Enforcing and protesting against dress codes in Second Life

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Basilique Ball - VII - Becky & Brixton

Basilique Ball – VII – Becky & Brixton, by Caitlin Tobias

Venue dress codes and event entry policies are a murky and complicated area that can be a minefield for venue owners in RL. In a virtual world like Second Life, wherein live large numbers of people who don’t feel any rules apply to them, it can be a quagmire. Dress codes, and their enforcement, are the most common and contentious issue I deal with as a region host and venue owner.

In response to asking people to adhere to dress codes, I have been called – and I quote: a “stupid cunt”, a “fascist”, a “pretentious snob”, and a “worthless bitch”. I have been subject to abusive rants in IM, local chat and group chat – even days after the incident. Some protesters have said that my venue – Basilique – is a “worthless shithole” and that it should “be banned from Second Life”.

This kind of behaviour isn’t only limited to strangers either. I’ve had a DJ quit on me in the middle of a set – and take her friends with her – because I asked one of her friends to conform to the dress code. Her friend refused to comply, asked me to justify my rules, insulted me for not providing a justification that satisfied him, so I ejected him. After a mass exodus led by the DJ, she then wrote a blog post about me and my draconian practices. To be fair, she didn’t name me specifically, so I won’t name her.

I find this conduct shocking, mainly because the enforcement of dress codes in real life (e.g. at school, clubs, workplaces, social occasions, entertainment and religious venues) isn’t usually the kind of issue that inspires passionate and public revolt.

In real life, dress codes are usually followed intuitively. I personally accepted dress codes from the moment I entered school. I wore a uniform for a large proportion of my primary and secondary education. When such explicit rules were not in effect – like when I transferred to state schooling for my senior years – dress codes were unwritten guidelines that were enforced by peer pressure.

Amazingly, I was not creatively stunted as a result.

In workplaces, formality cuts both ways: casual workplace environments, such as tech and creative media, are similarly restrictive in their approaches to dress codes as more traditionally more formal environments like banking or law. And it’s not just white collar office workers; every line worker on a factory shop floor knows who are in management and who are the labourers, based often on the way they are dressed.

In my work life, I’ve worn suits and casual wear, during which I’ve been able to do my job equally well.

We even expect people in certain industries – medicine, police, emergency services, hospitality, military, religious, and public transportation – to wear uniforms. We might even treat non-uniformed staff in these fields with an air of suspicion, even possibly doubting their competence or fitness for their roles.

For more formal occasions, like formal parties or dinners, dress codes are specified and it is rare to see people flagrantly ignoring the expectations of their hosts. Can you imagine a guest arriving at a black tie in jeans, and then refusing to leave citing a personal attack on his personal freedoms? The very idea is comical.

When travelling abroad, most of us at least try to respect local customs of dress – even when they might not align with our personal values or typical dress sense – such as the case might be in places of worship located in hot climates that insist on tourists covering up. If I had objected to putting on the the shoes provided for me at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, or refused to cover my shoulders at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it would have been entirely my loss, and I’d regret it to this day. People don’t object to these rules in RL; they cover up and get on with it.

Why have dress codes survived in real life? They persist because respecting them signals our want to abide by the norms set by the group with which we wish to engage with at the venue or occasion to which we have been invited.

All of which leads me to ask: Why are dress codes in Second Life met with such a disproportionate amount of vicious antagonism? Why are these rules of dress – to which we are so accustomed to in real life – the focus of such fervent rebellion, leading to protestant cries against restricting creative self-expression?

Is there something about the virtual world that gives rise to such dramatically violent opposition to things we might otherwise accept as utterly basic in real life? I honestly don’t see the point of such indignant and vocal resistance.

When you adhere to a dress code, you are saying: “Thank you for inviting me to your house. I’ll show my gratitude by respecting you as my host and I will honour your expectations of me as your guest.”

Adherence does not imply that you are a sheep, a pawn, have given up your freedom, or are being controlled. It’s just a dress code for a couple of hours, people; it’s not a prison sentence.

Maybe I’m living in a different world. Perhaps my perspective is limited by my admittedly one-sided position as an estate manager? When I think about a region or venue owner in Second Life, perhaps I can too easily put myself in their place and fail to see the other side of the argument?

Take the two familiar proponents of the argument, for example:

On one side, we have someone who has spent time, effort and money in bringing an experience to the public – often entirely for free. They volunteer to organise an event, provide a venue, and even hire talent for the enjoyment of friends and strangers. Once planned, they give their time – again freely – to welcome people they don’t even know to a party, whilst encouraging them to enjoy themselves as long as the event continues.

On the other side, we have the dress-code violating guest who, to paraphrase Shaw, acts the part of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making them happy.

