On Tuesday, March 1st, Linden Lab announced a new initiative to help promote communities active in Second Life through a new web-based resource, “in-depth” Community Pages designed to be “living projects” and intended to “be extensive resources by and for each community”.
To mark the announcement, the Lab has launched the first such page – Black Culture in Second Life – which launches just as Black History Month in the United States draws to a close.
The importance of community simply can’t be understated, and in Second Life, it’s invaluable. Think of how many different groups of people you interact with each day — what if you had a go-to comprehensive page that illustrates various aspects of each community in Second Life?
We’re excited to announce our new initiative! We’ve begun building in-depth community pages that will live directly on the Second Life website. Each of these pages will celebrate Residents in all different communities, and showcase the meaningful experiences that strengthen the social fabric of Second Life. This will include stories, quotes, photos, videos, and more — all directly from Second Life Residents.
– from the official announcement about the new community pages
The post goes on to note that those participating in such community pages should “keep an eye out for announcements on specific community pages, as there will be a (Google form) open to the public for each of them”. However, the post also cautions that not all submissions may necessarily be included within any given page.
It’s not clear exactly how visible these pages will be. They are clearly designed to be accessible to the world at large, but while the parent URL for the Black Culture page is secondlife.com/community/, there is no actual link from that page to the Black Culture page, as the direct URL given above is currently required.
Hopefully, this will be addressed as these pages grow, and a meaningful means of perusing / filtering the pages will be provided; two of the reasons Place Pages (arguably the last initiative similar in nature to this) didn’t take on were that a), the places.secondlife.com parent domain was never really folded into the rest of the SL web properties such as to make navigating to it easy without lodging the URL firmly between your ears; b) there was no convenient way to peruse / filter available places other than Search – which was far from handy.
You can read the complete blog post announcing the pages right here.
The question of identity / pseudonymity has been linked to Second Life pretty much since the platform from the start; we have complete agency of how we represent ourselves and how much of ourselves we chose to reveal to the world. It is often said that this pseudonymity allows us to more fully express who we’d like to be.
But who are we, really? The person we are at home and among family is not the same as the person we are at work;, and that person is not the same as the person we are when with friends, and so on. Even within our family group, who we are with loved ones – husband / wife, children, parents – can change from moment to moment.
And all of these personas are very different to who we are when alone; those intimate moments of oneness in which we perhaps most truly reveal who we are without fear of observation / ridicule / rejection. And so, too, are multiple areas of overlap – each and every one of us is an individual; but the question still remains, given all these multiple facets to our make-up, some self-imposed, others placed upon us by society / those around us, who are we – really? And can we use avatars to express not who we’d like to be, but who we are?
It is this exploration of self through our avatar that is the focus of Intimacy, an exhibition / installation by Scylla Rhiadra which opened at the end of February 2022 at the Onceagain Art Gallery curated by Onceagain (Manoji Yachvili).
Set within an environment that is as much a part of the exhibition, are twelve images designed to better inform us as to who the person who inhabits “Scylla Rhiadra” actually is. To quote Scylla’s introductory notes from the exhibit:
The pictures in this exhibit represent my attempt to communicate that extra “something” about myself. They do so, not by removing the barriers that separate who I most truly am from how I represent in a virtual environment, but by leveraging virtual images and appearances to convey it … Here you will see “Scylla” (who has never washed a dish in her entire virtual existence) dancing as she washes dishes, getting dressed in the morning, and eating ice cream at outrageous hours of the night. These are intended not merely to provide some insight into “what I do” in real life, but more vitally “who I am” there – which is, pretty closely, also “who I am” in Second Life.
