New Book on Second Life: Living and Dying in a Virtual World

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Last October, Dr. Margaret Gibson of Griffith University posted to the official Second Life forums:

Hi everyone, my name is Dr Margaret Gibson and I am writing a book with Clarissa Carden titled Living and Dying in a Virtual World: Digital Kinships, Commemoration and Nostalgia, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. See link:  https://sociologicalexplorations.com/second-life-living-and-dying-in-a-virtual-world/  We are writing a chapter on sentimental objects in SL and we would love to hear any of your stories. These could be things in your inventory that matter to you because someone died or they remind you of an important part of your SL or RL.   If you are interested in participating in the book more fully and being interviewed via chat in SL we would love to hear from you. As you can see from book title we are interested in death, grief, family relationships in SL, nostalgia…

Any responses will be anonymous and if you do not wish for your response on this forum to be included in the book please say so. Thanks!

Well, the results of that research have now been published by Palgrave MacMillan. Titled Living and Dying in a Virtual World: Digital Kinships, Nostalgia, and Mourning in Second Life, the book is described as follows:

This book takes readers into stories of love, loss, grief and mourning and reveals the emotional attachments and digital kinships of the virtual 3D social world of Second Life. At fourteen years old, Second Life can no longer be perceived as the young, cutting-edge environment it once was, and yet it endures as a place of belonging, fun, role-play and social experimentation.  In this volume, the authors argue that far from facing an impending death, Second Life has undergone a transition to maturity and holds a new type of significance. As people increasingly explore and co-create a sense of self and ways of belonging through avatars and computer screens, the question of where and how people live and die becomes increasingly more important to understand. This book shows how a virtual world can change lives and create forms of memory, nostalgia and mourning for both real and avatar based lives.

The book is rather expensive (Amazon.ca lists it at CDN$93.54), so see if you can get it through your library (I was able to access the electronic version via my university library’s SpringerLink ebook service). Thank God for libraries!

I am looking forward to reading this, and I may write a book review afterwards. Here’s a brief excerpt from the introduction:

Now that it is 14 years old, SL attracts less news attention. Where a reporter is assigned to cover a story relating to SL, their copy carries a faint air of astonishment, as though the author believes that this world ought, surely, to have disappeared by now. The fact that it persists goes against the grain of consumer media logic of upgrading, replacing, and letting go of the old for the new. It also speaks to an implicit recognition that the demographics of SL are not “young people” even though the image culture of avatars valorises the appearance of youth.

Despite this disconnection with media logics, SL has in no sense disappeared. Instead, it has been transformed. We argue in this book that SL is now a mature virtual world. It is a world in which residents have lived and lost. It is a world which has seen significant social changes. This is a typeof virtual world that has never existed—and which could not exist—at any previous moment in history. This is a book about the maturity that has come with age. Inevitably, as an extension of that, it addresses the memory, loss, and grief that have marked the lives of SL residents. It is also a book about the care and compassion residents show towards one another and about the strength of the attachments that are formed online.

Also, an older blogpost on a topic related to this: Why I want to leave my Second Life avatars to other people when I die.

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Book Review: Sansar Creator’s Guide, by Carl Fravel

Pasted image at 2017_08_02 12_51 AMI had blogged earlier about the first published book about Sansar, the Sansar Creator’s Guide, written by Carl Fravel. I agreed to write a review of Carl’s book in exchange for a free copy. Here is that review.

The book is only available in Kindle format from the Amazon store (here’s the link), and it sells for US$9.99. (Your price may vary depending on the currency used in your country’s Amazon store. In Canada it is selling for CDN$7.90.) The book has an extensive index and a helpful glossary of major terms used in virtual world building in general, and Sansar in particular (“experience”, “scene”, etc.).

I enjoyed reading this book. It was easy to read and Carl keeps the jargon to a minimum. There are a few sections that are much more technical, such as the section on how to create a skybox. I would recommend setting the more technical sections in this book aside until you are ready to tackle them. Carl also talks a bit about the social and philosophical aspects of virtual worlds, things which are often forgotten in other, more technically oriented, guides.

The book’s major sections are:

  1. Using Sansar
  2. Creating a Sansar Experience
  3. Creating Your Own Content
  4. Making Great Experiences
  5. Creator’s Alley – A Gallery of the Work of Gifted Artists
  6. Idea Box
  7. Generating Revenue with Sansar
  8. Glossary of Sansar Terminology
  9. Additional Resources

There is a section devoted to Blender. I was able to follow Carl’s excellent step-by-step instructions to create a very simple object in Blender, texture it, export it as an FBX file, and upload it into Sansar. The instruction level assumes that you do already have some familiarity with Blender, but you do not have to be an expert to gain value from it.

There are some omissions and inaccuracies that I discovered. I reported them to Carl and he might be making a revised edition to sell on Amazon. For example, there are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to create an object that teleports you to another location within the same scene when you touch it. Carl forgot to mention that the object must have a collision mesh, and be set to dynamic, for this to work.

In Part 7 of the book, Carl states “In Sansar you can control the access to your Experience in a way that allows you to not only put conditions on participation (age, dress code, etc.), but charge admission, or memberships.” This is incorrect. None of those features exist in Sansar right now, and it is not known when they will be available.

Also in the Appendix of tools, there is a mention of game engines such as Unity and Unreal, neither of which Sansar supports. Sansar has built its own in-house engine and Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg has said that they did that deliberately in order to avoid the problems frequently encountered when external game engines are updated. (For example, the virtual world Sinespace is built on the Unity engine, and creators are often warned not to install the latest update to Unity until all the bugs it created in Sinespace are fixed.)

Aside from these few minor quibbles, this is a very useful and well-written book. It’s the kind of resource that is useful to have open in a tablet (or a separate window) while you are running the Sansar client software, so you can refer to it. I can recommend it to anybody who wants to learn more about becoming a builder and creator in Sansar.