How dare the event host expect the guests to adhere to their rules and guidelines, one of which happens to be a dress code? How presumptuous of them to expect their guest to go to such herculean efforts like reading a notecard, or opening their outfits window, and clicking one of the options?

The scales are so one-sided on the side of the sim owner, it’s enough to make me wonder why I feel the need to write this post at at all.

DJ Ylva kickin' it at Bar Moderna

DJ Ylva kickin’ it at Bar Moderna, by Tem Haalan

On one hand, owners and hosts want to make people feel welcome and have an enjoyable experience at their venue or place. On the other hand, they want to create and keep up an atmosphere that enhances (or at least does not detract) from the intended experience they aim to offer.

In my opinion, the way people dress in a place or at an event is just as contributive to the experience as the host’s choice of theme, decor, music and activities.

For example, if I seek to create an elegant atmosphere – like a formal party accompanied with classical music and dancing, a guest showing up in torn jeans, or a latex miniskirt, wearing a t-shirt and trainers (sneakers) detracts from the immersiveness and coherency of the atmosphere I am aiming to create.

Similarly, if I am hosting an informal beach party, someone showing up in a Barney costume, when everyone else is dressed in active or swim wear, serves to disrupt the mood and coherency of the scene.

When I’ve gone to great lengths in assembling decor and a windlight that creates a feeling that one is in a modern night club, and someone walks in wearing three face lights that amount to the brilliant light that emanates from a thousand suns – I think it’s fair to ask them to take it off so that my guests don’t feel like they’re having their corneas melt down their cheeks.

Venues and regions in Second Life vary considerably in their dress code expectations. Some owners couldn’t care less what a visitor wears – which is what I refer to as the ‘come as you are’ dress code. That’s totally fine, if that’s what people want, and there are a multitude of places where one can literally dress however one wants.

Owners that are keen to promote role play in their regions will insist that you dress in character. Owners of naturist regions in Second Life demand full nudity within minutes of arrival. Formal ballroom owners expect their visitors to dress formally when enjoying their venues. It’s not as if dress codes in Second Life are a foreign concept that we’ve never seen before.

Still, in my experience, people view dress codes – and their relationship with a group or region – on a continuum that ranges from apathetic to committed:

  • Apathetic. People with this view, might be genuinely surprised that a dress code exists (often because they don’t take the time to read signs or notices). When asked to conform to a dress code, they are likely to leave quietly because changing is either ‘too much effort’ or because they don’t have the required dress in their inventory.
  • Disgruntled. People with this view may not be aware of dress codes, but will complain when asked to conform. They will rebel against rules, will sometimes question them, and at times vociferously complain about them either privately or publicly. Often, their defensiveness can become personal and abusive, where they might refer to your rules as ‘stupid’, ‘fascist’ or worse.
  • Obedient. People with this view grudgingly conform to dress codes because they place higher value attending your event or visiting your place, or because they are compelled to fit in.
  • Motivated. People with this view ask about dress codes in advance, and conform to them to follow the rules. They are typically new or somewhat on the outside of the group, and might be motivated to become more involved and accepted by the groups members.
  • Loyal. People with this view have an interest in perpetuating the group’s rules and values, without necessarily being part of the official structure. They will not only conform to the dress code, they will often help others in following it too. They appreciate the immersive value that dress codes can give. They don’t see rules as a personal attack on their freedom, but rather a limit in which they can be creative, that serves a greater good for retaining the integrity of the experience they seek.
  • Committed. People with this view, either officially or unofficially, help enforce the dress codes. Appreciating the value of such rules, they will alert violators when the dress codes is being contravened, help them to conform, and if that is unsuccessful, they will alert you to take remedial action.
Basilique - Bar Moderna - Pepys and Bunjie

Basilique – Bar Moderna – Pepys and Bunjie, by Caitlin Tobias

Setting a dress code is pointless unless you are ready to enforce it, and that’s when things can get really silly. What kinds of actions do land and club owners / managers take to deal with dress code violations?

They might, as I do, attempt to clearly tell people about the dress code before they arrive. I do this by including a note of it in my notices, and placing signs near my venue’s entrance.

Many people, when inviting friends to events will teleport them directly to the middle of the venue – without advising them of the dress code. Understandably, these hapless newcomers end up violating the dress code without even knowing they are doing so. Unfortunately, no notice or sign is be able to pre-warn them of the requirement, so the typical conversation must begin. I find that most of these visitors respond apathetically, and will leave. That’s perfectly fine. Some, however, respond in a disgruntled way, which I don’t understand at all. A minority of these visitors will respond with grudging obedience.

If signs and notices are either ignored or unseen, evidenced by a lack of compliance, I will ask people to change into the proper dress code and send them a graphic or notecard that explains it. I also often give them a landmark to a nearby place where they can change in privacy, if they wish.

