Who, What, Why?
The Tyranny of Virtual Choice
I've come close to being paralysed in supermarkets due to the overwhelming amount of choice on offer. Some people have full blown anxiety attacks. This is a well known phenomenon - increasing amounts of choice are not necessarily a good thing.
"Unconstrained freedom leads to paralysis and becomes a kind of self-defeating tyranny. It is self-determination within significant constraints--within rules of some sort--that leads
Clearly freedom as opposed to oppression is something to be valued, and you might find the 'optimal functioning' a little dubious, but the evidence is growing that too much choice can be bad for you. One research paper titled, 'When Choice is Demotivating' described how being given a much restricted choice (in that case, 6 types of jam rather than over 20) made people more satisfied.
So what would a life be like where you could do absolutely anything you wanted, totally free of any kind of constraint - constraints of appearance, geography, physics, relationships. What would you do today?
It's actually a hard thing to imagine. But it is the world that Linden Labs have created in Second Life and expect people to embrace. As Dusan Writer wrote recently in an eloquent plea to the new Linden Lab CEO:
"Second Life is not a virtual goods platform, and it’s doesn’t have a business model based on user-generated goods: it is, instead, a fully contained prototype of a version of the future in which technology has continued to take us in the direction of limitless choice in how the world we live in is constructed, how we decide to interact with each other and the content that we choose to consume."
I urge you to read the entire article, but notice the 'limitless choice' and 'maximum amount of choice'. A small percentage of users thrive in that freedom. A lot may not. Everyone's daily experience has a ton of constraints that form the scaffolding around which we make our lives. We mght not like some of them but actually they help us to make decisions. For many the freedom and lack of goals on arrival 'in' Second Life must prove confusing, overwhelming and just too much of a blank canvas - that is one of the reasons that whatever strategy is tried by the Lab, people sign up but don't stay. What they have created is a platform, a framework, some tools, not a destination. The geographic visual metaphor of land gives the impression of destination but the malleable nature of the environment undermines that. You don't go "To Second Life" - you have an experience 'powered by Second Life' and built by it's core of highly creative, motivated users.
Much is often made of the democratising power of having built-in simple content creation tools in Second Life. That has always been a bit of a myth, since to create many of the artefacts that make up a typical immersive 3D experience you still need skills with various external tools - image editors for textures, sound recording and editing software and so on. I'm not arguing for the removal of the built-in tools - I love building and being able to build collaboratively is unique and wonderful. However creating anything worthwhile requires a high level of dedication and perseverance coupled with ideas and skill. The 80/20 rule seems to apply in general to online 'user generated content' with 20% creating what is consumed by the other 80% - and this is when generating the content is easy (type an article, or upload a video) - in SL the ratio is likely to be a lot worse.
As well as Dusan, recently several seasoned writers have looked at this issue with suggestions about what should happen next. In 'Taking the Second Life User-Created World Concept to the Next Level' Botgirl suggests that SL should be a platform for helping people to produce focussed experiences, and Linden Labs should support those creative people by giving them the tools and channels to create those experiences and get people into them. Absolutely. And Tateru Nino makes the case brilliantly that Second Life needs it's core creatives and the Lab must support them since it can't create the necessary experiences on the scale required to bring people in.
Is Second Life a game? No, in the same way that the internet isn't a game. What users create with it and run via it - that might be a game. Or a concert, or a teaching environment, or a work of art, or a camp fire to sit round and chat to friends. Those are the destinations we should be sending people to, inviting people to. It's time for a "Powered by Second Life" logo, improvements in tools and support for content creators and a bunch of new ways in for people to have those experiences.
antojames - Tue 13 Mar 2012 10:04 GMT
Ascetshoisilt - Thu 08 Mar 2012 06:23 GMT
keithferrer - Wed 15 Feb 2012 04:12 GMT
june - Thu 09 Feb 2012 06:46 GMT
Rite - Tue 07 Feb 2012 06:36 GMT