Waking from the virtual dream

Towards the end of 2011 I wrote a post about the different strands of my online life; back then this blog, and my associated Second Life persona, were by far the most time-consuming portion of my virtual existence.

Fast-forward to today, and we find SLS almost moribund, and my avatar utilised only sporadically. The total time I spend online is about half what it was, and my most active presence is the Facebook account which carries my real name.

Does this shift away from anonymity and virtuality have any deeper meaning? Probably not. My retreat from the (relative) depth of blogging into the shallows of social media seems to be in line with general trends, and there are various personal factors that have kept my focus on reality of late. I’m not sure whether these are good developments; the time I spend consuming mindless click-bait on Facebook probably would be better employed in composing thoughtful posts on this space, but I can’t say that eschewing SL interaction in favour of seeing my real friends a bit more has been an entirely bad thing. I am a bit sad that the liberation from corporeal limitations that Second Life seemed to promise never really materialised though.

I guess these things go in cycles. Perhaps come 2017 I’ll be be re-immersed in whatever iteration of virtual life is fashionable, and boring the world with my pseudo-philosophical pieces on the significance of it all. In the meantime I am going to keep on blogging – I’ve managed at least one post in each of the last 89 months, which seems too good a streak to break…

Seven Year Itch

I’ve not been paying much attention to this particular corner of my online life recently, so I nearly overlooked the fact that this our seventh birthday. I’d be prouder of keeping going this long if our content hadn’t been quite so lame recently. The anniversary might spur me back into action I guess…

This “Internet” thing might catch on

It’s a quarter of a century since Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for what became the World Wide Web; I got on board in 1996 via a 14.4 modem, Compuserve, Netscape Navigator and Geocities, but it wasn’t until May of 2007 that the medium finally reached its full potential with the debut of Second Life Shrink. I think it’s fair to say that there have been no significant developments in online culture since then, but we’re working on it…

2013: The Year in Review – Part 2: Blogging

The less said about this the better probably; the liveliness and relevance of my limited output this past year can perhaps be gauged by the observation that close to half of the posts I did manage were either obituaries or concerned historical subjects.

Anyway, here’s our top ten posts by traffic:

  1. Second Life demographics – a brief review
  2. On Second Life and addiction
  3. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
  4. Second Life, with graphics, on the iPhone?
  5. Free Pussy Riot!
  6. Zombie Epidemiology
  7. There is no land beyond the Volga
  8. What’s up
  9. Ferrisburg, Vermont
  10. The Social Network

Mostly old favourites, though I was glad to see that our commemoration of the heroes of Stalingrad made the list, since I think it was our best post of the year. I was also encouraged by the popularity of our “Free Pussy Riot!” message, which, who knows, may have been the crucial factor that persuaded President Putin to pardon Nadezhda and Maria (though I’m not entirely sure that everyone who viewed the post after searching for “second life free pussy” would have been similarly satisfied).

We continue to draw traffic from all corners of the globe; a total of 100 countries from Albania to Vietnam. Here’s the top ten:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Germany
  5. Australia
  6. France
  7. India
  8. Brazil
  9. Italy
  10. Sweden

So what of next year? Will I keep this blog going? I think so. I know that I have a guaranteed audience; my future self. I always enjoy looking back at my old posts, and reading what I thought about this and that. I’m annoyed that I didn’t write more this year; there were lots of stories that should have inspired me, and would have fitted in well with our general themes – stuff like the Chinese going to the moon, legalised pot in Uruguay (and Colorado and Washington), the omission of internet addiction from the DSM 5 (though Internet Gaming Disorder did make it into section III) – but now I’ll have to trust my unreliable memory to record my reaction to these events. That should spur me to more activity, for a while at least.

And will there be more Second Life content, like I promised not so long ago? Unfortunately my tablet broke down shortly after I posted that, so things will be on hold until I get round to fixing it. Don’t hold your breath…

Once more unto the breach

Back at the start of the month I renewed my SL premium membership, for about $80 (though it didn’t actually cost me any real money, since I never spend any of my monthly stipend, so I had accumulated enough Linden dollars to cover it), and for the last few weeks I’ve been wandering around the grid again, trying to get back into my virtual life after an absence of nearly two years.

I’d love to say that I’ve been as excited as I was when I first ventured into Second Life, over six years ago now, but sadly it’s all been somewhat underwhelming. This may partly be due to technical factors; I’m using the Lumiya viewer on a particularly cheap Android tablet, and the short draw distances and sluggish movement don’t make for a terribly immersive experience. Also, just about all the places I used to hang out seem to have disappeared, and the few friends I had are all long gone, so there’s no sense of familiarity.

I suspect though that the main problem is that, without the novelty and the hype of the early days, I’m coming face to face with the fact that virtual reality is actually fairly dull. I think that I’ve always sort of known that, but have been reluctant to admit it to myself, since it implies that this whole blogging project has been a complete waste of time.