If they don’t comply with that polite ask, I will ask violators to leave the area or the event. I find that this kind of request is most effective in IM, because people can become defensive in local.

If my IM is ignored (which is often the case), I will tell them to read their IM, in local chat. If that still does not work, then I will eject them. In the case of severe verbal backlash – or repeat offences – I will ban them.

All of this takes time and energy that I’d rather spend in enjoying the event and time with my guests – but I appreciate that this is part of the route I’ve chosen when I host events.

As I noted earlier, this approach engenders all sorts of abusive and retaliatory responses. Sometimes, I’ll wait and wait and wait, before I ask someone to change – often out of avoidance at the rudeness I’ll be subjected to. Most of the time, when the abuse comes, I will take it in stride. At other times, I’ll admit that I just get tired of the tediousness of it.

I don’t even need dress code violators to agree with me. My place, the experiences I host are not for everyone. Should that be the case, just leaving quietly would be more than welcomed.

If the shoe was on the other foot, and I was a guest in someone else’s region or event, and I was faced with conforming to a dress code that I felt violated my personal values or caused me distress, I’d just excuse myself quietly, and leave.

It’s that simple.

I wouldn’t imagine disagreeing with the host (how could I possibly expect that to have any effect?). I wouldn’t try to persuade anyone else to collude with me in boycotting the venue on the basis of their rules. Not in a million years would I fire off derogatory remarks or abusive vitriol towards them and their establishment because they didn’t bend over backwards to change their world just to satisfy my personal whim.

It just seems like reasonable, mature, and adult behaviour to me. Yet, dress code protestations happen at least once, at every single event. Am I expecting too much, or am I missing something?

Please world, enlighten me with your views?

Second Life is a place we visit (2015) by Huckleberry Hax

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Becky:

Huckleberry Hax has published a new book and it’s now available for download. I’m especially happy that Huck asked me to design the book cover typography for this work, a second time! And as a bonus, the cover image – taken by Huck – is a scene from my beach at Basilique!

This book is a collection of 42 non-fiction articles, drawn from over eight years of observing and participating in the Second Life landscape.

I’ve already read many of these articles when they were first were published, am keen to revisit them, and discover the ones I have not yet read, in this conveniently packaged collection.

This is a must-have for any thoughtful Second Life enthusiast. Get it for your Kindle – for your mobile device, or read it for free on Issuu now. When you’re finished, leave a review on the Amazon listing!

Enjoy!

Originally posted on What the Huck?:

SLPV Draft 2“For some of us, our experiences in SL serve as a catalyst, an awakening, a leap in our level of personal consciousness which then needs to be fed into our real lives if its ultimate purpose is to be fulfilled.  For some, SL is a respite, a place to just pause and get our breath back.  For some, it is a playground, a chance to experiment with being something different.  For some of us, it is all of these things together.”

Huckleberry Hax has been writing about the virtual world of Second Life® for eight years.  This volume collects together 42 of these articles, including his monthly column for over two years at the celebrated AVENUE SL lifestyle magazine.

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Available formats:

Print: Paperback (213 Pages): £11.99
Online: Issuu: Free

Amazon…

View original 148 more words

My Digits 2015 – A Mesh Body (R)evolution

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My Digits 2015

Meme Instructions: Share your avatar’s digits and/or answer the following questions about mesh bodies. If you decide to share your digits, feel free to add your image to the Digits Flickr Group.

Strawberry Singh’s Digits meme came earlier than expected this year but fortunately for me I’ve just finished getting into my fourth mesh body (not just demos either, full versions), so I’ve had a good chance to live in each for a while.

1. Do you now own a mesh body? If so, do you wear it all the time or just once in a while?

I thought it would be kind of cool to show my mesh body evolution (as opposed to revolution as for me the process has been very gradual) pictorially. When it comes to mesh body parts, pictures speak a thousands words. Regular readers of this blog also must know by now that I can’t possibly say something in a few hundred words and one picture, when I can say it in nearly nearly two thousand words and many pictures. ;)

My mesh head

My Logo Mesh Head 2015

My Logo Mesh Head 2015

I was an early adopter of mesh heads – back in 2013, but I still spent a long time deliberating over whether to make the move to the Logo Chloe mesh head. I am 100% confident I made the right call to go for, it, and I have worn it exclusively, ever since.

I could relate to similar worries to the ones expressed by others who have considered (and rejected) mesh heads: That I would lose my individuality, that my customisation options would be more limited, and that I’d end up looking vapid and doll-like.

All of these anxieties are loosely based in reality; but considering the alternative, I know I will never go back to a system avatar head. Fortunately for me (and possibly indicative of my unpopular tastes), I haven’t seen the Logo head adopted anywhere as much as I imagined it would be.

