Monday, 21 May 2007

Once more, with feeling...

It was a ridiculous sight - the generic avatars jumping on each other using crude animations approximating sex.

"Hahaha! It looks so stupid! I could never be jealous if my husband was doing this!" Said the woman sitting next to me.

She was director I was working with on a short SL movie. She was new to virtual worlds and this is as far as many people get.

Part of the movie meant our hero (who we see in Real Life and in SL) meets a girl avatar (we never see her in RL) in second life and falls for her. They had met already in SL a few times before shooting began and got on quite well. I know he was intrigued about who she really was.

We laughed about the embrace between them between that would come at the end of our film.

But when it came to it and they embraced, a weird thing happened, the guy in RL sitting at a laptop across from me, really felt something, it was obvious. I was fliming it in SL of course, and it was an uncomfortable moment.

I wasn't sure what to expect when these two people touched virtually. But it proved to me that this is something that others can feel too.

I have been really shaken by how much we can feel through this medium. I have felt the touch on my skin of fingers a thousand kilometres away, I've had the oddest synchronisations. The kind that happen rarely in RL seem more frequent here. I can't explain that. Except that it means something.

This wasn't what I was expecting from a world coded in cold ones and zeroes, from the concept, it didn't seem like a place where the human spirit should, or could, flourish.

But I came and explored and I have stayed. I've seen such incredible creativity here and felt the love of people who share only imagination and a vision. It's not for everyon and maybe even most of the residents don't fully realise the impact of this technology on humans.

I think it's about play in it's purest form. It's making mud pies in the garden. It's dressing up. It's making camps. It's exploring. It's lego. It's for grownups who won't let go of the eyes and imagination of their childhood.

In SL there's no goal, so there's a vacuum and the most amazing stuff pops out of people to fill it.

According to Marshall McLuhan - the visionary who came up with the term "global village" - we should look at technologies that extend us and ask, what do they extend? The telephone extends our voice, TV extends our vision... what do virtual worlds extend, I wonder? The self? (is there such a thing?) I know it's some big part of us. I feel it.

He also says we should not forget that when something is extended, something else is lost. From my experience, it's time. Not lost perhaps, but converted from potential to memories. I have some very precious ones from Second Life, from laughing so much that my stomach hurts and exploring this new world with some of the funniest, smartest and most thoughtful people I've never met.


Roslin said...

Funny how everyone feels that moment. That's the beauty of communication when it's done right. Second Life is such an amazing medium for EMOTION because it has such a sense of place. If you do it right, it is like a game of make believe when you were a kid. You forget that it's not really real. Anyway, as always, I love your insights.

Kean Kelly said...

I love this playground for grown-ups. Who ever decided growing up should be such a bore anyway? I wish I could go play in RL as I do in SL. SL extends my FANTASY in a kind-of-real way. Time is never lost (or maybe its always lost in any world), time to do RL things are lessened for sure. But SL extends a lot of different things for different people. Just think of the disabled, or terminally ill people, who can enjoy things in here, they are not able to in RL. Anyway… so many precious moments and people, I wouldn’t miss one single minute of this.

Mike Proud said...

Well, Rob - the story you tell about the film shooting and the emotions - it's really amazing. You know I'm a newb, but it's why I keep coming back: to explore the realms of the emotional impact in a broad sense (and to embarrass you, of course...hehe). I probably never would have entered SL if it wasn't for the film, but I totally see the charm of the concept and I totally enjoy spending time with the people I've met (well, not that guy who kept yelling he wanted to rape everybody and hit me with a giant plunger). Now I just have to convince Bente that she's actually in over her head on this project - haha!

Mike Proud said...

And as for Marshall MacLuhan: I think we will be needing "global village idiots" too, and I'll be happy to be one.

Rob said...

Hahaha! When I met you Mike, I knew there was a village somewhere missing an idiot. I didn't realise you were a potential chief executive idiot for the global village ;)