Sunday, November 9, 2008

"How Real is SL?" by guest blogger Harper Beresford

I have the distinct honor and pleasure of having Harper Beresford as the guest blogger on my tiny little corner of the SLBlogosphere. How did this happen? This delightful happenstance occurred via Arminasx's and Vint Falken's Crazy Scheme Mix and Match challenge.

And now ladies and gentlemen.... Here's the lovely and gracious Harper....

"How Real is SL?" - Is SL a game or is it another reality? If it is another reality, how close is it to The Actual World in which we live?

Subtitled: "Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled." ~ George Santanaya

Let me start off by saying what an honor it is to have landed myself on the blog of the doyenne of SL bloggers, Zoe Connolly's. I am not sure how that randomizer worked that Arminasx and Vint cooked up, but it sure landed me in a sweet spot--or rather, a precarious spot as I have been thinking about this blog all week, terrified I will come off as a blog mess.

That being said, the topic given to me first seemed like a softball. I mean, EVERYONE writes about the "reality" of SL. NPR did a story about the real money in SL. Cybergrrl investigates "RL" businesses in SL. A guy at Stanford found out that our behavior as an avatar changes how we deal with things offline and another woman at Queensland found out it improves our real-life social skills. Isn't Botgirl's whole blog a study of the reality vs. unreality of existing in Second Life?

So I subtitled the blog with my own chosen quote, because I think SL is a sort of waking dream. Anyone who has read my blog (all five of you), know that I fall deeply on the side of thinking Second Life is a reality. I have not changed my mind in the six months since I wrote my blog about that--this is not a game; this is my life and this is your lives.

So much of what I do on SL has very real consequences. I have personally felt the goodness of my interactions on SL come to fruition. I have personally taken money OUT of SL and put it into my own bank account to buy the computer that allows me to make more money. I had a darn good time going to Tampa and Berlin and meeting SL friends. And I felt real joy doing the flamenco all night with my friends, discussing art, music and where glow does and doesn't belong.

Right now, Second Life takes up a lot of our time, readers. We are forerunners, obsessed with its possibilities. We're a little nuts, but in a good way. We are putting our madness to good uses ;)

Not everyone will live their lives using this tool/media/means of communicating the way we will, but I feel in the future, everyone will have some sort of experience with a "virtual reality" and an "avatar," just as people all over the world now feel the lightness of being untethered to a phone line in the wall with their cell phones.

We just need to stretch our minds around that possibility a little farther than the local land auction. We need to acknowledge the power of this kind of virtuality to become a part of human existence just as storytelling, music, art, etc., are all parts of our cultures. This "waking dream" we live in for our Second Lives is quite "real" (whatever that means).

This avatar existence will translate to new, real life applications and possibilities. We ALL know that. Gosh, why do I need to reiterate this? (I hate being cliched.) We are taking this Rubic's cube of a reality and twisting and turning it in our hands, all in our ways, trying to find the right patterns in it to discover powerful tools and to absorb its potentially profound lessons. And doing this takes time. Let's cut Linden Labs and ourselves all some slack. This virtual stuff has been around a long time and it needs to evolve in its own time.

So that being said, I am going to go back in-world, dress up in my monkey avatar, and help a few newbies on Help Island, making this new world happen one newbie at a time.
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