Those who have adopted the head (as I’ve seen on Flickr) make it look completely different from I do (I don’t wear much makeup at all so I’m already in the minority there), so I’m not at all worried about my individuality in this regard. Further, the Logo head is now no longer as new and innovative as it was when it first appeared, so most people looking into mesh heads today are looking at the new ones, such as what is now being offered by SLink and Lelutka. Lastly, I’ve been using the same head for so long (Logo was an early entrant into mesh heads), it’s now become a part of my signature look.

My mesh hands and feet

After trying on several appendage options, I settled on the SLink hands and feet, while retaining my system avi body. Today, if I’m not wearing a mesh body (which is rare), I’ll still use my SLink hands and feet. I have the fat pack of hands, but I mainly use Relax and Elegant. For feet, I mainly use their flat barefoot option, and here and there will change it up depending on the very few SLink compatible shoes I’ve purchased over the last year. Again, I’d never go back to system appendages.

Early forays into mesh bottoms

Shorty after making the move to mesh hands and feet, I picked up the CuteAzz from PhatAzz, which I wore only when nude or with swimwear. While impressed with the contours then – enough to wear this bottom/legs as Eve in Paradise Lost where I appeared nude for half the show – I never felt comfortable with the seam at my waist that would show up in certain poses, animations and lighting. Still, it was a good learning experience to try a mesh body part, which first introduced me to what appliers are, and how round and fleshy mesh can actually look. I have to admit I did stare at my ass for days after I first bought it.

My mesh body evolution

Mesh Body Comparison Collage 2014 My first mesh body was from Wowmeh (top right corner in the image above). It was a vast improvement over the standard avatar (top left), but I never liked it as much as its fervent fans. My second mesh body, which I bought for comparison purposes was from SLink (pictured bottom left). This body was prettier and more detailed in my opinion, and the accompanying HUD allowed more options than the Wowmeh.

I remember then that many people considered the SLink to be flawed. I heard many Wowmeh fans complain that the labia was ‘crooked’ and that the bottom was too flat. Before it really had much of a chance to evolve, the Wowmeh was hit with a DMCA takedown, which rendered that option a non-starter. Still, the SLink body, despite all the relative bells and whistles – and the very exciting possibility of a couple of mesh heads to match – didn’t do it for me. So, I went through the arduous process of buying The Mesh Project Body (Deluxe) from The Shops (bottom right)

The TMP became my body of choice for about six months, and I’m now completely familiar with the HUD. Furthermore, I love the tone, texture and shape of this body. Having said that, I saw and continue to see, three major flaws that led me to look elsewhere:

  1. The developers are misguided in asking Second Lifers to adopt their frustrating Shopping HUD system.
  2. I foresee big limits to scale with regards to the TMP StyleMode HUD. The interface just about works for the dozens of clothing options I have, but I can’t imagine how a visual inventory system is going to work when the numbers get into the hundreds.
  3. Hundreds of clothing options for the TMP is hardly an imminent concern at the moment, considering how glacially slow The Shops are when it comes to releasing new clothing items for sale. After nearly six months of wearing this body, I was really starting to feel like I was recycling my looks again and again.

Many of my friends went with either SLink, TMP, and Belleza (which I’ve heard good things about, but have not yet tried). I considered going back to the SLink when I saw the heads – especially since one of them – Becky – was obviously named after me (hah!).

The big drawback for me however, was that in some lighting conditions (ALM), the body looked so shiny that one couldn’t be blamed for thinking it was covered in oil. From what I can tell, they’ve since addressed this issue in the latest update.

I have an RL friend that uses the SLink body and Emma head, so I had several opportunities to look over her shoulder while she customised her SLink options and HUD. I notice that the clothing options for the SLink are abundant. Sadly, most options don’t at all appeal to my taste, due to my sense that most of the creators making clothing for SLink bodies are targeting the sex worker market. On sum, my head and body combination felt like a good way forward, so I resisted going over to the SLink.

After the most recent update SLink released for the heads and the bodies, they remained a very compelling option. The TMP body, however, remained hard to beat for looks, so I waited.

My wait was rewarded. When I first heard Maitreya was developing a mesh body, I became very interested. My first thought was: Finally, here is a mesh body maker that has a huge history with Second Life (which suggests they’re not going to try to reinvent the wheel – like TMP), and a great back catalog of clothes and shoes that totally suits my style (unlike SLink or Belleza).

Mesh Body Comparison Maitreya Lara 2015

My body of choice – Maitreya Lara

I was anxious about making the move after having invested so much time and money into the TMP. I’ve never been a one-or-the-other person though, so I felt confident that my investment in TMP was not wasted, that I’d probably continue to use the body and the many high quality outfits I purchased from them, and still enjoy using a new mesh body from Maitreya. The benefit would be opening up two collections to draw from. Talk about double your fun!

