Culture of Second Life
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Activities of residents
Residents engage in many activities, just as people do in real life. Unlike real life, there is no biological need to seek nourishment or shelter. Thus some activities that would be necessary in the real world are purely voluntary leisure pursuits. People still often live in virtual houses, and enjoy virtual food and drink.
Residents explore, interact with one another, and create new "content." Exploration is like travel in the real world. One searches for places which might be interesting, and then goes there, sometimes even at random. There is a plethora of different destinations that one can travel to at the click of a button. Some of these destinations are real places like London or Paris, and some are imaginary places or places from the past. Individuals explore alone, but often small groups explore together. Some exploration is spontaneous, but there are also more-or-less organized tours, and there are even travel agents.
Interaction occurs via text chat, text instant messaging, or voice, not unlike the popular Internet applications, except that full 3D visuals are usually included. Interaction is also behavioral, such as when friends and strangers assemble at a club to dance or flirt while listening to recorded or live music.
Creation is changing the appearance and behavior of the Second Life virtual world including the avatar itself. Building a house, gardening, creating new clothes, and creating a new dance are all examples of creation. Some advanced examples are publishing a magazine or making a movie or TV show all within Second Life.
The "Community" section of Second Life allows residents to use blogs and forums to share pictures and ideas with other residents. It also allows residents who belong to the same group to chat about current events within the community. The "Events" subset of the Community section gives the resident a calendar to plan upcoming activities or to create their own activity.
Second Life comprises various diverse, user-driven subcultures. There are few pre-determined structures, so what organization that exists has evolved to meet the wants and needs of the residents. Some residents will have an avatar that is clearly human male or female, and some will have an avatar where the gender is less obvious, or entirely androgynous; it is easy for a user to change the appearance of the avatar to either gender. Also, there are many non-human avatars, like "furries", or hybrids, like neko (feline), inu (canine), nezumi (mouse/rat), and kitsune (fox) that have more of human shape and features, but distinct skin markings, ears and tail. Robots and fantasy creatures, such as dragons can also be found.
Some residents choose to re-enact some specific world, such as medieval Japan or ancient Rome. They choose to act out this world like real life historical re-creators do. As usual, residents are free to move in and out of these worlds as they see fit. Virtual property rights come into play here, since the property owner can choose to expel residents who don't abide by the property regulations, which in these case might include dress, language, and behavior. There are also areas that re-create worlds from literature, such as Frank Herbert's Dune or John Norman's Gor or from video games such as the Final Fantasy or the Star Wars series.
Some of the subcultures in Second Life revolve around events. Events include many activities related to arts, culture, charity, support groups, commerce, discussion, education, games, contests, nightlife, entertainment, pageants, and sports.
There is a built-in mechanism for organizations called the group. A group can be created by a resident for a fee of L$100, who then has three days to recruit an additional member. A group must then maintain a membership of at least 2 members at all times in order to remain active. The groups that each Resident belongs to are displayed in that user's profile. Group membership provides a means of self-identification and self-expression, and facilitates member to member communication in a number of ways. A group comprises officers and members, with titles determined by group leadership. The Owner, Member (referred to by the client as Everyone) or the title for any custom roles may appear superimposed above the name of the Resident's avatar. Residents may participate in up to 42 groups, and may choose which group's title to display at any given time. Group activity is usually centered on a particular interest, so creating groups can give people a common ground for discussion and provide an easy way to break the ice. Some groups maintain websites to bridge the gap between real-life (referred to as "first life", or abbreviated to "RL" for "real-life") and Second Life (commonly abbreviated as SL, but 2L is also used) interests.
Groups are allowed ownership of land and resources, so they comprise the closest thing to a corporation within the Second Life environment.
Second Life is also being influenced by many Internet phenomena which include the Moskau Dance, Ulae, Miko Miko Nurse, Yoshio Kojima and Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Many of these memes are in the form of gestures, which are animations that the avatar uses. These gestures are a cause of Internet culture spread in Second Life.
The majority of the content in the Second Life world is Resident-created. Linden Lab actively promotes the concept that Residents retain the intellectual property rights to objects they create (although they are required to offer Linden Lab a limited license for the purposes of promotion and marketing. Many sales are through the online site Second Life Marketplace.
Only LSL scripts, wearables, images made from in world snapshots, and the basic 3D objects (called "Primitives" or "Prims") or composites of scripts, images and prims, can be created solely with the client (although a future release promises to be able to create animations, as BVH files, within the client).
Textures can be uploaded as TGA, Bitmap, JPEG and PNG, and are made in applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, or The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Textures can be applied to the surface of any 3D object, land, clothing, an avatar's skin (including tattoos) and can be used as scripted particles.
Sounds can be made using any piece of software capable of creating WAV files, ranging from an Operating System's basic sound recorder, media players such as foobar2000, as well as dedicated audio editing packages such as Audacity and Pro Tools.
Every resident has access to a library of textures, animations, sounds and objects provided by Linden Lab, found in the Library folder. Textures, animations and sounds cost L$10 each to upload. JPEGs, although smaller in file size, are not recommended since they will be converted to JPEG2000 file format on upload regardless of original file format. TGA files have the added advantage of alpha channel transparency. Images are sized to the next smallest of a series of defaults, with the largest being 1024x1024.
- A series of GUI controls, modifying every aspect of the basic mesh (body shape, skin, hair style etc.)
