reality by framing it in terms of the fictional happy family ideal of Dick and Jane.

But beyond, this, Hand reaches into the rest of Bryn’s immersive universe. As she noted herself, the AI Milkdrop is actually first witnessed in The Singularity of Kumiko (2016). It is also, perhaps, the intelligence that assisted human scientists create the robots from 26 Tines (2017), while those same scientists constructed the Rabbicorn we see in The Daughter of Gears (first seen in 2011 and again 2019), whilst the laboratory they use harkens back to 2011’s Standby.

Thus is it possible to bring these stories together on a time line, one in which Hand takes place some 120 years after The Daughter of Gears was built by her grieving mother, but only 20 years after the Rabbicorn discovered her in her Standby, whilst little more than a decade has passed since the events of The Singularity of Kumiko.

With my work I build for different types of people. There are those who have followed my work and know how to search for the deeper layers; they are the “experts”. For them, the story and time line are important. But I also try to build for people who know nothing about the history of the world I have created. So I build in layers: the top layer is for people who know nothing of my work and they enjoy the story on its own; the next layer is the story and then concepts within the story and the final layers are where the story fits into the time line.

– Bryn Oh

This broader layering is also reflected in some of those we meet in Hand, such as Milkdrop. Then there is also the character of Juniper, hidden under her blankets, and whom Flutter stops to visit on her way home. She is the central character in Bryn’s 2013 poem and machinima of the same name, and who also forms a part of Imogen and the Pigeons. Thus, through Hand, we discover more about Juniper’s huddled existence and why, in so strange and lonely world, she finds such security and comfort under her hole-riddled blankets.

Bryn Oh – Hand, Second Life: Milkdrop the AI and Flutter. Credit: Bryn Oh

Whilst stories in their own right, all sharing a common universe, there is something more within each of Bryn’s installations and pieces which reflects her thoughts and feelings in an almost journal-like fashion.

My work is almost a type of diary. I take things from my life or observations on society and incorporate them into the ongoing narrative. The idea is to create a parallel society we can recognise, but use very personal or emotional aspects of my own life to connect to the viewer. So as an artist if I take something from my own life, something I understand deeply and personally, I can convey that emotion to the viewer better than an idea that I have not lived. The first hand experiences let me detect the nuances that may be lost if I were to attempt to create something that I had not experienced.

– Bryn Oh

Bryn Oh in Second Life, by Jamisson Burnstein

As immersive pieces, Bryn’s works are also somewhat experiential, in that  they often involve a lot of activity on the part of visitors. This is again intentional, as Bryn noted to me: having to work for something results in a deeper attachment to an installation, a sense of achievement on gains success, together with a personal connection to the story through that achievement. It may not be something that appeals to everyone, but it is something that undoubtedly adds significantly to the ability of her work to keep people visiting and in making repeated visits.

When looking at Bryn’s work as a whole, it is not unfair to say that she has, over 13 years, become one of the world’s foremost virtual artists, and through her work in Second Life, Sansar and other virtual mediums and environments – including the use of machinima as seenat the end of this article -, she is very much a pioneer in shaping a new artistic movement.

We had the Cubists, Impressionists, Surrealists, Modernists and I see our movement as the Immersivists. I have believed in this idea a long time but now with virtual reality headsets such as Vive or Oculus, the immersion is less fragile. You don’t look at a computer screen and beyond its borders see a bill that needs to be paid or your cell phone rings… instead you are in the world I have created and firmly there. Unlike painting where you stand from a distance and look at a static scene or cinema where you are told a story as a passive observer, virtual reality artwork can offer the ability to be an active participant in the art.

– Bryn Oh

As a pioneer, Bryn herself faces many challenges, up to and including being able to finance her virtual work. In this, she is keen to note the on-going support of the Ontario Arts Council, which has been vital to Hand’s renewal in Sansar and Second Life, as well as supporting her in some of her other installations and work.

Hand took me almost a year to build; to undertake a project like this with potentially few prospects is, as you can imagine, unwise. So the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council helps enormously. But what is more important to me is the psychological support they provide through their belief in me as an artist. I work alone; few among my family and friends understand what I do, nor are they particularly curious … Recognition by, and support from, the OAC, is something that reinvigorates my confidence and says to keep going and striving in this art medium that I truly believe in. So I would like to thank again the OAC and the great work they do.

– Bryn Oh

A further reflection of the depth and importance of Bryn’s work also lies in the fact that professor Carolyn Steele of the Communication and Culture department at York University, Toronto, is putting together a new course on Bryn’s work that will be presented at the university in the near future. 

For those of us unable to attend that course, we still have Hand to appreciate in Second Life and Sansar – and, doubtless, more stories to come out of Bryn’s universe. So for now I’ll leave you with the aforementioned video, as produced for OTC, and also offer my thanks to Bryn for all of her work in Second Life and Sansar, which means a lot to so many, and for giving me the time to answer questions and discuss her work in order to produce this article.

Related Links

2020 viewer release summaries week #17

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, April 26th

This summary is generally published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
  • Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version  version 6.4.0.540188, dated April 15th, promoted April 20th. Formerly the EEP RC viewer – NEW.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • No Updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V6-style

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links