Some time during the course of most people’s lives, they reach a point when they’re no longer anticipating getting older (a.k.a. “growing up”), and begin to… well, maybe “deny” is too strong a word, but they dodge the question of how long they’ve been around. And then, during a casual conversation they’ll let something slip — something like “Oh, I remember that…”
The common phrase to name that moment is “showing your age.”
Linden Lab appears, to this observer at least, to have an ambiguous relationship with the age of the virtual world they invented. Each year they create a bunch of temporary regions and invite the users to populate them with constructions, all in an effort to celebrate what they call the birthday of Second Life — that is, the anniversary of when it declared itself “out of beta”: 23 June 2003. Each year, they put on a show of how proud they are of how old Second Life is… which is to say, how long it has managed to survive in the marketplace of virtual worlds and MMOs.
And yet (with very few exceptions), there is no public retrospection, no look back, no acknowledgment of the Beta Oldbies whose accounts are older than the putative “birthday” being celebrated, and who still, after 8 or 9 years, maintain an active participation in the world. It is as if the Lab wants to brag about their age without “showing their age.”
From my point of view, this makes little sense. Why not enhance the sense of accomplishment — well-earned, I might add — with a look at how far we’ve come? Why not review the milestones of both technological and cultural achievement? Why not give special mention to the pioneers who started us on the path?
Unfortunately, I can come up with some possible answers to those questions, and the most likely one is: too few people care. There is a truism that goes around the community of bloggers about Second Life: (at least) 90% of the Residents are unconcerned about anything more than the immediacy of the world they log into. They don’t care how it works, or how it’s run, or how things used to be in the past, so long as they can find their friends, their clubs, their fashions, and their poseballs. “History” to them is what (or who) they did last week.
And I think part of that lies in their conception of the word “virtual”, which they take to mean “not real”. The realization has not struck them that Second Life continues to exist, grow, and most of all change during their absence from it. They log in, and it runs on their computers just like any other program; they log out, and it goes away.
And so… because “SL (fill-in-the-blank) B” is ostensibly an event by and for the Residents, and too few Resis care about the history — and the very few of us who do care are either too busy, or too wary of the pitfalls inherent in exhibiting — no one comes forth to remind the rest of just how remarkable Second Life’s continuity is. Meanwhile, the Lab appears not to care enough, either, to take the matter into their own hands.
Perhaps, when the previous administration of Linden Lab — specifically Kingdon and Hale — insisted “Second Life has no culture”, they meant the Lab has no corporate culture. In other words, it’s just a job: go to work, earn your paycheck, log out at the end of the day, and it all goes away. Considering the fact that there are no Lindens (except Philip, who barely counts) remaining from the early years, and that most of the workspaces seem to have been equipped with revolving doors, it shouldn’t be expected that anyone there has any more sense of the world’s continuity than all but a handful of Residents.
It should also come as no surprise that those very few of us history geeks who do pay attention to continuity have gone outside of the “SL_B” grist mill to collectively display objects of interest we’ve collected. The brainchild of Salazar Jack and friends, ArcheoExpo 2011 opened yesterday (25 June) at the Seaside Village in Cowell (SLurl). Icarus Fallen has blogged about the opening – you can find that here.
According to Salazar, the Expo will be open for two weeks (not one, as the website states), after which (with their owners’ consent) the artifacts will be moved to a permanent location in the Grignano region of Nova Albion.
Finally… if you do have an inkling to learn about the early years of Second Life, I’ve gathered a modest list of Resources at the bottom of this page.
One very important resource is missing from that list (owing to my procrastination in updating the page): Pituca FairChang’s blog, “Memoirs of an Oldbie”.
If only others were recording their personal memories of those times…
Though I’ve painted with the broadest of brushes, I can and should vouch for one Linden who does have a proper sense of SL’s history: Torley. And — in addition to their project in western Bay City — the Linden Department of Public Works, a.k.a. the Moles, quietly replaced the Rizal region two days ago with a combination of historical restoration and new work, which I intend to visit soon, and blog about next week.