Posts Tagged ‘politics

16
Aug
08

The Ethics and Politics of Synthetic World Interoperability

My series of posts at Augmentology are now all up! We posted part 3 today. You can read it here:

[Warcry for Birthing Synthetic Worlds, Part 3 @ Augmentology.com]

It was a real pleasure collaborating with Netwurker Mez! And the discussion it spurred on the nettime list was also really interesting.

Part 2 went up last week and there was a really provocative comment from Dusan Writer about open source and the economics of SL. Apparently, she disagrees with my claim that we should find new models for making money in SL besides copy restriction. I responded, but I hope I didn’t inadvertently kill the conversation. Its curious to me that there were a lot more comments to part 1.

I’d love to know what more people think of these posts, so leave a comment! Hopefully it’ll help spur the growth of the metaverse and spur new efforts towards more interopability and openness, which I think is critical for synthetic worlds to grow!

These posts were a new kind of thinking about SL for me, trying to look at a broader overview of Synthetic Worlds instead of phenomenologically describing my own experiences and thinking about the subtle working of those, like I tried to do in my earlier posts. I think, though, that a mix of both is needed, so I plan to continue to mix it up. I’ve got a few big ideas in mind for future posts, so we’ll see if I put them over at augmentology or just keep posting here… I guess it depends on their schedule and my energy level for writing! Anyway, I really love writing about SL and discussing it with people, so thanks to everyone who’s reading and commenting!

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26
Jun
08

Virtual and Actual Politics in Second Life and out

Update: The folks at Second Life Left Unity also dropped us a line, they describe their project as “The SLLU seeks creative, non violent means to foster revolutionary social dialogue via the virtual world platform of Second Life.”

This video shows a really interesting phenomenon, virtual political tactics, specifically griefing from SL, being reproduced in real life against real political figures.

http://secondlife.reuters.com/stories/2008/05/20/garry-kasparov-targeted-in-real-life-repeat-of-the-anshe-chung-incident/

there are lots of political issues in SL:

– land ownership, linden labs recently stopped selling land to try to control the prices of land in SL, which have dropped dramatically

– RL mega events like the world economic forum

– RL entities like the border patrol training in SL

– SL people sufering political repression in RL, like Eshi being deported from the US after her husband died

– Prim limits, limiting the complexity of avatars (i wish i could find the link for the page that said “you can take my land but you can’t take my designer shoes!”)

– the huge debate about PG restrictions around the linden’s official 5 year birthday celebration

– Enforcing copyright on virtual objects, enforcing the DMCA

– RL corporations like Coke’s happiness island (somehow, killing colombians doesn’t make me happy). This video is hilariously disturbing, it says “the essence of cocacola: refreshment, joy, unity and experience”

Here’s a slightly different view:

Which of these are most interesting and relevant to you? Are there common threads or factors here or points of intersection? It seems like the overriding question is: will SL be a space for residents to create the utopias they can imagine, or will it be just another corporate advertising venue? Although dichotomies like that always already fail in their construction. Maybe open source efforts like OpenSim and realXtend are the biggest political question, will SL be corporate owned, or will the metaverse open up to be a real outgrowth of community efforts? Although, it seems like Opensim is M$ friendly at least, being written in C# and thus requiring windows, or heavily influenced by M$ at worst, while realXtend is at least gpl licensed. What do you think?

01
Jun
08

Welcome to Second Loop

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhan

“[T]he mirror stage is a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image” – Jacques Lacan

Hi. I’m Azdel Slade. I wanted to call this blog dreams of life, but it was taken. In a way, Second Life is a lot like a dream, an expression of desires and fears, of the unconscious. It is also in a lot of ways like a nightmare. And, the way we see ourselves in our dreams, in both senses of sleeptime dreams and hopes and dreams, effects how we shape ourselves. I’ll be writing here about my explorations in Second Life. There will be writing on lots of different topics such as identity, avatars, economics, politics, gender, sex. Why here? When I started thinking about blogging about SL, I quickly realized that I don’t necessarily want my avatar tied to my RL identity, at least not yet. I still want to be able to play “in world” and write about it here without everyone knowing all about my RL. You might have figured out who I am, but maybe you can keep it to yourself for a bit while I use this space for writing and experimenting.

What happens after Macluhan’s quote, where our tools shape us? What happens in the feedback loop where we shape our tools and our tools shape us and then we shape our tools again? Or when we shape our avatars and our avatars shape us and we keep shaping our avatars? What does Second Life do to us? Lacan wrote about the Mirror Stage, which he claimed was an important part of subjectivity itself. Basically the idea is that a baby sees itself in a mirror, being held up by its parents, and imagines that it knows how to walk. Then, when it tries to walk, it fails, but it continues to hold that image of itself in its head and work towards it. Can avatars work like that? Can constructions of imagined social structures work like that?

Is SL merely escapism? Or is it an experiment that might lead to more freedom? Is it just a bad copy of the worst parts of the “real” world, sexism, western beauty standards, racism, exclusion? Or is it a possible place to work out how we might envision the world we want to see? To practice constructing utopias? How can we understand identity as a feedback loop, as a social process of an individual act, a response from the other and reflection on that response which gets incorporated into the next act.

I’ll be writing more on this blog as I go. I’ve only been “in world” for a few months and have only really begun to learn how to use it well enough to enjoy it for a few weeks. But here are some initial notes I jotted down recently:

When I first told my housemates, and activist friends, about my idea to use SL to make art, they said “why in SL?”, and went on to say how SL is just for rich white yuppies. which made me wonder, who really is using second life? Now i think its more a mix of people who are looking for social stimulation but find it hard to get in real life, young people, geeks, queer people, disabled people. I’m sure there are others there, but i suspect that a lot of the people in sl are people who are targetsof some kind off discrimination in rl (real life). i surely fit into that category. in a metafilter post, a lot of the othered social categories and the animosity towards them was summed up in this comment:

People still use Second Life?

Serveral hundred overcredulous tech journalists, Warren Ellis, assorted furries, trannies, and S&M enthusiasts and him off of Boing Boing. ” http://www.metafilter.com/71318/Second-Life-Twitter-Typewriter

Also, the stats that Linden Labs publish show that US users are only about 25% of people on SL and there are people from many, many other countries outside of the US.

When I first bought a furry avatar, i still had to choose male or female, they are still totally gendered… This brought me to thinking about the limits of gender. Does gender have to contain some reference to male and female? Or just to characteristics that people usually consider male or female? How can we imagine new genders?

My first time having sex in sl involved me flirting with a woman av who seemed to imply that she was no expert at sex in sl, but when we went to her place, she owned a bed, tons of poseballs (none for sex, actually, most for cuddling and kissing) and after hanging out for a bit she “discovered” that she had an s&m cross and a whip. a few days later when i learned to look at profiles, i found that she’s part of about 10 s&m groups and has places like lesbian sex clubs in her list of favorite places in her profile.

Politics in SL are bubbling about prim limits, which may infringe on number of prims in your avatar, licensing and land usage. one article said something like “you can take my land before you take my [designer name here] shoes!” SL dissention and the SL liberation army are very active right now. also, someone supposedly hacked the SL atm system, but i’m not sure what the ramifications were.




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