2. What is your preferred mesh body available on the market right now?

I picked up the Maitreya Lara Mesh Body, and just a couple of weeks ago updated it to V3. With the new HUD, and considering all of my experience with mesh bodies to date, I can unequivocally say that The Maitreya Lara is hands down the body to beat at the moment.

I have never felt so at ease with the customisation options, Maitreya’s clothes and shoes are glamorous and elegantly sexy, and retrofitting the body into my mesh wardrobe has so far been a breeze. Best of all, and this is always a concern for me, the body’s default skin tones and my mesh head matched almost seamlessly.

I couldn’t be happier with how things ended up. I now wear this body all the time, and am in the process of retrofitting all my outfits, a process I delayed because of my general sense of unease with the TMP HUD limitations.

3. Have you changed your shape since you started wearing the body?

Yes, I’ve

  • increased my torso muscle from 34 to 41
  • decreased my breast size from 57 to 46
  • increased my hand size from 27 to 40
  • increased my torso length from 43 to 58
  • increased my love handles from 30 to 32
  • increased my belly size from 0 to 4
  • increased my hip length from 57 to 58

These changes have been gradual and mainly to look more realistic and fit better into standard sizing.

4. How do you feel about mesh bodies in general?

I love them and wouldn’t easily go back. Same with mesh heads. There is no substitute for mesh if you want to look your very best in Second Life, nude or clothed, no matter what your size and shape is.

5. What is one thing you would request from designers when it comes to mesh bodies?

This is a toughie. I am so pleased with my Maitreya that I find it hard to imagine what else I’d like, apart from more clothes – which I know will come. At the moment, my main area of concern is my head. Logo hasn’t released anything for ages now, which makes me think that they’ve lost interest in updating their head. This will prove an issue in the future, if I can’t find appliers to match my different skin tones as they evolve throughout the seasons. I know I can always manually do it, like the old days, but it’s never quite right is it? Anyway, this is a good reminder to ping the folks at Logo for an update at least.

Does religion have a purpose in a virtual world like Second Life?

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Paradise Lost - Crucified

The Crucifixion scene from Agnus Dei in Paradise Lost – Photo by Caity Tobias

For various reasons, I enjoy a keen interest in religions. I’ve spent time reading and talking with people about them, their origins, evolution, impacts, and future. However, religion isn’t something we come across in much of our everyday experience in virtual worlds like Second Life. This past Easter weekend, however, was an exception – when I found myself being asked: “What are you doing for Easter?”

Many Christians would argue that Easter is a more important holiday than Christmas. In Christian doctrine, the idea that Christ was crucified and resurrected, is more central to Christ’s ultimate mission and purpose. This central tenet is symbolised by Christianity’s use of the cross, which was historically an instrument of punishment, but has since been appropriated as an icon of salvation.

Because the Easter holiday is more sacred and less commercialised than the much more widely observed Christmas holiday – in some ways, one’s answer to this question about Easter provides hints as to whether you are a Christian or not – and by extension, whether you are a person of faith. It’s rare to get into the subject of faith in every day chat, so this question serves as an opportunity to learn more about each other – sometimes in ways we might prefer not to share.

Because I tend to associate myself with thoughtful people who love to chat in local, I’m no stranger to religious discussions in Second Life. Many of these discussions, as Serendipity Haven rightly pointed out in a post she wrote about religion discussions in Second Life, are the type

where you can almost guarantee that somebody will get offended beyond what is reasonable, and you can bet your bottom linden that within moments any fun, enjoyment and bonhomie will have been drained from the proceedings, leaving only ire, vituperation and frostiness.”

I admit, I too have witnessed discussions about religious topics leading to hurt feelings and people stomping off. Sometimes, I’ve been the one that has excused myself when exchanges in local chat begin to wander into non-sensical land.

One exception to the ‘no-religious-talk’ rule has been our Basilique Chat Salons, where religion will sometimes come up as a tangent to topics we discuss. We even focused a discussion on the topic last week.

Paradise Lost

Mary, Jesus, and Joseph in the manger, from Agnus Dei in Paradise Lost, by Kara

Is there a place for religion in Second Life?

Getting back to the point: In a world where we can import what we choose – leaving out less useful things – do religions have any  purpose or advantage in a virtual world? Are they adaptive to our existence or development as residents? What benefits does religious observance bring to a virtual society? Alternatively, what costs does it also bring?

It’s probably no surprise that we have imported our religions beliefs, practices and places into the virtual world, as can be seen by this list of religion places in Second Life. These places represent many of the major religions, including Hindu, Christianity, Islam. There are also some places where Buddhism can be practised.

