Mental Suburbia
January 18, 2007 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Fuck yeah. Subvert! Break it! Tag it! Glitch it!
posted by loquacious at 11:47 AM on January 18, 2007

Why walk when you can teleport -- the primary means of navigation in SL? With the combination of jump-cut transportation and avatars which are overwhelmingly more interesting than the architecture, Second Life presents the ultimate indictment of public space: why shape places when it's all about the people, anyway?

This cuts to the core of the biggest design mistake they made. For a long time, you could only move around SL by teleporting to 'telehubs', and then flying to your destination from there. This was done deliberately to give the world some space... it was modeled after subway stations. It was a great idea.

The residents screamed and bitched and moaned, and eventually LL gave in and implemented point to point teleport... and exactly as they had originally predicted when making the telehub design, the world collapsed. Everything is next to everything. There's no reason to fly around and just look at stuff anymore. You teleport wherever you want to be and you don't see anything else. This was a gigantic mistake on their part, and I think will contribute strongly to the game's eventual demise.
posted by Malor at 11:56 AM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I guess the most depressing thing about Second Life for me - and there are many depressing things about Second Life for me - is how impoverished peoples' ids, fantasies and imaginations turn out to be when set free (within the usual limits).

Why would we suppose for a second, anyway, that virtual creations inside a vritual space would be any less banal than the virtual creations inside the actual space of IRL that architecture students already create?
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:59 AM on January 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

How sad, but perfectly reflective of real desires.

At my university, many students rented poorly insulated, overpriced beach houses with extremely restrictive leases. The one next to mine was a large concrete house inspired by something the owner had seen in North Africa. He was mocked for not making his house look like the others.
posted by mkb at 12:00 PM on January 18, 2007

I have had it up to <makes gesture> here with Second Life. You think designing real life shit in second life is good? I can't even get people to submit print jobs to our large format printers in CMYK half the time -- you want to let plebian collaboration to play a direct role in the design of buildings? Unless linden labs has a physics supergenius on its staff, I doubt it can take into account all of the physical properties of building materials in the virtual world.

Look at this:
heatherring: Alpar's 3D Graffiti is brilliant -- not just for its mischief and street-art sensibility, but also because it utilizes the social properties of SL as a form of research and documentation on ideas of property ownership.
What form does this "research and documentation" take? Why, building neon green extensions on other people's property. What conclusion does the author publish? None. What does his research teach us that would not be immediately evident? Nothing. In fact, the only commentary offered says that people don't like having their creations in the game fucked with. Not earth shattering.
posted by boo_radley at 12:11 PM on January 18, 2007

So, when given the chance, the mass of men lead second lives of quiet desperation, too?
posted by kimota at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2007 [6 favorites]

posted by adamgreenfield at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2007

To be fair, there is a lot of quite nice stuff in SL. The tools are fairly primitive, but folks manage to do some nice work anyway. There's a sim devoted to the history of space exploration, for instance, and it has mockups of most or all of the boosters ever done, as well as a tour of the 'planets' that's quite good, considering what they have to work with.

The problem is -- and this is something the denizens have known about for at least a couple of years -- only a few people are really talented at doing this. When there were just a few people in-world, the place strongly selected for talent. As it has gotten large, it has also become quite boring and homogenous across large expanses. But real life is the same way. When was the last time you drove around your own neighborhood and saw something genuinely interesting?

Just like real life, beauty is mixed in with banality. People notice the mediocrity in SL because they really open their eyes and look. The vast majority of real life, subjected to the same scrutiny, would be just as boring. For every Taj Mahal or Hoover Dam or Golden Gate Bridge, there's about five million trailer parks.

Real life, by and large, is pretty damn boring too.
posted by Malor at 1:41 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Real life, by and large, is pretty damn boring too.

But isn't that one of the primary motivations for building a "Second Life" in the first place?
posted by treepour at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2007

I keep hearing all this hype about SL and have tried it maybe 5 times, but each time I install it the game runs at a crawl. Even with all the settings turned down, which makes the place look far worse than it does normally, the game is still unplayable. My machine (built specifically for video games) is not the issue.

I can't get past the beginning areas without completely flying into a rage and uninstalling the damn thing. EVERY TIME.
posted by dozo at 2:15 PM on January 18, 2007

What we need is a Third Life to answer all these complaints.
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I enjoy my time in Second Life - to me it's a very enjoyable 'let's pretend' space. I don't mind the banality because it does set a comparative environment for the beauty. And as compared to most other virtual spaces, I rarely have to worry about being the target of another player's animonsity despite the media's sensationalization of griefing. I love building things and though I have no talent for it I don't care - it's like doll dressup and Lincoln Logs, plus chat. Great fun.
posted by mouthnoize at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2007

I don't have any interest at all in architecture or in Second Life, but this is still the best thing I've seen all week.
posted by Simon! at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2007

I installed SL when it was mentioned here on MF - something about Reuters opening up a virtual office here.

