Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Things I learned at SLCC 2008--it's all about the Love

Let me note first, this is written under the influence of narcotics. That being said....

I went to SLCC this weekend. To any "normal" person, that means nothing. To many SL residents, it means that I rallied myself and got on a plane to face a large group of people I have only known as idealized cartoons. The very obvious things I learned in no particular order:

1. There is a wide variety of people who engage in Second Life, across ages, genders (and I mean more than two), races, economic status, and country of origin. I was truly amazed by the variety pf people at the conference--from nice soccer moms to young geeks, from serious businessmen to wild and crazy girls who want to have fun. Our one shared identifier is a deep abiding love for our virtual worlds, our virtual selves, and our virtual communities.

And boy oh boy, we're talking Love with a capital L. I have been accused of being "addicted." There were people at the conference who had their laptops open 24/7. There were people whose speech was riddled with "rez" and "tp" and "crash." There were people who wore tails to reflect their furriness (you know who you are, Hydra).

It was amazing to see a nice middle-aged mother in her practical shoes talking animatedly to a thin short young man with a streak of pink in his hair and piercings along his ear. Or to see two straight-looking businessmen talking very animatedly with a short woman wearing faux wings and glittery eye makeup. Or in my case, a very ordinary middle-aged woman in the company of three handsome gentlemen, being treated like a queen (thank you, Xavier, Blaze and Gellan).

2. A corollary to that is that the people who organized this convention were incredible: Crucial Armitage, Nexeus Fatale, Rhiannon Chatnoir, Fleep Tuque, Misty Rhodes, and I know others I missed. They worked their butts off, no compensation, little glory. That includes the many volunteers

Which brings me back to this Love thing. These folks Love SL and the people in it. They were unremittingly enthusiastic, hard working, resourceful, cheerful, fun--amazing people who did it for the Love of SL and its residents. (Obviously nuts, all of them!)

3. None of us look like our avatars. I was not expecting that--I am not that naive and God knows I don't look like my avatar. Some people looked *better* (Eshi, Nexeus, Bevan, Filthy, Arminasx, Xavier among them--am I violating a confidentiality rule by disclosing that these people are RL hawt?). It was wonderful seeing the RL people who dwell in the avatars. I will never see their names and think about them the same way.

4. We all have two names. I spent the entire weekend responding to "Harper." My family would have thought that was weird. But Raven is only Raven to me. I wonder what it means to name oneself. In doing so, are we taking control of our lives, both in SL and in RL, and remaking our lives in something we can envision? I think so. I think it empowers us to place our lives in this fantasy world and then let some of it bleed over into our real lives.

By the way, one can pronounce Arminasx's name, somehow. I would say, "Arminaa..." and mumble the ending.

5. The Lindens are people too. Up until now, I never really associated with Lindens in world, despite the FIC label that was thrown at me. This is due, in part, to the fact that I figured they are busy people who don't have time to chat with residents. I came to understand, however, part of their job is chatting with residents. They are recipients of our energy, ideas, enthusiasm and they channel that into their work. They are also very smart and thoughtful people who have discussed what we discuss ad nauseum and are thinking of beyond a lot of what we address.

And let me note that they are just as frustrated with the problems SL has as the residents are. They are working hard on fixing this stuff and work on it tirelessly. (All I can think of is Prospero Linden, who just did a play on SL in his off time, telling me he interrupted his day and missed a number of presentations to go in a conference room and log on to help them fix problems this weekend--it's not his job but he did it anyway.)

They are as much in Love with SL as we are. Think--the vast majority of them have alts wherein they "play" online--building, performing (in Prospero's case), dancing, creating. They spend all day working in SL and then playing at night. They are bigger freaks than we are! ;)

They are also really nice folks, as diverse and funky as the population they serve. The Internet was once the domain of white geek boys--no more!

6. The friendships we made in SL are REAL. I think we all suspect it when we are in world, but it never becomes tangibly clear until we are face to face with the human who operates our friend's avatar. I have spent each and every day since Raven and I met talking to her. We talk in voice, in type, in email. Few people get as much contact with me as she does. And when we met, we fell right into place. I stayed at her beautiful home, and it was like being with family. I was completely comfortable.

Meeting Eshi was also a huge event for me. She is also like a sister to me. In fact, someone commented that we looked like sisters. She is the beautiful, vibrant, intelligent woman I knew she was. I wanted to take her home with me.

Meeting Xavier, Blaze, and Gellan was also huge. I cried when Xavier left the night he went back to his hotel. I wanted to take them all home with me. I wanted to wrap them up, take them home, and feed them waffles.

And meeting people like Teagan Linden, Arminasx, Tuna Oddfellow, Mia Linden, Georgianna Blackburn, Beyers Sellers and Bevan Whitfield, Hydra Shaftoe... it was amazing!