What’s the point? One could, I suppose, ask the same question about music, the arts, dance, and other aspects of real life culture – what is the function of these things in a virtual world? What good do they do?

Il Teatro Della Basilica @ Basilique

Il Teatro Della Basilica @ Basilique, by Floriana Thor

To take an evolutionary view, one might think that if these things didn’t have a function, societies without these things would have an advantage over societies with these things. Instead, we see the opposite in real life. That advantage, however, is fading – as we see the importance of religiosity declining over the last 50 years as our society collectively relies more on secular knowledge, institutions and systems to help make it work.

Religion – like art, music and culture of any kind – provides many important functions in real life society. It provides contentment to people and cohesion among groups. It serves to teach a society’s values. It helps to motivates members within these groups to make efforts that go beyond basic needs, like sex, subsistence and safety.

Evidence of religious belief and practice shows that it emerged as far back as 250,000 years ago, but religion – like so much else – has changed since the emergence of agriculture. One of the early purposes of religion was for explanation (e.g. origin myths aimed at answering questions like “Where did everything come from?” and “Who created us?”). Science has since provided us with plausible, evidence-based answers to most of these questions, which lessens the existential purpose that belief in religious and mythical stories once served.

Religion has served as a useful tool in creating standardised organisation that helps a society’s leaders teach and exert obedience. This is useful for larger societies – that get larger than tribal – where decision-making necessarily must be necessarily practiced more non-face to face.

God creates Adam

God creates Adam

Historically, decision makers (society’s leaders) have justified their existence (and their theft of property from the population that convert these resources into valuable things) through organised religion. It was a handy ‘you-scratch-my-back-while-I-scratch-yours’ arrangement, with religious leaders reinforcing the teachings of the kings and chiefs in order to retain their power as well.

Religion’s role in teaching and controlling obedience has since been superseded with the standardised organisation that modern capitalism and other secular systems now demand. Capitalism at least, is a highly visible feature of our virtual world, but because we don’t need to work or buy things in the virtual world in order to subsist in it – mass-scale social organisation becomes less important. Instead, we organise ourselves in smaller, detached communities of shared interests, with religion being only one of these possible shared interests, and a relatively rare one.

Religion has also been useful when teaching moral precepts. For example, religion has been instrumental in telling you that you are not allowed to kill someone else, unless there is a special reason. All major religions teach what is right and what is wrong. This function was designed to help us get along in larger societies because these moral precepts helped us behave in larger groups. In modern society, however, religion’s role in teaching these moral precepts is now superseded by law. In the virtual world, we have unwritten rules, the guidelines enforced by community leaders, and Second Life Community Standards, which incidentally, outlaws not only the intolerance of religious differences, but also the disclosure of someone’s religious beliefs without their consent.

Religion also serves to justify theft and wars. This was not a problem for tribal societies, who’s main justification for aggression and stealing from each other was survival. In modern societies, however, the state tells you whom you should not steal from and whom you cannot kill. Similarly, the state also tells you when it’s ok to steal from others, or when it is acceptable to kill people who are outside of the society. In virtual worlds, however, theft is much more difficult (although not impossible – as in the case of intellectual property) and physical violence is not even possible.

Morphe’s Cathedral at Morphe Northwinds, by Caity Tobias

When you consider the main purposes of religion, it becomes harder and harder to argue they have a place in a virtual world. Yet observe religious ideas we continue to do.

Personally, my fascination for religion arises from my keen interesting in history and culture. Because so much of that history is also deeply embedded in faith, I can’t fully understand one without acknowledging and trying to understand the other. This approach has given me, I believe, a deep appreciation for the importance of religion in peoples’ lives – both physical and virtual, and how so much of what we call culture today is a product of faith.

Therefore, I embrace the cultural output of religion – in the real and the virtual world. In Second Life, I use these religious outputs as part of the digital expressions I create – from Basilique, which is based on a highly religious society – and indeed named after a building that has the celebration of faith as its primary purpose – the Basilica.

My major work in Second Life – Paradise Lost – chronicles some of the most important Christian stories known. Paradise Lost was effectively 60 minutes of religious stories from the Old and New Testament set against Mozart’s church music. To my surprise, neither of these facts seemed to put many people off enjoying the production.

I am far from the first to interpret religious stories liberally, but I enjoyed doing so. For example, I portrayed God as a Hulk-like ecological spirit and Satan a young girl. I showed Adam and Eve graphically engaged in sexual intercourse – where the Bible only alludes to it. I portrayed Jesus and the apostles as dark-skinned middle eastern men.

Despite my concerns about my interpretations, I only had one physical protester – which some might say is a hint of popular success.

