Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Wed 19 Mar 08 13:22
You say you decided not to get involved in the virtual sex scene yourself, as a journalist, and that's an interesting choice. Can you say what went through your mind about that decision? Cynthia slipped in! I hope we can keep talking a few days at least, or until James gets bored with this. There is a lot of stuff in the book that we haven't touched on yet.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 19 Mar 08 14:27
Yes, please. Don't stop. This is fascinating.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Thu 20 Mar 08 00:31
I'm happy to keep hitting questions as I can! "Can you say what went through your mind about that decision?" First and foremost, if I ever was to try virtual sex out as a Linden, screenshots might immediately be snapped and end up everywhere on the Net, causing a metaverse scandal. More than that, I knew it was something that made my SO uncomfortable, and I ultimately think it was enough to understand it as an observer. For me even the act of avatar kissing can have a charge, the association with your alter ego is so direct, so it was easy to see how a lot of folks would get a lot of going all the way.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Thu 20 Mar 08 13:08
I was very interested in something you indicate is almost universal in Second Life, that the degree of virtual sex is in inverse proportion to the strength of the emotional relationship. You say that people who are emotionally involved are less likely, perhaps much less likely, to engage in virtual sex. Why do you think that is?
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 20 Mar 08 16:08
And, as a sidebar question, is it possible to have your virtual sex where nobody else can see you?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Thu 20 Mar 08 17:04
Because the relationship becomes emotionally and intellectually intimate first, and so by that point, having avatar sex seems like a let down or slightly cheesy. That is a generalization, though; a couple I write about in the book fall in love (and eventually become a real life couple) *while* having sex and making sex animations for a business they run.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Thu 20 Mar 08 17:18
Slip. "To have your virtual sex where nobody else can see you?" Yes, but to insure near-absolute privacy, you have to take some extra steps. Being behind closed doors isn't usually enough, because SL users have a camera control system that moves their view 100 meters or so away from them. As a result, most people use "skyboxes", which as the name suggests are boudoirs located over 500 meters up, which are impossible to reach via avatar flight.
uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Thu 20 Mar 08 17:20
How about if you have a skybox within 100m of another skybox?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Thu 20 Mar 08 23:31
Then I guess you and your neighbor can play airborne peekaboo.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Fri 21 Mar 08 14:06
Hopefully you'd both be too busy to bother. You write a good bit about some errors Linden Labs made as they tried over the years to encourage different forms of social contact and creativity. I was surprised that they seemed so naive about instituting such things as open lot ratings, without realizing the (obvious to me) potential for abuse. Why did ideas like that seem good to them at the time? (Maybe they're not as cynical about the Internet as I am.)
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Fri 21 Mar 08 16:25
Good question. I think a lot of the naievete comes from their tech-centric culture, and a desire to systemically architect for good behavior. Trouble is, people are inherently prone to find loopholes, and the society was so small at the time, even a few instances of gaming the system undermined the whole thing. Right now, with a million plus users, I think a lot of those ratings mechanisms would actually work fairly well. People try to game Digg and YouTube's systems, for example, but with millions of users, it's much more difficult.
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Fri 21 Mar 08 23:33
That brings up a question I'd been meaning to ask - does SL have a problem with gold farming and similar activities? (I'm not a SL member, so I don't know if that's even possible, but I know it has been very controversial in other MMOs.)
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Sat 22 Mar 08 14:57
"a problem with gold farming and similar activities" Sort of, but not in the way it happens in traditional MMOs. "Gold farming" as a negative activity describes players who rampantly harvest virtual currency/valuable items created by the company and then sell them on EBay or another site. That's a problem primarily because it tends to cause inflation. In Second Life, by contrast, almost all the Linden Dollars in the world is bought and sold by Residents for US$. To attract visitors and regular traffic, many landowning Residents actually give away L$ to other Residents in what are called "camping chairs"-- when you sit in them, you get L$. That's the closest thing to gold farming in SL, but it doesn't hurt the Second Life economy, because it doesn't directly impact the amount of currency in the world. It does lead to negative social consequences, in the sense that leads to a substantial percent of Residents (mostly new users) not really participating in SL, but instead, literally sitting waiting around for free money.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Mon 24 Mar 08 16:01
I'm getting ready to travel for a day, but I'll be back with more questions. If any of the rest of you want to discuss any particular points, please do!
Ian Betteridge (ianb) Tue 25 Mar 08 02:43
Really, we ought to have a live version of this discussion in SL :)
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 25 Mar 08 05:47
I'll be having those, too!
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 25 Mar 08 13:55
Will you be giving us info about how to sign up and participate?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 25 Mar 08 17:29
Absolutely. Of course, no need to wait for me, you can just sign up and start noodling now, I'll give times/location info later on.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 25 Mar 08 17:55
Is there a URL?
Ian Betteridge (ianb) Wed 26 Mar 08 07:26
Sign up at http://secondlife.com/
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Wed 26 Mar 08 08:25
Like I say in the book, I definitely recommend waiting to go in with people you know who already have their SL sea legs; otherwise, you're likely to get overwhelmed and confused.
Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 26 Mar 08 14:11
How do we find those people?
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Fri 28 Mar 08 17:31
Well there's at least several WELLians who are active SL users and/or use it for teaching, etc. Beginning with the guy who got me involved, (hlr).
Linda Castellani (castle) Sat 29 Mar 08 02:08
I was listening to Talk of the Nation, Science Friday this morning and I heard Ira Flatow say something about joining the group on Science Friday Island to talk about the show.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Sat 29 Mar 08 11:42
Yeah, you can listen to Science Friday streamed into their SL headquarters, and IM him questions. They started it last year, and apparently they liked the feedback enough to keep it running. It's still surreal to hear Ira saying something like, "This next question comes from Second Life. Coconut Underhill asks..."
Members: Enter the conference to participate