7. Having a toothache during SLCC sucks. Well this is a caveat. I didn't get to post about such a rich experience as Arminasx had as I was in dire pain from a toothache. I got off the plane from Tampa and within an hour and a half, I was in my dentist's chair, being poked and drilled as he started a root canal on me. I was miserable most of the weekend because of it, and yet I am still glad I went and I did have a lot of fun!

Please note this entire blog was written under the influence of heavy pain killers so I am not as eloquent as usual. I could riff about having two (or more) names for a whole blog if not drugged up. In fact, I could write a whole paper. Of course, I may simply be tripping right now. Who knows?


nulloperations said...

Great post and looking forward to the next time you come down Harper! It was great having you here with us in Tampa and we look forward to the next convention and the craziness.

caLLie cLine said...

aww harper, that sounds so wonderful... seeing the photos on flickr and all your smiling faces and bright eyes had quite an impact on me... being there had to be amazing.

great post and i look forward to reading more of "harper's bizzare"... great name btw.

xoxo, caLLie

Forelle Broek said...

I was already sorry I didn't make it to Tampa. But now I'm extra sorry, knowing I missed the chance to meet you in person. Oh well.

Kristine Schomaker said...

Hiya Harper..your post brought me to tears, but I'm home sick and kinda delirious anyway..hehe But really, I kept up through twitter and flickr and really wished I could be there meeting all of you wonderful peeps. I have been lucky enough to meet quite a few people from SL who I call my RL friends. I agree they were as generous, sincere, loving and amazing people in RL as in SL. Thank you for a wonderful post. If you were under the influence, I can't wait to read more when you are non-drugged up..hehehe Hope you feel better soon. Love ya Gracie

Rob said...

It was great to see you, too, Harper. Now you can add one more thing you learned at SLCC 2008...SL means never having to say "my avatar needs a root canal!" Hope you recover before the narcotics are gone, so you have some left over.

Fleep Tuque said...

Yikes! I had no idea you were in such misery, hope you have a speedy recovery!!

It was so great to meet you, my only regret is that we were so run off our feet doing logistics and supporting presenters that I felt like I had almost NO TIME to just hang out with people!! Ah well, there's always next year and I left Tampa with a warm fuzzy glow that there are so many truly wonderful people in this crazy world of ours, I'm glad for whatever time we did get to spend together. xoxo.

Chrome said...

Brilliant, Harper, and refreshingly honest. We've enhanced our lives by daring to live out our fantasies; then we discover that our fantasies have actually put us in touch with the better part of ourselves and others. Life is better the second time around, no? :)

LDinSTL said...

Great post Harper! Sorry we didn't have a chance to chat more--so many SL folks there, so little time!

I spent much of the weekend as an observer, fighting off my RL shyness and following on the coat-tails of my SL luminary friends (you, Bevan, Coughran, Mariis, Heidi, Beyers, and more...you all know who you are).

But because of those good friends, and some who I got to know better because of their extreme friendliness and kindness (LifeFactory, Eshi, Eureka, Fab, Fleep, Arminasx, Star, Spike Linden and many more--who did I forget!?) it was still great fun, enlightening, and makes it suck even more to have a RL that demands too much of my attention. What a massive amount of talent there is in the Metaverse!

But if you ask my RL family and friends, they would definitely say that SL takes too much of me as it is!

And for anyone who mistook my shyness for aloofness or lack of interest--I sincerely apologize. That's not who I am. Look me up in-world any time, and I hope that RL demands will not keep us from getting better acquainted! Sadly, they might...

Chimera Cosmos

hydra said...

Damn harper. you're good.

Moggs Oceanlane said...

I commented on plurk how nice it was to have friends and community members share the SLCC experiences with us.

I'm the other side of the world but felt included through voice chats, IM's, blog posts, plurk posts and flickr photostreams (I even created a plurk thread as a kind of repository that I could put all of my links in to share with others - http://www.plurk.com/p/3pxgp).

Your update is wonderful and so consistent with what I've heard or seen from others.

Despite the often negative press Second Life receives from the paranoid, it is an amazing community full of people exhibiting all forms of intelligence - intellectual, creative, social, practical, etc. Second Life seems to have a way of bringing people together. The community is very supportive which has been demonstrated over and over by residents helping others in RL even though they may not know the person's name or may never have met them. I certainly feel honoured to be part of the community.

Like you I am impressed that every type of person from every walk of life seems to be represented in the Second Life community and love the fact that I get to meet people via Second Life that I may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet.

Second Life isn't just about the platform - the second life community on plurk, for instance, is very visibly a community who play together, share ideas, offer support and all manner of crazy stuff. (Second Lifers on Plurk - http://www.plurk.com/p/3z9d3).

Thanks again for sharing, I loved your words.