Friday, June 11, 2010

A View of the Lab: The Future of Linden Lab and Second Life

Is the virtual sky falling? Is Second Life dying? Is Linden Lab failing?

As the CEO and founder of Literature Alive! in Second Life, I have invested countless hours developing, building, and shelling out serious personal clams to work in an environment rich with educational possibilities.

I have very mixed feelings about the direction LL is taking, but I am not sure these feelings can be articulated in any meaningful way.

Long ago, I decided that I could not have a personal gaming life and a professional educational presence in Second Life. The work of Literature Alive! was more important to me than my personal (read not funded) research on gender communication in virtual worlds. I cut off most personal relationships on the grid that did not deal with education (Adrian, Aerolite). My little band of personal friends (Eloise, Lilly, and Daliah) were invested in Literature Alive! Fellow members of the FIC ("fettered Inner Core" - a term devised by Prokovy Neva to categorize folks invited to San Fran through the SL Views program) are still among the people I love to chat with in the odd chance I am inworld. All of the Lindens I knew and loved (Philip, Chadrick, Blue, Iridium, Everett, Jeska, Claudia, Glenn) have walked or been given walking papers.

The LL that exists today is not the one I loved 3 years ago. I blame this on M. I don't know if it is a good thing or bad thing for LL and SL, but it feels a whole lot more like an insurance company than a progressive and stunning environment.

But, I knew this was coming. When LL took away the land they donated for Dante's Inferno with some kind of lame excuse (we only promised it for 2 weeks...really? Where was I when you mentioned that??), I knew the cards were stacked. The work of the truly creative was less important, and the work of the money makers was more important.

Ok, they are a business and not a charity. I get it.

So, I am sitting here and thinking about what bugs me about all these changes. Aside from some terribly creative souls getting the heave ho, something is eating away at me. And then, while scooping sugar by the truck load into my coffee cup, it dawned on me. The glory days are over.

I have always been that girl that missed the glory days by 1 year. Either they happened before I got there or after I left. The "hey day" or "hay day" has always passed me. I realized, a the coffee pot, that I have been part of the "hey-hay day" of LL and SL. Finally! But, sadly, it is called that because it ends. "Back in the day" means that it survives...but isn't the same.

I can do exactly what I did 3 years ago in SL. Nothing has changed for me. I still use SL to build immersive literary builds for my literature students. Since I never made money, I am not losing any money. Since I can build my own stuff with the dear help of Elo, I don't pay out as much. I stopped asking for land donations a long time ago.

So, for Literature Alive!, Second Life is what it has been for the past three is an excellent tool for imagining literature. My social life happens on the SLED list or on Facebook where my virtual farm and garden need tending.

I suspect that LL will keep kicking, and if they are smart, they will try to focus on what has made SL great. Prok got his wish; the FIC is dead. They hey-hay day is over. It is all business from here.

Image by Mickey