One of my favorite non-fiction authors is William Least Heat-Moon, and of his works that I’ve read my favorite by far is PrairyErth, which he subtitled (a deep map). In it, he uses the USGS quadrangle maps of Chase County, Kansas as a guide to unfold its history — its depth, in time — as he discovered more by walking on the land, and talking to the people who lived there, than through abstracted, in absentia research in libraries.
Prompted by a question posed in SLUniverse back in February, I have sporadically researched and photographed the oldest regions in Second Life. When it was finally opened to the public — June 23, 2003 — there were 47. As of today, I have visited all but 4, and while I have not yet compiled all of the images, nor posted them online, there is no excuse to delay any longer in highlighting my discoveries in the pages of this blog.
So let this post serve as a poor man’s introduction to a five-month walkabout (and often, fly-about), hunting the history of Second Life with mouse and camera… Virtual archaeology, where the digging must needs be in the metadata, because the ground is a mathematical construct, a 2D surface with no third dimension and only the primordial sea beneath it, that impossible space of Z < 0. A genuine paper map has more thickness than the landscape of Second Life, which only has Time to give it depth.
And let this post also be a Call for Contribution. In my wanderings, I have become familiar with the names of many early Residents by the works they have left on the land, but I have chosen not to pester them with questions; I cannot even be certain which of them still logs in to the world at all. Rather, I have allowed the prims to tell their own stories. However, I encourage, in the strongest terms, anyone with memories of the Elder Days to share them in the Comments to each region’s appearance.
With a few exceptions, each of the 47 regions will have its own post in the series. Some of them have no builds remaining from those earliest times; some have fragments deliberately and carefully preserved; still others are a treasure trove. I will not flood these pages with all of the images I’ve recorded — those, however, can be found in my two albums online (at Picasa) dedicated to the project: “SL History, Part I : The First 20 Sims” and “SL History, Part II : Open Beta to Opening Day“. (Please be aware that the second of those is still unfinished).
And… to all of you who, like me, are discovering the depth of Second Life for the first time: Welcome. I hope you find the journey as fascinating as I have.