Still, SLS is hardly the most egregious example of inefficiency in my life, so I guess I’ll keep plugging away. Who knows, I may stumble across something interesting again, and rediscover my joie de vivre virtuelle

CD

So here we are at post number 400. Looking back over the six and a half years it has taken us to get this far, I can’t avoid noticing that we have strayed somewhat from the purpose we outlined in our very first post:

My intention is … to wander around the likes of Second Life and report back on what I find, enlightening readers with erudite comments on the interaction that occurs there.

Regular readers will recall that the main reason for our recent lack of SL-related content is that my desktop computer is far too ancient to run the current iteration of the viewer. It’s about 18 months since I resolved to get a new(er) box, but I haven’t got around to it yet, partly because I’m too cheap to buy a brand new machine, and too lazy to order and fit the parts to upgrade my old one, but mostly because I never actually use my desktop these days, as my IT needs are all satisfied by my smartphone, from the comfort of my couch.

I had been waiting for Linden Lab to release an iPhone viewer, but there were no signs that was ever going to happen, so last week I finally lost patience, bought myself a cheap Android tablet, installed TPV Lumiya, and got myself back on the grid:

image

This set up is less than perfect; although Lumiya does have a fairly decent 3D mode the draw distance isn’t great, and it tends to slow down alarmingly if there are more than a couple of other people about. It’s hard to go to specific places too, since it isn’t possible to type in coordinates directly; instead one has to acquire and click on an SLURL via the web, which is a bit of a hassle. (Of course I haven’t bothered to RTFM, so there might be an easier way to get around; if anyone knows, please enlighten me.)

Nevertheless we are, potentially, back in the virtual world business; look out for some SL updates in the weeks ahead, before my attention inevitably wanders…

My God Is The Sun

Normally around now is when we start posting gloomy pieces about the falling leaves, the lengthening nights, and the looming onset of yet another brutal North European winter (usually shoehorning the change of season into some clumsy metaphor for the dread of mortality), but this year my characteristic summer contentment has persisted well past August for the first time in while, and I’m actually feeling fairly upbeat about the coming months.

This may be because I had a relatively straight-edge summer – I didn’t sign the pledge or anything, but I did largely eschew intoxication in favour of healthy outdoor pursuits. Back in high school they told us that a natural high was sweeter than any drug, and while I probably wouldn’t go that far, I will say that it was different, and it’s certainly left me in a better physical shape than I’ve been for ages. Perhaps it’s this echo of youthful vitality that’s allowing me to face the winter without the gnawing subconscious fear that I won’t see the spring, or it could just be that I spent enough time in the open air to be healed by the fire from above.

Either way, I can feel my natural slothfulness reasserting itself, so I expect I’ll soon be slipping into my default winter mode of minimal exertion and comforting overconsumption, and undoing all the good work I did over the summer. On the positive side this should mean that I have time to devote to more cerebral pursuits, like reading and watching movies, or even blogging, so there might be a little more activity in this space than there has been of late.

Green Typewriters

And we’re back… Slightly longer summer break than usual this year, for various reasons, not all connected to idleness. Mostly connected to idleness though.

But who can blame us for staying away from the internet? What with twitterised death threats, cyber-bullying, extreme porn everywhere, topped off by the NSA snooping on us all, browsing the web these days feels less like strolling around a virtual utopia, and more like dodging the cops in the town’s sleaziest neighbourhood.

It’s hard to believe that only a couple of years ago everyone was saying that social media was going to save the world, and even nominating the internet for the Nobel Peace Prize. One might almost suspect that these scare stories (mostly concerning phenomena which, while obviously serious, have been around for years) were being hyped up by the authorities, and their allies in the old media, to convince us that we should steer clear of any online content that isn’t government-approved.

Anyway, I’m thinking that we should take a tip from the Russians, and start producing SLS on paper, with typewriters. We could hand out hard copies in the street, to anyone who looked vaguely interested. Our productivity and readership couldn’t be any worse than they are now…

The blogging dead

I should have known that our obsession with the undead would end up turning us into a zombie blog – devoid of fresh content, but lurching on, in a grotesque parody of life.

The funny thing is we still get a respectable amount of traffic – a steady background buzz, with occasional inexplicable spikes. If I sold out my principles and put some advertising on the site I could just sit back and watch the fractions of a cent roll in.

Anyway, I’m feeling sorry what whichever low-level NSA analyst has been assigned the thankless task of trawling through our output looking for subversion, so I’ll try to make things a bit more interesting in the weeks ahead. Unless of course the sun appears, in which case we’ll be staying out for the summer….

The Joy of Six

Well, against the odds, we seem to have staggered our way through another year of blogging, though we’ve only managed 30 posts in the last twelve months, and the bulk of those were brief notes on general cultural and historical topics rather than the commentary on virtual life that is supposedly our raison d’être. There were a couple of pieces that I thought were up to our old standard, and a few more that were mildly diverting, but the general verdict is “Must try harder”.

One could argue that I should acknowledge that the well of inspiration is running dry, and wrap up this project before we descend even further into irrelevance, but I’m loathe to completely give up on my blogger identity, however tenuous my grasp on it is, so I expect we’ll trundle on for a while yet.

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