Paradise Lost - Press Premiere - The Basilica

Inside the Basilica at Basilique, by Caity Tobias

One of the more memorable aspects of the performance was the building in which it was presented – the Basilica San Pietro Martire. In many ways, this building acted as another character in the play. Today, you can go there if you want to find some virtual peace, sit quietly in the pews, and listen to the sounds of Gregorian chanting.

For some, that is the most important thing religion and spirituality provides – a sense of solace and communion with a higher power, and often, a way to give meaning to our otherwise biological existence. Seeing as religious belief has been a part of the human condition since we started walking on two legs, it makes sense that we’d import this aspect of culture, despite it having very little practical use in the virtual world.

Personally, I’d consider myself a foxhole atheist. I’m the type of atheist that cries out to God when under distress. The last time I was under that kind of distress, was when I prayed that my cat might survive his terminal illness. I remember the moment clearly, sitting on the couch as he slept on my lap, leaning my head back and closing my eyes, and hearing myself mentally ask God to let him live.

Distress follows us from our real lives into the digital, and many of us have felt real life distress as a result of our experiences in our digital lives. At these times, I can completely appreciate the solace one might find in places that invoke religious – or spiritual – connection. Why wouldn’t someone who is a believer not want to practice the faith that might help define their lives in a virtual world as well?

We trade so much across our physical/digital borders – culture, values, attitudes, lifestyles, knowledge – why wouldn’t religion be one of these things that can enrich the experience of the faithful – and even the experience of those who do not believe?

A detail of the facade of Morphe’s Cathedral at Morphe Northwinds, by Caity Tobias

I’ve read that what sets us apart from other living things is our culture – which could be defined as anything that goes beyond the basic satisfaction of physical needs. Human culture – in this way – can be defined as everything that we express beyond breathing, digestion and reproduction. When you think of all the beautiful things that have been created in the service of faith – from music to painting to architecture to poetry – why would we ever want to be without it? Even more curious, what might replace faith and religion if it one day goes away? Will science and commerce one day inspire the sheer fantastical inefficiency and unnecessariness of art that faith has been able to influence – even in a virtual world?

I’m not so sure.

Whether one is a believer or not, one cannot help but be affected by the faith and religion of others, and the many artistic and cultural products that have become an indispensable layer of the rich fabric of our historically religious past. Faith and religion are a part of what makes us human – and for that reason – they have a place in virtual worlds like Second Life, despite their lack of practical necessity.

What’s your view?

How the ellipsis is the slug trail of our text chat…

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Scrubbing up

I’m going to get those pesky varmints if it’s the last thing I do!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with the overuse of ellipses.

An ellipsis is a “series of dots that usually indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning”. (Wiki)

Ellipsis look like this: …

And yes, I’m done with them.

On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the full point, or full stop (what North Americans call the ‘period’) when ending a statement. In chat, the considerate use full stops to politely let others know that they’ve finished what they are saying, and are now inviting the other person to either respond or comment.

I’ve recently began experimenting with the use of full stops to punctuate words in a phrase. For example: ‘Oh. My. God.’ Somehow, it seems so much more fitting to genuine frustration than the often used ‘OMG’ or ‘Oh my god’.

I also enjoy seeing and using commas when they help to communicate meaning. For example, I love cooking, my friends, and my cat. Commas are useful here, because I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I love cooking my friends and my cat.

One thing I find that crosses the grammatical misdemeanour line is the inappropriate apostrophe. Seriously people, lets get you’re apostrophe’s sorted!!! Oh, I mean, let’s get your apostrophes sorted!!! And. while I’m at it, keep your exclamation marks under control and stop yelling, for goodness sake.

On the flip side, I get positively giddy at the sight of a courageously and correctly used semi-colon; it’s used so rarely, so it really gets my attention.

Sometimes, when words fail, a single punctuation mark can stand in as emotive shorthand. For example, I’ll use the following punctuation marks (alone, without accompanying text) to communicate certain reactions:

  • a sole exclamation mark (!), when I’m surprised or shocked about something I just read
  • a sole question mark (?), when I want to communicate that I don’t understand what I’ve just read.

I appreciate that this might not be grammatically correct, but in a world where nonverbal cues are non-existent, I’ll use what I can to get my point across.

Which brings me… to the unfortunate use… and heinous over-use… of the ellipses. Just. Stop. It. Please!

Yes, the ellipsis can have important uses in online chat. For example, one might want to communicate that one hasn’t finished what one is saying yet (so don’t interrupt me) …

Or, one might want to communicate pauses, while emoting; although I might instead use a dash – because dashes are more confident and decisive. Just look at them; you know it’s true.

Sometimes, I’ll use the sole ellipsis when I’m waiting for someone to respond to my question, such as in the following example:

00:09:45 – Becky: “Hey Joe, how are you this morning?”

Insert the hopeful sound of typing here.

00:09:47 – Becky:  “…”

Insert more typing sounds, and Joe’s typing animation, here.

