Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy belated rez day to me

earliest siri

In honor of a much belated rez day I thought I'd revisit my earliest blog entry...ah, memories...
Here's what happened to me one day during my first week in second life.

"Signs posted warned me against leaving Help Island until I felt ready, as there’s no going back. However, being as impulsive as I am, I decided to go for it and headed towards the mainland. My advice if you decide to try a second life? Stay on Help Island for as long as possible. Learn how to dance, dress, back flip, build a bit and then depart. Learn from my mistakes…

I felt pretty pulled together as I toured around the place. I had a cup of free coffee in a Greenwich Village café, toured Info Island where all the librarians hang out, visited an art gallery filled with fantastic photographs by a contemporary French artist. I even made a friend who chatted with me one evening on a park bench. Thinking that my city buns were giving me away as a newbie, I decided to use the coupon for free hair at Gurl 6 and picked up an awesome set of locks that I wish I had in real life (bountiful, layered, six different colors!). However, malls are malls whether in real or second life and after browsing hairstyles for ten minutes I got that panicky feeling that I get in any shopping center and decided I needed a pint.

I managed to find my way to an English pub called the Three Lions. Once inside the bartender shouted my name in greeting and folks chatted by a roaring fire. I was met by my friend, who was wearing a Penguin t-shirt and socks with sandals. He asked if I wanted to dance. We watched two women, wearing tiny petticoats and leather corsets, gyrate to generic rock music being played by a band on stage which transmitted through the computer speakers. My friend slipped across the dance floor like Frank Sinatra, twirling and sashaying, leaping and bending. He was amazing! He told me to touch a poster on the wall in order to make myself dance. I did…and then all hell broke loose.

Suddenly my avatar was spazzing out like it was on cocaine and ecstasy. I did the hustle, the foxtrot, moonwalk, Britney and jazz hands all at once and over and over again. “Woh!” my friend said and backed away from me. He shouted directions at me “Right click, for god’s sake, right click”. I couldn’t stop myself from moving. As I blazed around the dance floor I noticed all the avatars had stopped conversing and were staring at me as I whipped by, back and forth. I think the band even stopped playing when my avatar raced over and pounded the floor of the stage before doing a pole dance in front of them. After what seemed like a half hour of hysterical command prompts, I managed to steer myself out the front door, still dancing mind you, and halted all animations.

I caught my breath and backed sheepishly into the pub. After a sit down and a pink cocktail (courtesy of my friend – though I couldn’t figure out how to drink it) he offered to teleport me to a ballroom dance. Amazed that he was still willing to hang out with me I agreed.

I was whisked away to a peaceful marbled piazza, with a fountain gurgling in front of me. My friend descended a staircase, elegant in a black tuxedo. He asked if I had a ball gown. “I have a ‘medieval frock’” I told him (that I had purchased for something like 2 cents in U.S. currency). We noticed that I was still in the seated position from the pub. “Hang on a sec.” I told him and tried to stand up. Nothing worked. Was it lag? Caps lock on? For reasons I can’t explain, I grabbed my hair from the top of my head and threw it on the ground. “Wow. You don’t have to get angry.” My friend said. Unexpectedly bald, I tried to grab my hair back and clicked edit to change my appearance. And then something happened that made me SO WISH I was the kind of gal who read directions before building a new toy.

Abruptly, all my clothes disappeared and there I was…standing butt naked in front of a stranger. “You’re full of surprises, aren’t you?” My friend laughed, “Cute butt”. I was HORRIFIED. I frantically clicked and copied and tried to get some clothes onto my body but instead turned my avatar towards my friend to give him full frontal. Now, I’d heard that you had to buy genitals at some Second Life mall in order to “complete the picture” but let me tell you – I was – as my son says - “nudie-pie” and all the parts were there. My friend was now snarfing with laughter as I managed to sit, yes sit, on a skirt and put on a black t-shirt. “Aw, Sweetie,” he said sympathetically. I blabbed about meeting later after I had gotten my bearings and bailed, teleporting myself next to the park near Three Lions for some privacy (next goal is to find some changing rooms). I left Siri in the park, in the dark, naked…except for a skirt that her cute butt is sitting on."

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Meaningful Fun"

Yesterday I attended a talk given by Tom Bukowski (Boellstorf), author of Coming of Age in Second Life – the first anthropological study of the metaverse. Bukowski spent two years conducting research, focusing on ideas of place, identity, avatars and sex. The lecture was packed, the questions provocative. Of particular interest was how he chooses to use the phrase “actual world” or aw rather than “rl” or real world. By using the phrase “real world” you assume a real world that is computer-free; that one life is more “real” than the other. One scholar calls the examination of that blurry line between the two worlds “boundary work” which is so appropriate. Regarding the separation between the aw/virtual world, Bukowski writes: “…what I find more significant and less debated is why we find the question of traffic between virtual worlds and the “real world” so compelling….A large body of anthropological work…demonstrates that crossing a boundary can strengthen the distinctiveness of the two domains it demarcates”. Virtual life is not a completely separate, isolated social world…Bukowski received a bit of skepticism from colleagues (though support at UC Irvine), but it seemed to me that this reluctance to examine virtual life likely stems from a generation of scholars who shy away from new technologies. Luckily, Bukowski-as-Boellstorf has been named Editor-in-Chief of American Anthropologist, journal of the American Anthropologist Association, which ought to guide scholars, young and old, into virtual studies.

Read the first chapter of Coming of Age in Second Life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not too far from my reality

Onwards I head into my next yet-to-be-named-project. I do my best (dr)thinking in fine Irish pubs. Andi and I found our way to this watering hole via the Inksters Competitive Writers' Group's headquarters. The founder, ItsNaughtKnotty Canned, sponsors a very clever daily writing challenge for members. Authors, of any sort, are given two inspiring themes and have until midnight slt to submit their piece. Winners receive 25 lindens and a nice hefty pat on the back from their mates. Yesterday's challenge included:

Who is supporting your medical treatment? What logos and brands would you love to eliminate from your life? Describe a life where every move is dictated by a corporate identity.


Leaping from the single engine plane without a parachute .
Hit that link to read more about the>> INKsters.

Being a dormant illustrator myself, I asked Andi if he might offer a word to work from, that might begin to flex and force my weakened fingers onto a blank page. He chose "brick" and I've been banging my head against a brick wall ever since, in response.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lady Lovelace at the Whitehorn

What a great turn out for the opening on Saturday. Thank you all for coming! I couldn't have done it without the support of Sir JJ and Sir Zenmondo, who patiently answered my endless questions. This exhibition is truly dedicated to Sir Zenmondo, who is Ada's long lost partner in code poetry. Thank you to Miss Poppy for the portrait of Zen. Thank you also to Miss Snook who provided suitable music and commentary, and set a perfect tone.

The exhibition inspired a visitor to relate the following tale about Charles Babbage - my favorite so far:

13:01] RF: Here is my factorite Babbage anecdote.

[13:02] RF:Babbage once took issue with one of Tennyson's poems. The poet soon received a letter from the logician:

"In your otherwise beautiful poem," Babbage wrote, "one verse reads,

Every moment dies a man,

Every moment one is born.

"If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest:

Every moment dies a man,

Every moment 1 1/16 is born.

"Strictly speaking," Babbage added, "the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."