I happened across an article the other day, on the BBC news website about the general rumblings on the demise of the virtual social-world of Second Life. Hmmm – I only ever remember Second Life getting any kind of remotely ‘hyped’ review from the BBC and a couple of smatterings in the press but nothing other than a whisper in favour, tinged with negative comments like its ‘limited appeal to weirdoes’ and it ‘not having a point’.Now apparently it is in its demise.

Leopard print leggings 1

no its not an exact mirror image!


I have been a second life avatar for ohhh, about three or four years now. And I get the ‘weirdoes’ and ‘no point’ thing, but isn’t that the same with most social network sites? Apart from linked in of course – or maybe I’m missing something there.

Anyway don’t all networking sites have an appeal for different reasons?, the only (cynical) reason I can see for certain aspects of the media giving no press coverage and ones like the BBC actually covering it was because it posed no real threat to the beeb at the time; the BBC doppelganger, if you like, of second life – was an emerging 3d computer generated graphics/film genre – which although an inventive visual medium was by no means rivalling the likes of cinema style Matrix graphics or TV style imagery nor even communication for that matter- then it was another ‘game’. The printed press dismissed it very early on – it was just another on line threat I guess.

It has had its detractor comments like  ‘I couldn’t navigate my avatar, so I gave up’ , ‘I wandered round for days not seeing anyone’ and ‘if it’s not a game what is it?’ to ‘what’s the point?’.

These comments remind me of something someone said the other day about blogging; ‘I give up on bloggers – they just go on – and the tech ones are the worst’ (so that counts me out then). But it’s that broad sweep of opinion that doesn’t take into wider account, other than the immediate personal effect. A sort of attention deficit – want it now kind of thing. Indeed in Second Life you pay for the experience so you expect something in return – instant gratification? instant comprehension? it depends.

Along time ago I used to listen to the John Peel radio show – for the uninitiated he did an eclectic late evening show that featured barely known artists of all styles, some you liked others you didn’t – and then there was the gem – the one that really appealed to you, but you had to listen to an awful lot to get there – but all the while his presentation glued the thing together.

Second Life is new technology it has taken the different aspects that the net and graphics offer and put them together for the users to create (within reason) what they will. It has not been quite the same battle of ‘be cool be here hype’ of other sites. It has been in all aspects fairly organic in its evolution – a very different place now from its first inception and that has been down to the users mostly – so similar on that level, they create something out of an empty space and so on exponentially.

For the ones who ‘gave up’ I guess it wasn’t worth persevering with –maybe it didn’t hold enough bite for them just as football is all to some, it is just a ball being kicked around to others. All technology takes some ‘learning’  true and the ’don’t make me think’ adage is absolute but always there is some.

Second Life is a  visual interactive tool – whereas Face Book, You Tube etc.,  are not in that way. Second life is real time, whereas the others sometimes are not, Second life is or can be totally random, whereas the others are not as much – different things for different folks. Many second lifers, the ones who have stuck are people like Universities who use it as a learning tool, people who are involved in 3D graphics industry in real life, visual and media artists of all descriptions, and people and businesses who want an outlet for their creativity or equally to test and experiment their ideas.

Someone said it is a great big sandbox where you can go and create what you like.

So for me being a visual, arty and slightly (actually – make that quite a bit of a) tech person this has been my experience over the last four years;

I found the site at a time in my life when I was having difficulty with agoraphobia (does that make me a weirdo?)I don’t think so – but aside from the obvious social advantages for people unable to get out and about as much as they would like, I was able to hone 3d building skills that weren’t as complicated (nor as expensive) as the Maya graphics packages and such that were around and I began to use Photoshop and illustrator in depth – all those add-on visual skills that apply universally in CG. I met quite randomly other artists, photographers, lecturers and some of the people whom I remember specifically are a Norwegian artist/photographer who has won many accolades –we ’talk’ regularly through other sites now, a New York on line news site who offered me a news space video on my art work, and a London based film animator all of whom I am still in touch with. Both animator and artist were able to ‘physically’ show me their exhibitions and work in world while we had real time dialogue, their work being 3d produced, streamed in or reproduced. It just sort of clicked – for me.

Whether the SL model ‘will out’ is just the same as ‘will twitter out facebook?’, but not, will they just diminish. It is the technology – it offers different things to different people and the out and out nay sayers and bandwaggoners will always be around. The formats are changing – it’s not set in stone.

The difference with Second Life is the type of technology involved, and how it evolves – and it will. Simple.