- Creating clothing or buying clothes made by other Residents
- Attachments — 3D objects intended to supplement or replace body structure, clothes or hair
- Animation Overriders (intended to supplement or replace the stock set of animations) using LSL to trigger BVH format animations.
- Sonic Overriders — using LSL to trigger sounds such as footsteps, or emotive cues such as laughing, crying and orgasms.
The result can either be faithful to the original humanoid avatar, or can result in a completely non-humanoid representation of the character. These customizations can be packaged up into a single outfit, with common applications of outfits including animals, robots, mechs, furries, Clone Troopers and "tinies", which are just "folded up" (via a static animation — a "pose") regular avatars.
Second Life includes a built-in 3D Modeler that allows Residents to create complex objects out of a set of basic building blocks known as prims (short for "primitives") - parametric models supporting dynamic scalar level of detail. Second Life uses Havok for simulated physics, though not all objects in the world respond to physics. A future update will include Havok 4 support, an improvement that Second Life residents have awaited since it was first announced by Linden Lab before June, 2002. All objects and 3D information are streamed in real-time to all clients. This allows for real-time editing of 3D objects so any Resident can view what is being created as it is being created.
The 3D objects can be used to make avatar attachments, vehicles, buildings, furniture, sculpture or anything else the user can think of. Attachments can be something as simple as a pair of glasses, or a complex series of objects in order to make the avatar look like something else entirely. Vehicles can range from a small pair of roller skates to a car, to large and full scale replica of fictional vehicles from Sci-Fi and Anime
In the first half of 2007 Linden Lab added a new feature to Second Life: the possibility to create sculpted prims. Whereas prims are based on simple geometrical shapes, as cylinders, cubes, or spheres, sculpted prims are based on a special type of displacement maps, where the red, green and blue components indicate how to position the vertexes of one of the 4 base shape topologies (sphere, cylinder, torus and plane).
LSL is used to drive all interactivity in Second Life that isn't provided by the interface. For instance, while it is possible to sell an object by leaving the object out with the correct attributes set via the interface, it becomes increasingly difficult the larger a single object is, the more numerous a collection of objects are, or for objects that are updated on a regular basis. Textures, scripts, animations, gestures and notecards cannot be sold by themselves (although they can be transferred between Residents in such a manner), requiring them to be held within a containing object. Games, doors, flashing lights, and basically anything that is seen in Second Life that is interactive is scripted.
The largest external influence is Linden Lab itself, which ultimately controls the virtual rule. Thus, it has been argued that one way to improve ones chances of success in a Second Life endeavor is to gain the ear of Linden lab. Linden Lab runs the "economy" of second life, and has Ginsu Linden in charge of economic policy. Linden Lab also has business ties with other companies, and these are sometimes seen as having disproportionate influence by Second Life residents.
Another external influence on second life is the self-selecting nature of Second Life residents. What influence this has been a matter of debate in the Second Life Community.
However, in Second Life itself, the most controversial external influence is "Real Life" or "First Life." This is often abbreviated as "RL" or "FL" by Second Life residents, just as the "SL" abbreviation is nearly ubiquitous. RL's influence means that activities are interrupted, schedules changed and projects are delayed to accommodate the demands of "RL," particularly in reference to work and relationships that have to be done RL. Many Second Life residents refuse to connect their "RL" with their "SL," and argue that their Second Life existence stands or falls on its own merits. Identities in Second Life can relate to the users' personality or creating their own character. It is based on their decisions on how to express themselves. Most avatars are human, but they can choose to be vampires or animals. Sometimes, whatever they choose don't relate to their offline selves. Through recent years using their real life identity or creating a fictional alias is still debatable. Many users get confused with the difference between SL and RL, and many users want to remain anonymous as they get worried about revealing information about themselves to complete strangers in Second Life including family life or any personal contact details. Others make hardly any difference between RL en SL as can be read in Second Life Love. One way that this influence shows up is in the contact points between a Second Life identity and a Real Life identity, including, but not limited to, the use of voice in second life, the payment of taxes and the various moves to "verify" that a particular avatar is associated with a particular real world individual.
Linden Labs and Real Life often combine to produce pressures on residents to pay the usage fees on Second Life virtual land, which requires earning money through selling of goods, virtual land itself, or services, or other activities which are intended to accrue Linden Dollars.
A growing external influence is the list of real world corporations, including IBM, General Electric, Sun Microsystems and Cisco. These corporations hire builders, recruit residents and have a presence in Second Life for a variety of goals and objectives. In addition to the money they spend on second life, their employees have varying degrees of commitment to VR as a whole, for example IBM has an evangelist named Ian Hughes (aka epredator) whose in world name is "ePredator Potato." What this presence means for Second Life as a whole is also a matter of discussion among residents.
Finally, the international nature of Second Life, and its generally individualist bent, means that fear of government meddling or interference in activities in Second Life, including bans on gambling, sale of equities, enforcement of differing laws on obscenity and pornography, particularly age play, as well as imposition of taxes such as the Value Added Tax, is a very present concern as an external influence. While there have been some court cases involving Second Life, in general, it has not been established how much actual influence has been exerted in Second Life by RL governments, though the gambling ban by Linden Labs and the imposition of the VAT are widely blamed by residents on government interference.
On the other hand, some governments showed interest in Second Life and its potential. For example, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development gave Giuseppe Macario the responsibility of conducting the first Italian experiment of social entrepreneurship in Second Life.
One of the particular fears is the loss of the anonymity which many residents use to conduct activities that they do not wish to have associated with their real life identity, which means that moves to verify identity are often met with stiff resistance.
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