Category Archives: Second Life

Randomness #54x

Still alive! Too much working and reading, not enough writing.

– All the cool stuff happens after I leave. Chicago now has a Festival of Maps. That’s a small version of a 17th century Map of the Nile on the site. Big version here.

– Detailed satellite surveys show that Angkor was probably as big as modern-day LA, adding credence to theories that people eventually deserted the city because its surrounding environment couldn’t sustain it.

– If you’re too lazy to search for clips of the Helvetica documentary on YouTube (like me), World of Kane kindly provides a selection.

– Radar finds out how desperate some folks in Second Life are for virtual sex (Funny, but NSFW photos):

Radarette: Very good! Ready for something a little … HARDER?

Student: Yep.

Radarette: Haretown and Tortoiseville are 50 miles apart. A hare travels at nine miles per hour from Haretown to Tortoiseville, while a tortoise travels at one mile per hour from Tortoiseville to Haretown. If both set out at the same time, how many miles will the hare have to travel before meeting the tortoise en route?

– Speaking of sex, The 50 Greatest Sex Scenes in Cinema

– The 12 Sins of Chopstick Use (in Mandarin script)

Tibetan-inspired Chinese typography


The metaverse isn’t everything

Found on psfk: A ho-hum article on the significance and use of avatars in virtual worlds (well, mostly Second Life for now). The only interesting bit imho, is this:

Another hurdle to broad participation in avatar worlds: Fantasy playgrounds actually don’t work particularly well as social networks, says Danah Boyd, a doctoral candidate at Berkeley and fellow at USC’s Annenberg Center who was dubbed the “high priestess of Internet friendship” last year by the Financial Times.

“[Successful] social-network sites like MySpace … are primarily places where you actually model your social network on the people you see all day long,” in simple representations closely tied to offline identities, Ms. Boyd says.

“We want our site to be real,” says Jerry Kaplan, who runs, where “mainly older women” meet and network. Some exchange photos, he writes in an e-mail. “[But this isn’t about fantasy lives, avatars, or other masks.”

Immersive 3-D fantasy games require immobility and a major investment in screen time. “More time at the computer,” Boyd says, “is not what most people are seeking out.”

Which sounds sensible. Avatar-based worlds will replace our current interfaces for interacting online only if that technology offers better value (in both financial and non-financial senses) than the current alternatives.

For example, people would probably still prefer to shop for books on than in Second Life, because offers added services within quick and easy access, like recommendations, book searches, and user reviews.

Even if the input devices get better, say, a brain/computer interface like the one demo’ed at CEBIT recently, any kind of technology like that will lower the difficulty threshold for all applications — including the ones that were easier to use in the first place.

So the distinguishing factor isn’t just technology, but more of what people want to use it for. I know this sounds suspiciously teleological, but perhaps Second Life has somehow become a fantasy playground (in every sense), just because. As Warren Ellis — freelance-Second-Life-observer for Reuters — observes:

people are continuing to enter the world because of, not despite, what might ordinarily be considered dubious experiences.

Moving on, the Christian Science Monitor article mentions that:

immersion has its whole-hearted backers. Sarah Robbins, an English instructor at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., sees Second Life and its avatars as both tools and object of study.

“We talk about how to ‘unpack’ certain types of messages,” says Ms. Robbins, who teaches as Intelligirl, an extreme version of herself.

“The students read avatars as you would read a text,” says Robbins. “We see it as a form of composition.”

Which is interesting in and of itself, especially when you think about the kinds of norms about avatar appearance in SL — look anything other than human and people automatically label you as weird, think you’re a griefer, or both.

Now that avatar-based environments (heh, what a verbose construction) have hit mainstream media, perhaps futurists will need to look even further ahead while the academics and consultants play catch-up while policymakers lag behind

Is this the age of the online avatar? |

McCracken on Second Life

Grant McCracken comments on the three-way discussion between Clay Shirky, Henry Jenkins and Beth Coleman on the impact of Second Life. But his suggestions about how SL will be impactful aren’t as interesting as his observations about why SL won’t:

Second Life is frequently a stage without actors. What is missing is the small murmur of activity, the gentle dynamism that other people bring to our lives. This may be what we mean by “perfect strangers.” These are the people who create movement, visual stimulation, a steady current of minor commotion without actually ever impinging on our lives in any irritating way. Second Life has no perfect strangers.

The absence of this dynamism means, among other things, that SL cannot create a new tourism. The existing world of Second Life fails to capture us for the same reason that Celebration, Florida (the instant town build by Disney) originally disappointed. The place was well appointed but it lacked perfect strangers. There was a stillness to both places that made them unfit, or at least uninteresting, for human habitation. I am told that Celebration addressed this problem. We shall see if SL can do the same.

I also like his point about “sorting”. SL currently doesn’t help you find people you would actually like to hang out with:

If anything it should allow me to reach out to more people in the world and increase the chances that I will like the people I meet. But this never seems to happen. I would like to hear about this one from the SL supporters. How many interesting people have you met in-world?

Which is true in my (admittedly limited) experience. The people I know best on SL are from real world contacts.

Read McCracken’s whole post at This Blog Sits at the: Second Life: the new Disney or vaporville? (Yes, it’s over a month old. I need to visit his blog more often.)

Second Life – Japan launch

TokyoMango reports that the Japanese beta will be launched soon. You can register at

It’s an obvious step. From what I gather, there’s already a significant Japanese in SL already, IM’ing each other in hiragana. In any case, East Asia societies are probably the most tech-savvy and wired.

We’re a little bit closer to a metaverse with worldwide participation (SL already has worldwide access — in theory you can log in anywhere so long as you have a good internet connection). But there’re still two major obstacles –

1. Lack of compatibility (can Second Life sync with HiPiHi? Can I transfer avatars etc between both virtual worlds?)

2. No real-time translation app.

Mitch Kapor on techno-utopias

People tend to be idealistic about technology and they harbour utopian fantasies that with the right technology everything is going to be all better. (But) people bring all of their stuff with them, all of their issues. The good, the bad, the ugly, the indifferent and the wonderful. They will take new forms and guises in Second Life … it will create new freedoms and huge new problems, we can’t even say what they are yet.

From Reuters/Second Life » Linden Lab chairman: Death to the techno-utopias

Imitation of Life?

I spent a couple of hours exploring Second Life over Chinese New Year, and it’s a lot like… real life. Most of what you see reflects how people behave and think in real life — most people make their avatars look human, assume avatar gender reflects real world gender etc. Many norms get carried over e.g. some don’t like changing their avatars’ appearances in front of other people.

You won’t have to go far to find sex and gambling in Second Life, but there are interesting places to see and explore. Svarga comes to mind, but humbler projects include the Peranakan House someone’s built in Second Life.

After the hype and the novelty however, whether you’ll continue to log in or not will probably depend on whether you manage to find like-minded folks and how much you enjoy building virtual stuff. That said, basic accounts are free so no harm giving it a try.

There’re some Singaporeans there already, like VanTan. The people at Thinc have set up a beach cafe in SL (with a fun water slide). They’ve big plans.