I created a female character and made her extremely curvaceous, but still an hourglass shape - and every single "person" I met said, "You need to change your body shape - you know how to do that, right?" All the female characters were built like prepubescent Asian girls.

I uninstalled.
posted by Liosliath at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

What's funny is that there are many people out there bitching and moaning about SL. If you really hate the architecture, fucking make an interesting building!

Reminds me of the pudwhackers who bitch and moan about open source software not being design to their needs. Get off your ass, read a book, and change it!
posted by Sukiari at 3:57 PM on January 18, 2007

"When people are free to do as they wish, they usually imitate each other." -- Eric Hoffer
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:28 PM on January 18, 2007

When was the last time you drove around your own neighborhood and saw something genuinely interesting?

Rarely do I see anything new and interesting while driving around my neighbourhood, but walking around, that's another thing entirely. Walking instead of driving, you get a whole different sense of the place, and it's much more interesting. Not every place is like that, but large parts of the world are very interesting places to walk around in. Driving, flying, and teleporting are great means of transportation, but there really ought to be places in any virtual world, just like in the real world, where they aren't allowed or are restricted in some way. Let there be large areas where they prohibit flying and establish speed limits. Let there be remote and inaccessible places hiding unexpectedly beautiful things. If like Malor says they've made it possible to just instantly teleport anywhere, they've eliminated most of the possibilities of virtual space that appeal to me.

All the female characters were built like prepubescent Asian girls.

I'm slightly disappointed that they mostly still look human. Of course though you'll always have the masses of people who use the "cute Asian girl" default avatar, just like Brandy and Clint from Snow Crash, but I'd have thought more people would choose something more substantially different in avatars and architecture. I guess much of the time it's not only lack of imagination that stops them, but a lack of the willingness to spend many hours manipulating 3D graphics vectors and scripts. If the 3-D graffiti guy is the best graffiti artist out there, it must be way too difficult to do something as sophisticated as the graffiti I see in real life.
posted by sfenders at 5:23 PM on January 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

What we need is a Third Life to answer all these complaints.

Is it possible to log in to second life, then have your character there stare aimlessly at the internet, alone in the dark for hours? Maybe your second life character could create a second life account in second life. The recursive possibilities are infinite.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:35 PM on January 18, 2007

What's with the youtube video of Pimp my Ride excerpts?
posted by delmoi at 5:53 PM on January 18, 2007

Reminds me of C.S. Lewis's description of hell from The Great Divorce. Just sayin.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:55 PM on January 18, 2007

So I checked it out, as there's a Linux client for Second Life now (though just an "alpha" version). Wasn't last time I looked, years ago, so I'd never tried it. It was fun for fifteen minutes, until it crashed. A bit slow sometimes on my graphics card which was about the best around three years ago. Maybe I just haven't got the hang of the interface yet, but it seems quite primitive. I couldn't figure out how to look up! All the avatars I saw were quite boring, as was mine of course. But the architecture I saw, teleporting around completely at random, was from what little I saw slightly more interesting in concept, though of course much less detailed and real-looking, than most of the world in real life. The human interaction I stumbled across was idle chat consistent with what I'd expect teleporting into a random IRC channel, from what I remember of them. It surprised me only once when I accidentally dropped to the bottom of the ocean and enjoyed the scenery down there which was refreshingly spacious and real-looking after all the blocky clutter of the land surface. I'll wait a few years for the technology to improve and try again then.

Is it possible to log in to second life, then have your character there stare aimlessly at the internet, alone in the dark for hours?

Yes, that seems to be within its capabilities.
posted by sfenders at 6:36 PM on January 18, 2007

I'm crazy overtired and utterly unfamiliar with Second Life but I'd like to speculate that boo_radley's comment above might give a small clue as to why Second Life's architecture tends to the banal. Is it audience/social pressure?

See, boo_radley (and hey, I'm not trying to make any case against ya) felt it necessary to include that phrase makes gesture in his/her comment, assuming that we all lack the imagination to understand the clearly implied gesture.

I think Liosliath's comment might speak to this as well. That it is not so much that Second Lifers lack creativity, but that, like regular life, certain social norms encourage particular (banal?) behaviors/aesthetics...

Any smarter and less sleepy Mefites wanna try to take my speculation to a more interesting conclusion?
posted by verysleeping at 10:43 PM on January 18, 2007

I think the simplest explanation is that SL is attracting a lot of people with banal (or at least risk-averse) taste.

Why? There are market incentives to do so.

For example, newer players are generally easier to sell to than experienced players. Newer players, in turn, will tend to buy things that they're familiar with.
posted by treepour at 12:26 AM on January 19, 2007

Wikis are boring, so I shall create some WikiGraffiti by replacing all the pictures of neon boxes inserted on other people's designs with pictures of cardboard boxes I have spraypainted puce.

Then I shall be meta and I shall laugh and I shall smoke clove cigarettes in unapproachable ways.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2007

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