– Scylla Rhiadra
Of course, one might say there is a certain hubris in trying to use an avatar in this way; at the end of the day, whatever is done, the avatar is not the person operating it, neither in look nor in perception by others. Plus, said avatar is a puppet; any image of it must posed, the setting staged; thus any attempt to use it to bring forth a broader expression of “self” must itself be something of a manipulation of perception as much as any other use of our avatar to impart a persona.However, this is far from true. While the images may well be constructed to bring forth a specific aspect of our personality, the fact remains that the aforementioned pseudonymity baked-in to Second Life also frees us from the usual impediments (fear, embarrassment, etc), that might otherwise stand in the way of our revealing more of ourselves to strangers never seen or known. Thus, they are the perfect vehicle, staged settings notwithstanding, by which we can “be who we really are” and express what might otherwise remain hidden, as Scylla notes in her introduction to Intimacy:
One of the most important opportunities afforded by Second Life, and virtual embodiment generally is the chance to represent facets of ourselves that we cannot, or do not, express in our material lives. That I am doing something that is really quite the opposite of this – representing my more mundane self virtually – doesn’t change the reality that a virtual self can be not merely liberating but also revelatory. Just as the fictions of a good novel can reveal Truths with greater clarity than more factual forms of discourse, so too, I hope, does my artifice here strip away some of the barriers that separate me from . . . you.
– Scylla Rhiadra
Thus, these 12 images are deeply engaging and fascinating in their depictions; so much so, that any thoughts of the “falseness” of their staging / posing is quickly lost. Instead, we are invited to share on the most intimate expressions of how Scylla views herself, and the moments from the physical world that make up many of the facets of who she is in the world of pixels and zeros and ones.
As noted, this is an exhibition in which the setting plays as much as role as the images themselves. From the night sky (make sure you have Use Shared Environment checked via menu → World → Environment), through to the maze, the lamps that illuminate each image as we approach it, to the props to be found throughout the space, everything has a role to play. The maze, for example, might be seen as a metaphor for our exploration of who we are, either as others try to understand us, or as we look upon ourselves. Such explorations can involve wrong turn (misapprehensions) and back-tracking (re-evaluation). Similarly, the lamps alongside each image represent those moments of realisation / revelation that spur our understanding onwards, and so on.
Provocative, revelatory, rich in content and presentation, the images offered in Intimacy, are highly personal both in their exploration of Scylla’s sense of self, and in the way they can chime with each of us and our own considerations of who we are in life – digitally and physically. They are also marvellously composed and framed as individual artistic pieces that can be appreciated in their own right. All of which makes this a thoroughly engaging visit.
Intimacy, Onceagain Art Gallery (Peaceful mountains, rated Adult)
It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home in Nowhereville, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.
February 28th, 19:00: A World Out of Time
After being cryogenically frozen in the 1970s to await a cure for his (then) incurable cancer, Jaybee Corbell awakes after more than 200 years – to find his own body destroyed and his mind and memories transferred into the “mindwiped” body of a criminal. And that’s is not all that has changed: the Earth is now overseen by an oppressive, totalitarian global government called “The State”, and Corbell’s existence is to be determined by a “checker”; if he is found wanting, he will be discarded.
However, Peerssa, the checker, recommends Corbell as ideal fodder in The State’s attempts to seek out exoplanets suitable for terraforming – whether he wants to join the programme or not. Disgusted by his treatment, Corbell works out a way to take control of his one-person ship on its otherwise one-way mission, and heads toward the galactic core. Entering suspended animation, he is unaware his vessel skims close enough to the super-massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy to experience time dilation.
Emerging from his suspended state, and believing only 150 years have passed, Corbell returns to the solar system to find it again vastly changed: more than three million years have passed, and the Sun has become a bloated red giant, and Earth – well, Earth appears to have been relocated to an orbit around Jupiter, whilst humanity itself had endured extensive changes; and Corbell must face an entirely new set of challenges if he is to survive.
Caledonia Skytower reads the fifth of Salman Rushdie’s major publications and his first since The Satanic Verses.
Written for the younger reader, but with plenty with it suited to older ears, it is of an allegorical nature and addresses a number of societal problems, particularly those found in the Indian subcontinent.
Dedicated to Rushdie’s son, the book looks at the issues it raises – including that of censorship (unsurprisingly, given the reaction following the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988) – through the eyes of Haroun Khalifa, the son of a doctor and master storyteller.
Both father and son are struck by afflictions related to Haroun’s mother deserting them; Haroun has a form of attention-deficit disorder, whilst his father is prone to bouts of depression. Both can only be relieved of their afflictions should Haroun’s mother, Soraya, return.
Before then, however, Haroun is set for an adventure and discovery.
Thursday, March 3rd 19:00: Science Fiction Thursday