00:09:49 – Joe: “I’m ok”

The ellipsis, used in almost every other situation, suggests uncertainty, insecurity, distress, or confusion. Some might even consider it passive aggressive. No doubt you’ve had the dubious pleasure of seeing a mysterious ellipsis-followed response to something you might have said? Take the following exchange, for instance:

Becky: “I’d really like to listen to some good blues music and dance my butt off today!”

Joe: “ok…”

You can hear the sound of Joe’s “ok…” in your head, right?

What the hell is he intending to communicate? Is he trying to give me the impression that he agrees with what I’ve said, but not 100%? Does he like blues music, but not dancing to it? Or is it the blues music he’s uncertain about? Maybe he prefers rock? Does he need me to be more specific about when or where I’d like to go? Was my idea not specific enough, so now he’d like me to complete the thought? Does he have verbal constipation and just can’t get a proper response or comment out? Did he really feel the need to add those extra two keystrokes at the end of that full stop in some vague attempt to make me think that he’s deep, or lost somewhere in his ambiguous reverie?

No, just come off it. I know exactly what you’re doing, Joe. You keyed those extra two full stops deliberately. You’re trying to give me an attitude, or you’re silently judging the merit of my ideas, or you’re just generally trying to block my chi. Well, way to go, Joe! You did it! Job well done! Congratulations, shit head!

Ok, maybe I don’t exactly experience that reaction every time I see an ellipsis following a vague statement – like a verbal slime trail follows a slug of an incomplete thought. However, I bet it happens more often than we think.

So, when it comes to using the ellipsis: get a bloody spine. Stop lingering. Take a stand and be deliberate! Get off the fence and stop leaving verbal mucus all over my freshly polished chat space.

Don’t make me get the salt out, because you know I will.

Double threat

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I just love my Maitreya Body

Two of my favourite things: Logo and Maitreya

And it’s time yet again for another Berry Meme! This time, we’re asked to “Share your answers to the following suggestions. Don’t forget to link your post in the comments.”

Two online screen names you’ve had:

  1. Becks
  2. Becky – that’s it.

Two video games you’ve played: Only two? The most recent games I’ve played have been

  1. GTA5 – Yes, I am a car-thieving bad-ass in another life
  2. The Last of Us

Two things you love about Second Life:

  • My friends
  • Basilique

Two things you’ve done in Second Life: Biggest highlights so far are:

Two things you still want to do in Second Life:

  • Build out Basilique to merge in more surrounding countryside, and begin staging an improvisational, immersive theatre production on multiple, connected regions.
  • Finish my book on Second Life Etiquette.

Two things you like about your Second Life avatar: This sounds awfully narcissistic, but…

  1. My head
  2. My shape / body.

Two of your Second Life Pet Peeves:

  1. Rude people and the things they say and do
  2. The unreliability of our online relationships with others

Two things you did as a newb that you’re embarrassed of: I suppose the answer to this depends on how long I considered myself a newb… Ok, let’s say the first three years, during which I spent way much too much time…

  1. bumming around on a nude beach doing sweet F.A.
  2. pole dancing for tips

Two of your closest friends in Second Life: Only two again?? Hmm, this time I have to (gasp) break the rules and list my closest SL friends alphabetically:

  1. Abi
  2. Caity
  3. Kris
  4. Nearly
  5. Ylva

Two of the most beloved things in your inventory:

This will be a repeat of the answer to the previous questions about what I love about my avatar:

  1. My Maitreya Lara mesh body
  2. My Logo Chloe mesh head

Bonus! I have one more question I’d like to answer of my own:

What two things did you learn about your Second Life from doing this Meme?

  1. I find it very challenging to limit anything I have feelings about to only two things!
  2. At the end of the day, it’s always, always, always, about the relationships – that’s what matters, most of all.

Breaking news: OnLive quits Second Life – SL Go cancelled

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sl-go-appDisappointing news, quoted from the Onlive Website:

It is with great sadness we must announce that OnLive’s SL Go service will be coming to an end. Sony is acquiring important parts of OnLive, and their plans don’t include a continuation of the SL Go service. However, your service should continue uninterrupted until April 30, 2015. No further subscription fees will be charged, and you can continue to enjoy SL Go on all of your devices until that date.

In our year of SL Go service, we have become quite close to the Second Life® community. Thanks to your patronage and constructive feedback, SL Go became one of OnLive’s most successful services. We know how important SL Go is for many of you, and it saddens us to bring the service to a close. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to you for being a part of “SL Go by OnLive” and wish you all the best.

With warmest regards,

Everyone at OnLive

I know that many Second Life users have enjoyed this service. I’ve been one of them. I’m sorry to see this go, and hope someone sees the opportunity available in this space to fill the void.